14 “Eco Lit” books for an enduring Nature

I’ve been noticing more and more books coming out about nature, the environment, and our connection with the world. These go beyond, “the environment is failing and we’re the cause,” to more, “we are nature, contained within, yet separate,” and “reconnect with nature and recognize the beauty and depth of the natural world.”

I’ve been loving these books.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

…neglected world of fungi: endlessly surprising organisms that sustain nearly all living systems. They can solve problems without a brain, stretching traditional definitions of ‘intelligence’, and can manipulate animal behaviour with devastating precision. In giving us bread, alcohol and life-saving medicines, fungi have shaped human history…The ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed…and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘Wood Wide Web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems.

Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist…credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Jordan…surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world.

The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think

The author contends that recent research on how birds communicate, work, play, parent, and think reveals that the creatures are remarkably intelligent. The complex behavior of birds recounted here demonstrates that birds have sophisticated mental abilities previously unrecognized by conventional avian research.

The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World

Remarkably little is known about the European eel…Where do eels come from? What are they? Are they fish or some other kind of creature altogether? Even today, in an age of advanced science, no one has ever seen eels mating or giving birth, and we still don’t understand what drives them, after living for decades in freshwater, to swim great distances back to the ocean at the end of their lives. They remain a mystery.

Drawing on a breadth of research about eels in literature, history, and modern marine biology, as well as his own experience fishing for eels with his father, Patrik Svensson writes a book about this unusual animal.

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

Suzanne Simard is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence…Now, in her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths–that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complex, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.

Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind

The scuba-diving philosopher who wrote Other Minds explores the origins of animal consciousness

Dip below the ocean’s surface and you are soon confronted by forms of life that could not seem more foreign to our own: sea sponges, soft corals, and serpulid worms, whose rooted bodies, intricate geometry, and flower-like appendages are more reminiscent of plant life or even architecture than anything recognizably animal. Yet these creatures are our cousins. As fellow members of the animal kingdom—the Metazoa—they can teach us much about the evolutionary origins of not only our bodies, but also our minds.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail. Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. 

Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone

A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea’s imperiled ecosystems.

She traveled the globe to meet the biologists who devote their careers to jellies, hitched rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild, raised jellyfish in her dining room, and throughout it all marveled at the complexity of these alluring and ominous biological wonders.

Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us

There are as many algae on Earth as stars in the universe, and they have been essential to life on our planet for eons. Algae created the Earth we know today, with its oxygen-rich atmosphere, abundant oceans, and coral reefs. Crude oil is made of dead algae, and algae are the ancestors of all plants. Today, seaweed production is a multi-billion dollar industry, with algae hard at work to make your sushi, chocolate milk, beer, paint, toothpaste, shampoo and so much more.
 

Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects

Insects comprise roughly half of the animal kingdom. They live everywheredeep inside caves, 18,000 feet high in the Himalayas, inside computers, in Yellowstone’s hot springs, and in the ears and nostrils of much larger creatures. Most of us know that we would not have honey without honeybees, but without the pinhead-sized chocolate midge, cocoa flowers would not pollinate. No cocoa, no chocolate. With ecologist Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson as our capable, entertaining guide into the insect world, we’ll learn that there is more variety among insects than we can even imagine and the more you learn about insects, the more fascinating they become.

Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything

Carbon. It’s in the fibers in your hair, the timbers in your walls, the food that you eat, and the air that you breathe. It’s worth billions as a luxury and half a trillion as a necessity, but there are still mysteries yet to be solved about the element that can be both diamond and coal. Where does it come from, what does it do, and why, above all, does life need it?

With poetic storytelling, earth scientist Robert Hazen leads us on a global journey through the origin and evolution of life’s most ubiquitous element. The story unfolds in four movements—Earth, Air, Fire, and Water—and transports us through 14 billion years of cosmic history.

Great Adaptations: Star-Nosed Moles, Electric Eels, and Other Tales of Evolution’s Mysteries Solved

From star-nosed moles that have super-sensing snouts to electric eels that paralyze their prey, animals possess unique and extraordinary abilities. In Great Adaptations, Kenneth Catania presents an entertaining and engaging look at some of nature’s most remarkable creatures. Telling the story of his biological detective work, Catania sheds light on the mysteries behind the behaviors of tentacled snakes, tiny shrews, zombie-making wasps, and more. He shows not only how studying these animals can provide deep insights into how life evolved, but also how scientific discovery can be filled with adventure and fun.

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals—and Other Forgotten Skills

When writer and navigator Tristan Gooley journeys outside, he sees a natural world filled with clues. The roots of a tree indicate the sun’s direction; the Big Dipper tells the time; a passing butterfly hints at the weather; a sand dune reveals prevailing wind; the scent of cinnamon suggests altitude; a budding flower points south. To help you understand nature as he does, Gooley shares more than 850 tips for forecasting, tracking, and more, gathered from decades spent walking the landscape around his home and around the world. 

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