Find the most captivating nonfiction books on nature and the best fiction books about nature all in one place in this bewitching book list.
All of us are part of the natural world and when we commune with nature, something deeper comes alive, leaving us rejuvenated and inspired.
If you can’t be in the great outdoors, one of the next best things is to read books on nature. Nature books fill us with wonder at the joys of our world and the harshness within its beauty. You’ll also find a sobering reminder that our environment is precious and precarious.
This spring, why not try one of these books about nature. I’ve combined fascinating nonfiction books about how humans and wildlife interact with gripping fiction stories about people finding their way in nature. As always, it’s a little bit for everyone.
Best Nature Books
The Snow Child
One of the best books about nature for fiction lovers is Eowyn Ivey’s modern classic, The Snow Child. In 1920, Jack and Mabel are struggling to homestead Alaska. When the first snowflakes fall, they build a small child out of snow. The next morning their snowman is gone, replaced by a little girl named Faina who lives in the woods with only a fox as a friend.
Where the Crawdads Sing
For years, Kya Clark has survived alone in the marshes of the North Carolina coast. Dubbed “The Marsh Girl” by the locals, she raises herself in nature after her family abandons her. Now, as she comes of age, she begins to yearn for something more than her loneliness – maybe even a connection with the locals. An exquisitely written tale, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of the best books on nature for you to read.
Sometimes it takes doing something crazy, like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, for you to truly put your life in order. By 22, Cheryl Strayed’s life felt out of control, so she decided to make a life-changing decision to hike the PCT. You’ll laugh at Strayed’s mishaps, be in awe had her stupidity and bravery, and, if you are like me, really want to go for a hike.
Richard Powers was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for this innovative literary fiction book about nature. Simulating the growth of a tree, Powers breaks with traditional formatting and arranges his work in interlocking segments. You start with short stories about nine different characters and then watch as their stories interweave together in a novel that explores humankind’s relationship with nature.
Henry David Thoreau
One of the top classic books on nature, Walden recounts Henry David Thoreau’s two years living a simple life in a cabin on Walden Pond. Written in 1854, Walden is both a satire and a social experiment as Thoreau attempts to return to a simpler time where man is elementally connected with the world around him.
The Lost City of Z
In 1925, legendary explorer Percy Fawcett entered the Amazon to find a rumored lost city he called Z, never to return. Grann recounts Fawcett’s spectacular history and seems to have possibly solved his mysterious disappearance. A fascinating look at a historical mystery, The Lost City of Z is one of the best books on nature for anyone interested in the mysteries of the Amazon.
Bestselling Books About Nature
The Great Alone
A recently returned Vietnam War POW, Ernt Allbright decides to move his family to the Alaskan frontier. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers and just what Ernt needs. But when the harsh Alaskan winter approaches and Ernt’s mental state begins to deteriorate, his wife and daughter must fight to survive. A captivating, stay-up-all-night novel that is a favorite among book club books about nature.
Richard Powers contemplates the world we are leaving for our children in his newest book release. As widowed astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life on other planets, he struggles with raising his nine-year son. Sweet nature-loving Robin is on the verge of being expelled from third grade. Robin’s teachers and doctors tell Theo that Robin needs drugs to help him be normal, but Theo refuses, leaning on the love of the natural world to help Robin cope.
Once There Were Wolves
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with one purpose – to reintroduce gray wolves into the highlands despite the fierce resistance from the local population. When a farmer is mauled to death, Inti buries the evidence, terrified the locals will accuse her beloved wolves. But if the wolves aren’t to blame, who caused his death? And will it happen again? One of the best literary books about nature of recent years, this hauntingly beautiful novel about healing from trauma – in people and in nature – will hook you from the beginning.
All Creatures Great and Small
In his bestselling memoir, James Herriot tells of his decades as a beloved veterinarian in rural Yorkshire. Herriott writes about his diverse animal patients with stories that run the gamut from heartbreaking to hilarious to inspirational. With a keen eye for observation, Herriott displays the scope of human nature and has penned one of the top books about nature.
For generations, Rich Gunderson’s family has logged the redwood forest on California’s coast. After a streak of miscarriages and infertility, his wife Colleen begins to wonder if there’s something in the water. As Colleen investigates the environmental impacts of logging, her search for answers might tear her marriage, and the town, apart. With over 400 pages, Damnation Spring is a challenging read with a slow build, but one that is worth it in the end for people who love books on nature.
The Monkey Wrench Gang
In a comedic look at understanding human nature, Edward Abbey tells the story of a motley gang of eco-terrorists determined to protect the environment at all costs. After returning to find his beloved Utah desert threatened by industrialization, Vietnam veteran George Washington Hayduke III teams up with a feminist saboteur, a billboard torcher, and a wilderness guide to wage war for the environment, laughing their way from one adventure to the next.
Books for Nature Lovers
World of Wonders
Of the bestselling new books for nature lovers, you don’t want to miss this series of essays by poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil. As a child, Nezhukumatathil lived all over the United States, from Kansas to Arizona to New York. Although each place was different, she was able to find comfort and astonishment in the natural world around her.
A Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson fits in as naturally with nature writers as he does with travel writers in his entertaining book about the Appalachian Trail. Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail is a perfect place for a hike, and with a guide like Bill Bryson, you are sure to learn the history and ecology as well as meet plenty of fun furry creatures along the way.
Into the Wild
In 1992, moose hunters found the body of a young man alone in the Alaska wilderness. Investigators soon found out it belonged to Christopher McCandless, who had hitchhiked to Alaska to live alone in the wild for a summer. How does a well-educated young man from a well-off family give it all up – give away all his money, abandon his car and tramp around the US for years? What drove McCandless to see out the wild? Telling as well the stories of those other souls throughout history who have sought out the wonders of nature, including himself, Krakauer is the perfect person to pen this insightful chronicle of Christopher McCandless’s life, a story that will stay with you for a long time.
Finding the Mother Tree
Suzanne Simard, a leading forest ecologist known for her TED Talks, takes you on a personal journey of discovery in her first book. Simard brings trees to life, showing how interconnected they are with our life cycle and showcasing their sophistication, intelligence, and mystery. Interwoven with the narrative about trees, Simard describes her own life and journey to become a scientist.
Mary Roach depicts instances when nature breaks the law – the often humorous intersection between human behavior and wildlife biology. Think of a jaywalking moose or a bear breaking and entering. Roach travels the world from human-elephant conflict to leopard-terrorized villages and finds that humans are more often the problem than wildlife.
Fiction Books on Nature
Franny Stone embarks on a journey to follow the last remaining flock of Arctic terns. With the eccentric crew of the Saghani, she sets off on a journey that is her one last chance of redemption. Set in a near-future apocalyptic world where animals are almost all extinct, Migrations is a hauntingly observant novel for nature lovers that will overwhelm you with the emotions of loss.
The Light Pirate
In a Florida already wracked by climate change, Frida gives birth to baby Wanda amid a deadly hurricane. As the world continues to disintegrate, Wanda grows and adapts to an ever-changing world. Living in a community abandoned by society, Wanda seeks adventure, community, and love in a place remade by nature.
Where the Forest Meets the Stars
While working on her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, Joanna Teale returns one night to find a little girl outside her cabin. But not just any little girl. Ursa claims to be an alien who needs to witness 5 miracles before she can return to her planet. Is this a charming science fiction tale? Or is Ursa just an abused and neglected little girl?
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances
Ruth Emmie Lang
If you love books about nature and life, you don’t want to miss Ruth Emmie Lang’s debut novel. Raised by wolves, Weylyn Grey always knew he was different. But when he stops a tornado in Oklahoma, he realizes his powers are like none other. As strange events seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, he leaves each person he meets with a unique story to tell, and he worries he is putting the woman he loves in danger.
Hoping that the local historical society will pay for much-needed repairs, Willa Knox starts digging into the history of her house. What she finds is a kindred soul in Thatcher Greenwood, a science teacher who lived there years ago – an early proponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution. As both Willa and Thatcher navigate turbulent times, both begin to discover what it takes to survive shifting times.
The Simple Wild
K. A. Tucker
For romance fans who like to read books about nature, K. A. Tucker has the perfect book for you. Although she was born in the wilds of Alaska, Calla Fletcher has lived in Toronto since her parents divorced when she was two. After she finds out her estranged father is dying, Calla returns to Alaska to bond with her father and ends up falling in love with a rugged pilot.
Once Upon a River
Bonnie Jo Campbell
If you enjoy fiction books on nature, you’ll want to read Bonnie Jo Campbell’s story about a young woman on a riverboat journey. After the death of her father, sixteen-year-old Margo Crane takes to the river to search for her mother. With only a book to keep her company, Margo must face the dangers of rural Michigan and the consequences of her choices.
Children’s Books on Nature
You’ve heard plenty of stories of a boy and his dog, but this children’s classic follows the eternal love of a boy and his pet fawn, a yearling deer named Flag. Through thick and thin, Jody and Flag are inseparable, and their adventures are heartwarming. But as they both grow up, can their friendship survive the harsh realities of the Florida Backwoods?
Books on nature don’t always have to be serious; they can also be a ton of fun. When Fiver gets a premonition of danger, Hazel leads a group of bunnies to establish a new warren in the English countryside while facing predators, men, and neighboring rabbit tribes. You might be expecting a fantasy book, but Watership Down is just a book about bunnies. An extremely compelling story about bunnies that will hook you from the first chapter.
The Wild Robot
When a robot finds herself stranded on an island, she realizes the only way to survive is to learn from the forest animals how to be wild. Slowly, Roz befriends the creatures, becoming a beloved part of the island, until her past comes back to haunt her. If you want a good read-aloud nature book for your kids, you’ll love the adorable illustrations. Just be warned, the book ends in a cliffhanger, so you’ll also have to read the sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes.
How can I list famous books about nature without mentioning Dr. Seuss’s cherished picture book? The Lorax is the creature who speaks for the trees, warning of the dangers of mindless human consumption of the natural world when the beloved Truffula trees are chopped down by industrialists.
What Books on Nature Have You Fallen In Love With
What do you think? What nature books would you recommend for readers? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction books on nature? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Nonfiction Books to Read:
“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah needs a warning of the graphic domestic violence depicted in this book. I adore Kristin Hannah’s books, but I could not finish this one – it hit too close to home as I have a sister who was abused by a boyfriend. This book made me relive those terror-filled years & made me angry all over again.
Five brightly shining stars for THE GREAT ALONE and for UNSHELTERED !!!!!
One of my favorite nature books is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Highly recommend it.
Thanks for the recommendation!
Highly recommend Braiding Sweetgrass as well! What a great list!
What a delightful varied list to challenge further reading about nature. Read all the Herriott books years ago, Watership Down, Dr Seuss, & couple of years ago the Lost City Of Z. The last one determined my resolve to avoid Amazonia. How about for example, Wind in the Willows, Tarka the Otter as classics, & for Aussie readers, tales by Steele Rudd, Henry Lawson & contemporary writer Kel Richards? Plan for part of today; to follow up some of the books you recommend.
I have five 5-star “Nature” recommendations from the other side of The Atlantic Ocean. Rachael, I know that you like “thrillers” and am sure you’d love these.
1) Sara Baume’s first book–SPILL SIMMER FALTER WITHER (2016) (all letters are lower case)–was something I normally don’t read but it really grabbed me–my heart was pounding right up to the end. I hesitated before buying her second–A LINE MADE BY WALKING (2017)–but I got it and it grabbed me too. I recently read her non-fiction HANDIWORK (also based in nature; she wanted a break from writing fiction) (2020) and it was beautiful. And here I am eagerly awaiting her SEVEN STEEPLES (end-April 2022). They all take place in Ireland.
2) Robert Seethaler is an Austrian writer and actor. The translations in English are very good. His work is also known in France. A WHOLE LIFE (2015), THE TOBACONNIST (2016), and THE FIELD (2021). I read them as a trilogy. They are very beautiful in a very different way. Check them out first.
3) STRANGE FLOWERS (2020) by Donal Ryan. An Irish rural setting. “Endlessly surprising and incredibly moving.” It reads like a poem that flows freely like a river.
4) LITTLE WING (2022) by Freya North. This awesome book that takes place in The Outer Hebrides (UK) somehow got overlooked, is said to be different from the “usual” Freya North romances. All I can say about LITTLE WING is that it’s achingly beautiful and will wing you away from wherever you are. The cover is beautiful enough to make you want it. Before the story starts, North quotes “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with you one wild and precious life?”
If you’re ready for something very different and very beautiful, try these. The Mary Oliver quote goes for all the above-mentioned books. Enjoy the escapes!
Thank you Steve, Little Wing added to my nature read list. Recommended reads are sugar in my tea.