2021 Readers’ Choice Book List

In preparation for the upcoming wintery evenings by the fire, we thought we would ask the Naturalist Weekly community, “What book made the biggest impact on you this year?” 

From science fiction to research science, these books cover everything from ecosystems to sailing vessels. The responses were so wonderful and we are very grateful for everyone who participated. The range of titles included in this list just prove the idea that our connection to nature can be reinforced through poetry and prose.

So without further delay, here is the 2021 Readers’ Choice Book list. 

The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram

The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram

What Duncan has to say about this book: 

“A deep philosophical look at how we as humans have “seen” the natural world throughout time.  From our early indigenous ancestors who perceived nature as part of their being and understanding of reality to a particular event that changed everything:  the advent of the alphabet.   David explores how this transition led us away from feeling nature and how we now find ourselves in a world that revolves around the “unique” creation of human thought. This book is dense, mind blowing and it reinforces my practice of forest bathing as a way to connect synesthetically once again with the elements and beings of nature.”

If you are interested in learning more about Duncan and his work as a Nature Connection Guide you can check out this post or visit his website.

Your Guide to Forest Bathing by Clifford Amos

Your Guide to Forest Bathing by Amos Clifford
  • Recommend by Marie Bourdon, a veteran, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Forest Therapy and owner of Move To Nature,

What Marie says about this book:

“Having been introduced to the practice of Forest Therapy through in-person events (first as a participant and later as a volunteer), it isn’t until I completed my certification earlier this year that I started diving into the literature of Forest Bathing.

In this text, I discovered the origins and elements of the practice, the optimal “flow sequence,” and the theory and science behind Forest Therapy. In turn, this information helped me translate this embodied experience into words, develop a deeper understanding of why and how the “formula” works, and uncover the data behind the magic.

This book is suited to those who have never heard of Forest Bathing, to those who want tools to guide themselves and deepen their nature connection practice, and to those, like me, who are already in love with Forest Therapy. Your Guide to Forest Bathing by Clifford Amos touched my heart and reminded me of why I practice and I guide: to experience the healing power of nature.”

If you are interested in learning more about Marie and her work check out this post or visit her website.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Hidden Life of Trees Cover

What Lesley has to say about this book:

“Until I read this book, I had no idea of the connection that trees had with each other and the systems they use to protect each other. I have always enjoyed the beauty of trees, but this book has enhanced my relationship with them in that I see them more vividly for the living, breathing beings that they are. I can look at an individual tree and see from the shape and scars they bear how and why they have grown the way they have. My walks in the woods will never be the same – they are so much better.”

If you are interested in learning more about Lesley and her reflections on life, nature, and spirituality, check out her blog Moment-by-Moment.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune Cover

What Dave has to say about this book:

“Ecology is a big theme in the science-fiction novel “Dune,” mostly taking place on the desert planet Arrakis (Dune is its nickname). The planet’s natives — the Fremen — have learned to live in the harsh, dry condition of the desert. Not only live, but to frame their rituals around elements of the desert: the spice and sand-worms. Of course, conserving water is very important to the Fremen’s survival. And in their water conversation through generations, they hope to change part of the desert to make it a kinder habitat for themselves.

The book stood out for me due to the mindset of the Fremen to respect their environment and collectively work to improve it. This was not up to a few of them. This was the full community, and a task handed down from one generation to the next.”

If you are interested in learning more about Dave’s writing, art, or books, check out his website. (I personally like his illustrated book The Dancing Fish)

All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison

All Among the Barley Cover

What Andrew says about this book: 

“Attempting to capture the atmosphere of rural England in the 1930s must have been as tricky as trying to tiptoe across a swampy field after a downpour trying to keep the water out of your boots. 

How do you pick your way between gushing pastoral sentimentality and brutal mud-soaked realism?

Somehow Melissa Harrison manages to avoid those pitfalls in All Among The Barley, her third novel, a subtle and haunting tale published in 2018 that avoids becoming a cloying tribute to times past and instead explores timely and trenchant themes that resonate down the decades.”

You can read Andrew’s full review of this book on The Beyonder, an online magazine based in the United Kingdom.

The Summer Isles: A Voyage of the Imagination by Philip Marsden

The Summer Isles

What Ashley has to say about this book:

“The author sets sail from Cornwall, England, alone, in a wooden sailing boat and travels up the west coast of Ireland and onto the west coast of Scotland. Legend, history, art, Gaelic and “Gaalic” and just a magical book.”

If you are interested in learning more about Ashley and his reflections on nature and the shifting seasons, check out his blog A Different View

Bone Deep in Landscape: Writing, Reading and Place by Mary Clearman Blew 

Bone Deep in Landscape cover

What Melanie has to say about this book:

“Mary Clearman Blew writes with concise language that allows the reader to walk the land with her as she experiences it. Specifically, The land we call Montana. This slim book with 191 pages and a bargain thrift store price is sure to give you a wonderful rendezvous to a time and place so few of us get to experience. Perhaps it will encourage you to look at and write about your own landscape in a new way.”

If you are interested in learning more about Melanie’s writing on living a nature-led life in pursuit of creative, sustainable and just solutions for society and the environment, check out her website Nature-Led.org

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass cover
  • Recommended by Vicki W.

What Vicki has to say about this book:

“This book, written by an Indigenous American botanist, is a beautiful read about the importance of living in the natural world with grace and compassion.”

What the publisher has to say about this book:

“Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings–asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass–offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. . . . For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.”

For more information, you can read my reaction to Kimmerer’s chapter on wild strawberries and the gift economy here.

Darkness Sticks to Everything by Tom Hennen

Darkness Sticks to Everything cover
  • Recommended by Mark at NaturalistWeekly

What Mark has to say about this book.

“A couple of weeks ago, I posted my Favorite Books of 2021 and I forgot to add this book. Darkness Sticks to Everything is a collection Hennen’s poetry that reflects on the seasons and the flora and fauna of the Midwest.  Some of my favorite poems in this book are written about the darkness and the winter. In the past couple of months, I have picked up this book on almost on a daily basis.  The poetry is such a wonderful reflection on our interactions with the natural world.”

I wrote about Tom Hennen’s poem “Love for Other Things” earlier this year. Check it out here.

Image of Marie Bourdon www.movetonatureygk.com (IG: @movetonatureygk)
Photo taken by Connor Price-Kelleher (IG : @connorYGK)
Image of Marie Bourdon www.movetonatureygk.com (IG: @movetonatureygk)
Photo taken by Connor Price-Kelleher (IG: @connorYGK)

Inspired to buy a book written by one of today’s featured poets? Consider using the NaturalistWeekly’s Bookshop.org storefront. We are an affiliate of Bookshop.org and may receive a small commission if you buy a book from Bookshop.org.


10 thoughts on “2021 Readers’ Choice Book List

Add yours

    1. Hi Sarah, Yes, you just mentioned that in your post. You also mentioned that that was a mother tree, which also relates to Suzanne Simards book “Finding the Mother Tree”. There is just so much to learn when working with trees! Thanks for the comment. Be well!

  1. Thank you for inviting me to participate, Mark! I look forward to reading some of the other books mentioned on this list! I’m happy to see other people added Braiding Sweetgrass and The Hidden Life of Trees. I remember enjoying the post you shared from Tom Hennen and I love the the title, so that is now at the top of my list for library checkout or purchase.

    1. Hi Melanie, I think you would really enjoy Hennen’s book. He writes in a very down to earth manner. I am really able to connect to his poetry. I appreciate your recommendation and I am glad that you could participate. Talk soon,

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