Your summer reading list to connect with nature — wherever you are

© Will Turner

The lazy days of summer are here — and Conservation International staff are spending some free time with their favorite books. Here’s what they’re saying about the books they can’t put down.

1. "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food" by Paul Greenberg 

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in ocean issues, and in our relationship with the last wild food that humans consume at a significant scale. The author beautifully recounts what fishing used to be like, sheds light on disturbing trends in fishing practices today, and offers diverse and insightful solutions to ensure that we keep oceans healthy and people fed.

— Pablo Obregon, Senior Program Manager - Fisheries

2. “The Overstory” by Richard Powers 

I can’t adequately express how affected I was by Richard Powers’ novel “The Overstory.” Even though I was already an environmentalist, this Pulitzer-Prize winner gave me a completely new appreciation for trees and the natural world. It’s not an easy read, I admit, but it’s so, so worth it.

— Marsea Nelson, senior communications manager for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund

This book had been on my to-read list since it was first published in 2015 and I’d strongly recommend others add it to their lists as well. The author spent more than 20 years working in commercial forestry and opens the door to the hidden world of trees — from how they communicate with their “children” and provide nutrients to sick neighbors, to how they warn each other of nearby predators and coordinate as a group during pollination season. After reading, I guarantee you’ll never be able to look out your window or go for a walk without appreciating how interconnected and complicated nature can be. It’s awe-inspiring.  

— Stephanie Businelli, manager of strategic global communications

4. "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" by Elisabeth Tova Bailey 

A dear friend sent this beautiful book to me when I had to self-quarantine after a potential exposure to COVID-19, and it has provided much-needed solace and perspective during these strange times. Also forced to stay indoors, the author — who suffers from a neurological illness — delves into the minutiae of a wild snail, blending scientific details with lyrical reflections on humans and our connections to the natural world. It's just a pure joy to read.

— Cassandra Kane, communications manager of conservation finance 

5. “All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis” by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Katharine Keeble Wilkinson and more 

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist and climate leader who I have looked up to for quite some time now, so when I saw that this book was coming out, I knew I needed to pre-order it. Johnson co-edited “All We Can Save” with Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson — climate author, teacher, strategist and feminist. Environmentalists frequently note that women are vital voices in the climate movement, but too often they are not given a seat at the table. “All We Can Save” is a diverse collection of essays and poetry sharing stories of truth, courage and solutions by powerhouse female leaders at the forefront of the climate movement. This book prioritizes and uplifts female voices, including writers, scientists and activists who are Black, Indigenous and people of color. It is informative and inspiring.

— Mallory Henig, annual and planned giving manager 

6. “Vesper Flights” by Helen Macdonald 

Equal parts meditation and call to arms, Helen MacDonald’s new essay collection is a book about birds that’s somehow also about everything else — the politics of migration, the confusion of young adulthood and the grief of climate change. Above all, though, this is a book about nature’s ability to inspire awe. Equally wondrous are her sentences, which made me gasp (and startle my dog) on multiple occasions. 

— Raul Quintana, senior writer


Kiley Price is a staff writer and news editor at Conservation International.

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Cover image: A sea lion in the Galápagos Islands (© Will Turner)

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