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I haven’t shared a reading list in a while, so today I wanted to post about books to spark your desire to live more naturally. These books are really speaking to me right now as we prepare for our summer trip to West Virginia!
I love the smell of fresh dirt, gardening, and getting my hands down in the soil. I love hearing the wind rustling in the summer foliage and the sound of dry leaves crinkling underfoot in the fall. I enjoy sitting on the porch in the morning to watch for chipmunks and bunnies. I find it adorable that a nest of flying squirrels moved into an outbuilding for the winter. I love taking a break to stare into the creek looking for crawdads. Weirdly, I even enjoy keeping an eye out for poison ivy and copperheads while walking through the woods. (Though, I have to admit, I don’t like the post-walk obligatory tick checks!) I can’t wait to be truly surrounded by nature again – not just enjoying a park or botanical garden. Until then, reading will have to help tide me over!
This list of books to spark your desire to live more naturally does not include books like Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. They’re fine books, but, to me, reading about someone else’s life-changing adventure isn’t necessarily all that inspirational. Interesting, yes, but it can be too easy to feel like “well, that’s fine and good for them, but what about my life?” Instead, the following five books will (hopefully) help you reconsider your relationship with the natural world, food systems, and the seasons.
The first book I recommend to inspire you live more naturally is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is an informative trip through a year with a family trying to eat as locally as possible, frequently from their own garden. More than just a memoir, it’s also eye opening if you’re unfamiliar wit our modern food system. She points out facts like, on average, 85% of our food dollar goes to people who package, process, transport, and advertise our food items, but only 15 cents of each dollar actually goes to the people who produce our food. Obviously we can’t all eat local all the time, but even one locally-grown meal a week can help you get in touch with local, seasonal produce and support local small farmers. If you haven’t been convinced to stop by a local farmer’s market in a while, then this book is a must-read.
For more information on our modern food system, check out The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It doesn’t deal specifically with nature (well, one section does, but not the whole book). The book is framed around four meals – one entirely modern (fast food eaten in a car for maximum modernity), one from ‘big organic’ sources, one from local sources, and one entirely hunted and gathered. Through this storytelling vehicle, Pollan details many of the unsavory practices of large agribusiness, but also makes you question whether the ‘big organic’ model is really all that much better. If reading The Omnivores Dilemma doesn’t convince you to grow some of your own food or at least shop at farmer’s markers, I don’t know what will!
If you’re unconvinced of nature’s importance, I urge you to read The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. The book describes studies demonstrating the importance of contact with nature, both for adults and children, details modern obstacles to enjoying time in nature, and cites alarming consequences of western society’s current removal from nature.
If you’re not sure how to start living more naturally and in tune with the seasons, look into A Wilder Life by Celestine Maddy. The book teaches you the basics of skills like natural dying, tips on what to plant in which season, and ‘natural’ DIYs like making your own dry shampoo. The author calls the book something to reference when you miss nature, and I think that’s a pretty apt description. It’s large, more like a coffee table book, and filled with lovely illustrations and photos. Honestly, many of the skills aren’t covered that in-depth (can you truly expect to throughly learn celestial navigation in just a couple of pages?), but it’s a beautiful inspirational piece and jumping off point.
For more inspiration, get How to Be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy. Although it does contain some recipes and encouragements (to take a moonlit hike, for example), the book is primarily beautiful inspiration to get out there and enjoy the outdoors. Pages have Daisy’s lovely illustrations with meditations and quotations. The best way to get a feel for the book is by watching the book’s trailer on Vimeo right here.
Have you read any of these books already? Do you have any favorite books that inspire you to head to the forest or start a garden? Please let me know – I’d love to read them, too!