Christmas gifts for nature-lovers: four new must-have books

At the darkest point of the year, we highlight works that pre-empt spring and celebrate our planet’s most incredible flora and fauna.

By Sarah Barrell
Published 22 Dec 2021, 14:30 GMT
Our pick of the best new books for nature-lovers.

Our pick of the best new books for nature-lovers.

Photograph by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

1. Living Planet: The Web of Life on Earth

Sir David Attenborough's seminal biography of our planet has been fully updated with the aid of zoologist Matthew Cobb. The new narrative edition includes the latest discoveries of ecology and biology, along with a full-colour, 64-page photography section. Climate change, pollution and mass extinction are all addressed, and there’s a look at fish that walk, snakes that fly and flightless birds that graze like deer. But as ever with Attenborough’s work, you’re left with a profound sense of wonder at how nature adapts in the world’s most extreme areas. HarperCollins Publishers, £20

2. The Living Mountain

With prose that borders on poetry, Nan Shepherd explores the rocks, rivers and remarkable creatures of the Scottish Cairngorms. Written during the Second World War, her journey was taken at a time when solace was to be found in the wilderness — even at its most unforgiving. With intense, almost abstract illustrations by Scottish artist Rose Strang, this nature writing classic has been given a vibrant new lease of life thanks to a new introduction by multi-award-winning author Robert Macfarlane, who calls the book ‘one of the most brilliant works of modern landscape literature’. Folio Society, £39.95

3. The Soaring Life of the Lark

Master nature writer John Lewis-Stempel offers up an ode to England’s countryside herald: the skylark. Usher in the spring early with a book that looks at how the lark’s distinctive call is woven into the season’s change, proving inspiration for some of our very best poets and composers. This is a bird whose sound has brought succour to everyone from struggling farmers to soldiers far from home in the wartime trenches of northern France. Travel the country and follow the swooping highs and lows of this totemic creature — and its struggle to survive in shrinking habitats. Doubleday, £9.99

4. The Cow: A Tribute

What might seem like a niche title is in fact an almost cinematic celebration of the world’s fairest bovine breeds. Tapping into our love for the humble farm creature, this photography tome travels to India’s mountains to take portraits of holy herds, and to Alpine ranges where big-belled beauties appear as much a part of the landscape as meadow grass and glaciers. These crisp, colour-soaked images are a labour of love that honours rare breeds such as the European bison and the Celtic longhorn, exploring pastures in Austria, Colombia, Ethiopia and beyond. teNeues, £45

Three more books to check out this Christmas

Liquid History, by John Warland
John Warland visits more than 50 of the capital’s most historic boozers, seeking out the characters that frequented them and the oft-infamous events that ensued. Transworld Publishers, £12.99

Wanderlust Alps, edited by Alex Roddie
From the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc, take a photography tour through the very best hiking routes in the Alps, complete with illustrated maps and first-hand travelogue. Gestalten, £35

Atlas of Forgotten Places, by Travis Elborough 
Travis Elborough makes a journey to abandoned destinations, including an art deco subway station in New York and a Soviet ghost town in the Arctic Circle. White Lion Publishing, £20

Published in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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