Trying to Stay Grounded

Recently, the only thing that has kept me grounded (besides books) is seeing some bonafide earthy ground and the things that come from it. I go for walks in the woods, sit on the beach, tend my plants, or enjoy the crazy drama that is bird watching. In exchange for things like picking up trash, growing some flowers, dropping birdseed, or literally nothing at all (mother earth is that generous), these outdoor outlets help to revive a little bit of my dampened spirits. However, while I am immensely grateful for currently being in this position, not everyone has the same level of access to the outdoors or the same inclination to be a part of it. But what can we do if we want to change that for ourselves? If we want to gain some of that nature-made comfort society tends to push aside? If we want to grow our knowledge and love of nature, but we're overwhelmed by the biological studies, environmental impact assessments, and honkin’ big words within the genre? 

Well I find that budding interests are best helped along by some baby steps. Even when I was younger and privileged enough to have access to country living, camping, and the safety to wander outside, I still preferred the comforts of my bedroom to scouring the pond with my sisters. On that I have regrets, but my personal appreciation of nature actually started just a short while ago with -- great shocker -- books! No, I didn’t intentionally start reading the denser environmental material; I also didn’t randomly go to the library and grab a big essayists like Rachel Carson or John Muir. Instead, it was the settings of certain stories, and the significant roles that animals or plants played in the narratives I was already exposed to, that peaked my interest: a powerful forest, a peaceful pond, a helpful woodland animal, insect sounds, or the contents of the sky! With a helping of nature documentaries on the side, I began to learn about the varied representations of resilience, solace, community, beauty, and necessity to be found in the natural world, and about the more negative themes that could develop in its absence. I began to learn some of those big words, and see those ecosystems in my daily life. I began to broaden my horizons to those intimidating environmental studies sections. 

So, when  you’ve finished looking a little deeper into the books you already enjoy, here is a list of titles that I heartily recommend as follow-ups. I think of them as my happy medium books: neither too entrenched in scientific research, any one genre, place, or kind of writer, nor too tricky for spotting those nature themes. Plus, I feel some kindred spirits amongst these narratives...others that found solace or felt a bit more grounded within some kind of “nature”. 

Please comment here or tag us on social media if you read any of these titles, you have other books with strong natural elements to recommend, or if you do any of your future reading in or near the outdoors (in a socially distanced manner). Above all, stay safe while you feed your curiosity, find comfort, and grow your knowledge. We hope to see you soon. 


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Hollow Kingdom By Kira Jane Buxton Cover Image

A finalist for the 2020 Thurber Prize for American Humor!

"The Secret Life of Pets meets The Walking Dead" in this big-hearted, boundlessly beautiful romp through the Apocalypse, where a foul-mouthed crow is humanity's only chance to survive Seattle's zombie problem (Karen Joy Fowler, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author). S.T., a domestic

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Lagoon By Nnedi Okorafor Cover Image

It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador—and prevent mass extinction—in this novel that blends magical realism with high-stakes action.

After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues.

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Escaping Exodus: A Novel By Nicky Drayden Cover Image

"Don't be alarmed - that dizzy pleasurable sensation you're experiencing is just your brain slowly exploding from all the wild magnificent worldbuilding in Nicky Drayden's Escaping Exodus. I loved these characters and this story, and so will you."

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Greenwood: A Novel By Michael Christie Cover Image

A magnificent generational saga that charts a family’s rise and fall, its secrets and inherited crimes, from one of Canada’s most acclaimed novelists

Beholden: A Poem as Long as the River By Fred Wah, Rita Wong Cover Image

Comprised of two lines of poetic text flowing along a 114-foot-long map of the Columbia River, this powerful image-poem by acclaimed poets Fred Wah and Rita Wong presents language yearning to understand the consequences of our hydroelectric manipulation of one of North America's largest river systems.

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments By Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Fumi Nakamura (Illustrator) Cover Image

"Hands-down one of the most beautiful books of the year." --NPR

From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction--a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring By Kenard Pak, Kenard Pak (Illustrator) Cover Image

In a simple, cheerful conversation with nature, a young boy observes how the season changes from winter to spring in Kenard Pak's Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring.

As days stretch longer, animals creep out from their warm dens, and green begins to grow again, everyone knows—spring is on its way!

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers By Celia C. Pérez Cover Image

From the award-winning author of The First Rule of Punk comes the story of four kids who form an alternative Scout troop that shakes up their sleepy Florida town.

* "Writing with wry restraint that's reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo... a beautiful tale." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

What I Carry By Jennifer Longo Cover Image

"A deeply touching story about survival, hope, and love." --Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author

A powerful and heartwarming look at a teen girl about to age out of the foster care system.

Growing up in foster care, Muir has lived in many houses. And if she's learned one thing, it is to Pack. Light. Carry only what fits in a suitcase.

King and the Dragonflies (Scholastic Gold) By Kacen Callender Cover Image

A 2021 Coretta Scott King Honor Book!

Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Young People's Literature!

Winner of the 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry!

In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, one boy's grief takes him beyond the bayous of his backyard, to learn that there is no right way to be yourself.

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The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees By Meredith May Cover Image

An extraordinary story of a girl, her grandfather and one of nature's most mysterious and beguiling creatures: the honeybee.

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The Sun Is a Compass: My 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds By Caroline Van Hemert Cover Image

For fans of Cheryl Strayed, the gripping story of a biologist's human-powered journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic to rediscover her love of birds, nature, and adventure.

The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature By J. Drew Lanham Cover Image

In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored." From these fertile soils of love, land, identity, family, and race emerges The Home Place, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham.

Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts By Jessica J. Lee Cover Image

This "stunning journey through a country that is home to exhilarating natural wonders, and a scarring colonial past . . . makes breathtakingly clear the connection between nature and humanity, and offers a singular portrait of the complexities inherent to our ideas of identity, family, and love" (Refinery29).

The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World By Alison Hawthorne Deming (Editor), Lauret E. Savoy (Editor) Cover Image

From African American to Asian American, indigenous to immigrant, "multiracial" to "mixedblood," the diversity of cultures in today's world is reflected in our richly various stories--stories of creation and destruction, displacement and heartbreak, hope and mystery. For centuries, this richness has been widely overlooked by readers of environmental literature.