3 BRILLIANT BOOKS ABOUT THE NATURAL WORLD

Now, perhaps more than ever, our minds are focused on the urgency to halt the ever-quickening pace of climate change. Here are a few of my favourite books celebrating the natural world, and our place in it. Here are three authors making the case, in their own ways, to preserve the wonders of our planet - before we lose them forever.

H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald is a memoir and, in some ways, a softly-spoken battle cry against grief. Following her father's sudden death MacDonald seeks solace in her lifelong passion for falconry and realises a long held dream to train a goshawk. Together they form an intense relationship, each coming to utterly depend on the other - it's hard to tell who saves whom in this pairing.


I really enjoyed MacDonald's writing style - fluid and easy to read, I found myself swallowed whole by this new world of birds of prey from the get-go. Like her hawk Mabel, MacDonald has an innate sense for appreciating the littlest nuances of the environment around her and as the story progresses the author begins to find her place within the world again, which seemed to fall away with the unexpected death of her beloved dad. The novel is a story of friendship, freedom and a wonderful introduction to natural history writing. Its gentle pace is peppered with intensity - the stakes are high as MacDonald finds her way as a trainer, having to earn her gos's trust, and the rewards are huge. A wonderful read - I can't wait to return to it again soon.


The Moth Snowstorm: Nature & Joy is a love letter to the natural world in which he states the case that the greatest reason to protect nature is because of the joy it brings us. I spied this copy at Foyle's in London's Waterloo station - I don't know why but this branch is my personal kryptonite and I can rarely escape its stacks without taking home at least one book. I spied the spine of this one poking out from between the natural history tomes on the first floor and was intrigued to know more.


When author, Michael McCarthy, was seven years old his mother Norah – to whom the book is dedicated – suffered a breakdown.  The year was 1954 and mental health was treated away from everyday life in asylums and, in this instance, on the say-so of the Catholic Church.  While Norah was undergoing radical treatment, Michael and his brother John went to live with their Aunt in Sunny Bank, Liverpool and it is here Michael’s unlikely, yet enduring, love affair with nature was born.

…I ran out of the house at Sunny Bank to play and encountered the tall bush covered in jewels, jewels as big as my seven-year-old hand, jewels flashing dazzling colour combinations: scarlet and black, maroon and yellow, pink and white, orange and turquoise.  The buddleia was crawling with butterflies…in their greedy quest for nectar.
Electrifying, they were.  Filling the space where my feelings should have been.  And so, through this singular window, when I was a skinny kid in short pants, butterflies entered my soul.

I found some chapters of this book challenging yet necessary to read. I'm still haunted by Saemangeum - a place I'd never heard of - yet its destruction, and the consequences which followed, have stayed with me. Saemangeum was a series of unassuming mudflats which were wiped out by the South Korean government in the name of creating an agricultural industry that could keep up with the rapid expansion of buildings and human habitation across the country. Tragically, the mudflats have long been known to be a pitstop for migratory birds, offering a vital feeding ground that would sustain them as they made the rest of their journey which would ultimately see them rest and breed before returning home later in the year. However, the government efficiently wiped out the mudflats - and everything that lived on them - so when exhausted birds made their regular stop to refuel there was no longer any sustenance waiting for them. Starving and exhausted, the birds had no choice but to continue flying; too tired and hungry to keep going the majority would not arrive at their final destination. This one act of human expansion has threatened to force numerous birds into extinction.


Last on my list is one of my favourite works of fiction, The Bees by Laline Paull. I fell in love with this book a couple of years ago when it first came out and have recommended it to countless friends and colleagues since. Inspired by a bee-keeping friend, Paull chose to bring the inner workings of a bee hive to life, through the eyes of one of its inhabitants, Flora 717.


From birth, Flora struggles to find her place in the hive and as such tries her hand at various roles to see which one will make the biggest impact for the greater good. However, there's a sickness in the hive and rumours of treachery - only the Queen may breed yet there are rumours that others are daring to do so. With the fragile hive's survival at stake the fertility police go on the rampage to weed out the traitor and restore order. Given Flora's exposure to many areas within the hive she unwittingly becomes an insect of interest in the police's investigations. She could hold the key to her hive's survival but in using it she would risk everything and defy the hive's mantra: Accept. Obey. Serve. A gripping read from start to finish - perfect for Summer holidays.


Nature is a great leveller - you don't need money to enjoy it, yet we have an equal responsibility to do our part to protect it. While each of these books is very different in style they all have something in common: a love for and curiosity about the world around us. I strongly believe we can all make a difference, regardless of what cynics might say. Nature inspires, raises hearts and offers solace. But it's our species that is putting it at risk so it's up to us to act now to save it.


Have you read any good books lately? I'd love to hear your recommendations - comment below or over on my Instagram.


Until next time, keep wondering.

Laura

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