As the leaves change and the air turns crisp, Conservation International staff are cozying up with their favorite nature books. Here are the five titles they can't put down.
1. “The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature” by David George Haskell
Over the course of a year, in the mountains of Tennessee, biologist David Haskell makes daily pilgrimages to the same square meter of old-growth forest. His lyrical prose conjures wonder and evokes what is invisible to the human eye by repeated and patient observations of the various lifeforms that inhabit the spaces above and below the soil. I was particularly moved to hear his thoughts on what it means to be human in the midst of such destruction — both ecologically and spiritually.
— Eliot Wuhrmann, partner marketing manager
2. “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer
In “Braiding Sweetgrass,” Robin Wall Kimmerer weaves together her experiences as a botany professor and native Potawatomi scientist. Through her reflections on sweetgrass, salamanders, maple sap and even lowly algae, she convinces us that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires an acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the natural world. It’s pure poetry and magic to read, and I always come back to it when I need to feel hopeful again about the state of our planet.
— Alli Cruz, manager, Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program
3. “Gods of the Morning: A Bird’s-Eye View of a Changing World” by John Lister-Kaye
John Lister-Kaye writes about the changing of the seasons and the highlights each one brings to the Scottish Highlands. While embarking on nature strolls across his estate, he touches on the evolution in the understanding of migration, conservation and what it means to be a naturalist. The book’s title emphasizes its appreciation of birds, but you don’t need to be a birder to enjoy this read.
— Jonathan Scheller, manager, finance and operations
4. “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” by Florence Williams
As a person who is fascinated by the benefits nature brings to our lives, this book follows researchers as they uncover the physiological and measurable responses our brains and bodies go through when exposed to nature. It is not a self-help book, but instead an answer to why we tend to feel calmer and more rejuvenated when immersed in our natural world
— Marielena Alcaraz, science-based targets fellow
5. “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren
Equal parts memoir and book of nature poetry, "Lab Girl" encapsulates how science and creative writing can intertwine in beautiful ways. Geobiologist Hope Jahren provides a descriptive account of her journey as a scientist, speaking to gender imbalances in the field and the challenges to secure funding, but in between those chapters, she shares interesting facts about trees and other plants, poetically linking botanic life cycles to her own. Did you know a willow tree can grow a "genetically identical doppelganger" from its own branches? If you're someone like me who is both a tree nerd and enjoys reading personal journeys, add this book to your must-read list.
— Cassandra Kane, conservation finance communications manager
Cover image: Autumn on the shores of Melanovac Lake, Croatia. (© Maurizio Biancarelli/ Wild Wonders of Europe )