I love reading at any time of the year, and usually have a few books on the go at any one time. However, I find that mid-winter is the most perfect time for catching up on all those books I wanted to get to through the busier seasons and nothing is better than a hot cup of tea, sitting in front of the fire with a good book while it rains outside.
When it comes to sustainability, environmental awareness and connecting with nature, despite coming from an academic background, I strongly believe that the best way to engage and connect people with these themes aren’t books that aim to scare you or present dry scientific data. I think the key is engaging through stories – having people remember where we come from and helping to re-establish our connections with the natural world. Stories that bring joy, enlightenment and shine a light on the wonders that come with engaging and forming relationships with the plants, animals and the very land itself that we are a part of. For once someone starts forming these relationships, earth stewardship and changing behaviours come naturally and is more likely to be sustainable over the long term.
Therefore, with that in mind, here are my winter picks and if you have read any book that has inspired you or brought you joy I’d love to hear your recommendations.
Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Kimmerer
“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge or floating lazily on a pond. I could be doing the work of the world while standing silent in the sun.” – Robin Kimmerer
When anyone asks for book recommendations this tops my list. This piece of literature completely changed how I viewed my relationship with the natural world and from everyone I have spoken to, after they read the book, it is clear I am not alone. Robin Kimmerer is a scientist and a professor of biology, whom came to the realisation that plants are not subjects of study, but instead are teachers to learn from. Drawing on her own heritage and viewing our relationship with plants through an indigenous lens she brings to light the importance of reciprocity and gratitude that is missing from current society when it comes to the relationship with the land, and one another. The book is amazing, however, I would highly recommend the audio book as the authors voice is so enchanting and soothing that the stories come to life in a special way. Get it! You won’t regret it.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – Barbara Kingsolver
A highly entertaining and thought provoking memoir of a families journey, filled with highs and lows, on disconnecting from the industrial food pipe-line for one year and only consuming food that they either grew themselves or was raised in their own neighbourhood. Although based in America it has a lot of lessons for us here as well and will likely motivate you to examine your relationship with food, knowing where your food comes from and the importance of community. Thanks to this book I will never look at asparagus the same way again either, “(on asparagus) Europeans of the Renaissance swore by it as an aphrodisiac, and the church banned it from nunneries.”
The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More – Annie Raser-Rowland & Adam Grubb
In our society all to often success and happiness are promoted to be a result of wealth and consumption so it is no wonder that despite living in one of the richest countries in the world so many of us are unhappy and struggle to find a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This is not some pious, self righteous book about living on the cheap – its quirky, fun and a very easy read. This book is about finding joy in things that matter, reevaluating our lives and finding what brings us genuine happiness – and surprisingly (or not) those things are not tied with wealth. It’s something that my partner and I have discovered slowly over time, moving from a high paying jobs to a life out in the country, and finding the pleasure of recognising we don’t care if all our dinnerware matches or not, or what model of car we own as we know that the money could be spent on experiences or items that bring us actual joy. It’s about taking pleasure in things like a brilliant op shop find, the taste of a sweet peach on a summers day and the satisfaction of a good day’s work in the garden. Have you ever thought about what truly makes you happy? Well this book will and it will bring more mindfulness to your spending choices so that instead of that hollow feeling you get after buying yet another item that you don’t really need you start choosing to spend money where it bring you pleasure and joy.
The Hidden World of Trees – Peter Wohlleben
“If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.” – Peter Wohlleben
This is one I have recently started and am half way through at the moment but did not want to delay in recommending it. I challenge anyone to go into a forest or sit by a tree and not see them with completely new eyes after reading this book that explores the magic that transpires within and around these stoic guardians. Peter discusses scientific discoveries of ways in which trees communicate, form communities, share nutrients and warn one another of impending dangers. There is such a warmth to his writing, although this book and Robin’s Braiding Sweetgrass overlap somewhat in subject matter they look at it through very different eyes and the tone of each book reflects this. A very interesting read.
The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris
This book originated after in 2007 when the Oxford Junior Dictionary dropped 40 nature-centric words such as acorn, bluebell, dandelion, magpie, willow, weasel and wren to make room for technological words such as, broadband, blog or cut-and-paste. This inspired the British authors to create a stunning book of 20 words that each have beautiful water-color inspirations and instead of definitions enchanting poems. This is not a kids book nor an adults book. It’s a book adults could read to kids, but a book that adults can enjoy completely on their own as the poems can be quite complex and layered with meaning. It is a beautiful, large coffee-table style book that is a wonderful discussion starter and quite simply a work of art (see below).
That’s my list for the time being, and remember if you have any books of a similar theme that you would recommend we would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!