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Six new books inspired by the natural world

Lose yourself in gripping books that explore the beauty and mystery of our natural world and remind us of our own dependence on it as a species.

Published 25 Oct 2020, 06:05 GMT
Book covers

Read yourself around the colourful world of Mother Nature with this selection of nature-inspired books.

Photograph by National Geographic Traveller

Wanderland, by Jini Reddy

Follow author Jini on a whimsical journey to connect with the magic in the British landscape in this shortlisted entry for the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing. Her travels, which range from a coast-to-coast pilgrimage to a trip encountering a goddess-worshipping group of women, see her seek to develop a more spiritual, intimate relationship with nature and to better understand where we humans belong in it. Jini has a wry, unique perspective on the nature of wilderness and the beauty of our landscape. (Bloomsbury, £16.99)

The Lost Spells, by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris 

A companion piece to Macfarlane and Morris’s The Lost Words, this pocket-sized ‘spell book’ is an immersion in the vocabulary we use to name our flora and fauna, including the commonplace and often unsung — the likes of the barn owl, silver birch, jay and jackdaw. Its ‘spell-poems’ are hymns to nature, life-giving incantations to read out loud and to remember the great wonder in small things. The words are paired with beautiful illustrations that add to the book’s allure — feathery brushstrokes that bid you to follow in the footsteps of the red fox, in the slipstream of the dusky clearwing moth and deep into a woodland world that consoles and comforts in an age of loss. (Penguin Books, £14.99)

An Opinionated Guide to London Green Spaces, by Harry Adès & Marco Kesseler

A uniquely green city that’s home to around 3,000 parks, London is place that fuels fierce loyalties when it comes to its ‘best’ green spaces. So, settle down and prepare to be inspired into agreement or argument by this highly selective, subjective guide to London’s finest bits of green. A total of 50 locations are chronicled, from Kensington Gardens to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with maps and recommended walks included. Whether you want a scenic stroll or a secluded picnic spot, this guide will tell you where to go, and why. (Hoxton Mini Press, £9.95)

The Nature of Nature, by Enric Sala

It’s hard to daydream about the natural world and not feel troubled by its uncertain, fragile future. Who better, then, to show us how to appreciate our world than National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr Enric Sala, who brings his enviable wealth of firsthand experience to this enlightening read. In his breezy, easy-to-follow style, Sala untangles the complex webs of nature to show us how all living species are deeply interconnected — and, most importantly, how crucial they are in supporting human life. It’s a passionate, intelligent plea for us to do all we can to protect our planet at a critical moment in its history. There’s also a foreword from Prince Charles, a long-time environmentalist. (National Geographic, £18.99)

Secret Britain, by Mary-Ann Ochota

The TV presenter, best-known for her stint on Channel 4’s Time Team, takes us on a tour of the ancient stone circles, geoglyphs and outdoor places of worship that continue to shape our landscape — if you know how to spot them. Britain is full of age-old wonders: small, magical places and objects that can be key to understanding our enduring relationship with the natural world and our distant ancestors. The guide uncovers 70 of the UK’s most intriguing places and artefacts, and the history behind them. These include the largest man-made mound in Europe and footpaths that are now nearly invisible in the landscape. If there was ever a time to learn how to read our landscape in order to discover amulets to ward off evil, this is probably it. (Frances Lincoln, £20)

The Botanical City, by Hélèna Dove & Harry Adès

Revel in the detail of the small and local in this exquisitely illustrated botanical guide to the urban plants lurking on our doorsteps and kerbsides and in our parks and wild corners. In collaboration with the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, its kitchen gardener Hélèna Dove and travel writer Harry Adès offer up fragrant gems of information, revealing the ancient lore surrounding such plants as sneezewort, bastard balm and fat hen, along with useful tips on how to use urban plants and fungi in contemporary life (and avoid being poisoned while you’re at it). The beautiful illustrations, meanwhile, are reproduced from a rare 18th-century book in Kew’s library called Flora Londinensis. (Hoxton Mini Press, £25)

Published in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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