Laura G's Top 10 Books On the Natural World

I don’t know what led to my obsession with nature - particularly the minutiae: bees, fungi, occasionally algae. There’s just something so comforting about knowing that no matter what craziness is going on in your life, the natural world keeps spinning.

As one can imagine, I’ve been in need of a lot of comfort this past year. So as always, I’ve turned to books. If you’re of a similar mind, here are my top ten books about the amazing world around us...

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525510314
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Random House - May 12th, 2020

Perfect for amateur mycologists with questionable “morels,” Entangled Life is a fascinating look into the world of fungi. Sheldrake is unafraid to move in a philosophical direction, using his scientific expertise to consider fungi’s implications on our own views of autonomy, community, and society. This is a masterfully written, highly fascinating addition to the compendium of fungal knowledge.

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Strange Harvests: Giving and Taking from the Natural World Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399562808
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Penguin Books - August 4th, 2020

Strange Harvests follows the journey of several natural commodities from harvest to marketplace. It’s a fascinating insight into humanity’s connections with the natural world - a complex tapestry of first hand narratives, history, and science. Through the book Posnett shows us the subtle harmony of ecology and economy, posing the question: can humanity balance our desire to consume or will we inevitably destroy our harvests?

Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us Cover Image
ISBN: 9780358299561
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Mariner Books - June 9th, 2020

As bountiful as the stars in the universe, algae are just as vitally important to our survival - more so, even! Kassinger’s book is compulsively readable with delightful anecdotes and fascinating science. This is a fun, quick read for anyone looking to learn a bit more about our eukaryotic friends!

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Underland: A Deep Time Journey Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393358094
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 18th, 2020

Our next book takes us on an epic journey below the earth; from sea caves to the catacombs of Paris to fungal networks and beyond. This haunting and lyrical treatise is an exploration of humanity’s expansive ties to the subterranean, not only including Macfarlane’s travels and observations but those of artists, murderers, and explorers. Macfarlane seeks out the darkness of our world, weaving his findings together in a narrative of mystery, strangeness, and ultimately, brilliance.

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Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time Cover Image
ISBN: 9781640093539
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Counterpoint LLC - July 7th, 2020

Desert Notebooks is rich, haunting, and profoundly unique in its exploration of the apocalypse. Ehrenreich takes readers from the wilds of the Mojave to the neon glow of Las Vegas - amongst coyotes and Joshua trees, to labyrinthine canyons, to a phosphorescent city surrounded by it all. Ehrenreich draws from stories of the Serrano, Mohave, and other desert peoples to inform our understanding of our rapidly changing world, reckoning with the environmental apocalypse that haunts all our futures.

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Fauna Cover Image
ISBN: 9781552454169
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coach House Books - September 22nd, 2020

As with Desert Notebooks, Fauna also explores a potential environmental apocalypse, this time through the medium of fiction. Vadnais has created an intoxicating vision of the end times - luscious and lovingly rendered in sparkling prose. Fauna is a terrifying reminder of the power of Mother Nature. Nothing stays buried forever and, like an ouroboros, our world is a constant cycle of tender life and ferocious death.

The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524733216
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Knopf - August 25th, 2020

As all my coworkers know, I love bugs. I will happily rescue cockroaches from Keaton’s stomping feet and deposit them on a nice plant in the back alley. So I love books like The Butterfly Effect, which shows us just how important insects are to our modern world and day to day life. Violinists, manicure enthusiasts, and even dentists are just a few of the many people whose work relies on our six-legged friends and the unreplicatable materials they provide!

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments Cover Image
ISBN: 9781571313652
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Milkweed Editions - September 8th, 2020

If you’re looking for one book to cheer you up this holiday season, look no further than World of Wonders. Not only is this book a wonderful meditation on life and the fantastic creatures we can learn from (my personal favorite being the axolotl), the book also includes gorgeous watercolor artwork by Fumi Mini Nakamura.

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Creatures: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781643750835
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Algonquin Books - October 27th, 2020

Our second and final fiction book, Creatures, is an exploration of human pain. However, it is inextricably tied to place. This book uncovers a darkly glittering world both above and beneath the ocean waves. Winter Island is a fog coated land unto itself populated by humans who can’t help but betray each others’ love. Driven by emotion, Van Meter has written a stunning, tactile book. I half expected to taste the sea salt on the page.

I am a Capybara Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616899455
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Princeton Architectural Press - October 6th, 2020

We end the list with perhaps the cutest title, I Am a Capybara. This simply illustrated picture book is all about the world’s largest (and most interesting) rodent. It’s charming and informative as Capybara teaches us more about his species. Capybara is delightfully unencumbered by a sense of self-awareness, creating a silly, comforting narrative for readers of all ages.

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