Embrace Nature

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

Whether the nature you know is outside your back door or in a remote wilderness destination, there is endless beauty and wonder to be celebrated in the natural world. Skokie library staff share some favorite books about nature and the benefits of getting outdoors.

  • Letters from Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods

    2006 by Zickefoose, Julie

    In this lovely collection of writing and illustrations, artist and naturalist Zickefoose, along with her husband and children, observes the animals around their home in the Appalachians of Southern Ohio. No creature, from bullfrogs to coyotes, escapes her notice or her respect. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt's New World

    2015 by Wulf, Andrea

    Following the life of explorer and naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, this book offers countless stories of wilderness and nature while revealing Von Humboldt's contribution to humanity's relationship with nature. Recommended by Paul.

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  • The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt

    2019 by Wulf, Andrea

    The author has chosen the graphic novel format, drawing on Von Humboldt's diaries and letters to bring him to life. Artist Melcher uses a dazzling combination of illustration and collage technique spread across oversized pages that swirl with text, diagrams, and sketches in order to mimic the look of an explorer's notebook. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild

    2013 by Haupt, Lyanda Lynn

    Haupt, an "eco-philosophist," presents the joys of discovering the wildness in our urban (and suburban) lives and inspires readers to observe more closely and aspire to live in harmony with nature. Also recommended by this author, Crow Planet. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • The Genius of Birds

    2016 by Ackerman, Jennifer

    An award-winning science, nature, and human biology writer explores recent research indicating that birds are much more intelligent than previously thought and are capable of deceiving and manipulating, eavesdropping, gift-giving, playing, sharing, and much more. Good inspiration for some in-depth birdwatching! Recommended by Chris.

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  • How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals

    2018 by Montgomery, Sy

    A naturalist and adventurer discusses the personalities and quirks of 13 animals that have profoundly affected her, exploring themes of learning to become empathetic, creating families, coping with loss, and the otherness and sameness of people and animals. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • A Natural History of the Chicago Region

    2002 by Greenberg, Joel

    Not a dry, scholarly tome, this beautifully researched and presented book about the natural history of the Chicago region is one I always keep within reach. No book has better helped me understand where we reside. Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

    2017 by Williams, Florence

    Florence Williams dives deeply into how nature affects all of us as humans--be it mood, creativity, or overall cognition. This book presents a strong argument for why time in nature is not only beneficial, but also necessary. Recommended by Paul.

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  • The Sense of Wonder

    1998 by Carson, Rachel

    In 1955, Carson and her young grandnephew explored the Maine woods and tide pools, and Carson began an essay that would become this classic. Instilling in children a lifelong sense of wonder about the natural world, she writes, is to give them "an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength." Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

    2020 by Kimmerer, Robin Wall

    "Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer tackles everything from sustainable agriculture to pond scum as a reflection of her Potawatomi heritage, which carries a stewardship 'which could not be taken by history: the knowing that we belonged to the land.' . . . It's a book absorbed with the unfolding of the world to observant eyes―that sense of discovery that draws us in." (NPR) Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Garden in Every Sense and Season

    2018 by Martin, Tovah

    In short essays, Martin takes gardeners beyond the mundane chores of gardening to become more attuned with a garden's sensory delights. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

    2008 by Louv, Richard

    In case you need convincing, cutting-edge studies point to the growing body of evidence linking the lack of nature in children's lives and the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. Louv talks with parents, children, teachers, scientists, religious leaders, child-development researchers, and environmentalists to find ways for children to experience the natural world more deeply. Recommended by Mary.

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  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    2007 by Dillard, Annie

    A book almost overwhelmed by the author's powers of seeing. And not just any kind seeing, but a kind of transcendent seeing, almost mystical at times, maybe even touched by a hint of madness. And overflowing with life, joy, observation, and a tree with lights in it. Recommended by Chris.

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  • My Side of the Mountain

    1988 by George, Jean Craighead

    When I was 9 and read this book, I desperately wanted to escape to the Catskill Mountains and eat acorn flour pancakes while holed up inside a tree in the middle of a snowstorm. Recommended by Chris.

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  • Mink River

    2010 by Doyle, Brian

    Doyle gives a wonderfully visceral sense of the Pacific Northwest in this poetic novel. The writing pours down the page in hurly burly run-on sentences full of birds and bears, wind and water. The diverse people of the community share rich cultures of storytelling about their connection to this once very wild place. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Why I Wake Early: New Poems

    2004 by Oliver, Mary

    All of Oliver's poetry revolves around her profound connection to nature. Accessible, uplifting, and beautiful, her poems are universally loved and will fill you with renewed appreciation the next time you see a grasshopper, morning glories, or fog on a lake. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Terrapin and Other Poems

    2014 by Berry, Wendell

    Berry is known for his novels, essays, stories, and poems about farm life and his deep commitment to the environment. For this collection, artist Tom Pohrt collected 21 of Berry's poems that he thought would be particularly accessible to younger people and created exquisite watercolor paintings for each one. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration With Nature

    1990 by Goldsworthy, Andy

    Goldworthy has committed himself, for several decades, to creating beautiful, ephemeral works of "natural" art that both reflect the place they're made in and amplify it. He uses only nature's objects--twigs, rocks, snow, ice, etc.--spending hours on his creations, only to have the next tide, heat of the sun, or wind undo his labor. Also recommended, the documentary Rivers and Tides. Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks

    2016 by Williams, Terry Tempest

    Tempest Williams' The Hour of Land is a meditation and manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America. In lyrical portraits of 12 national parks, she guides us through the intersection of humanity and wildness. Black and white images by famous photographers grace the pages. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature

    2012 by Haskell, David George

    Over the course of a year, biology professor Haskell studied one square meter of old growth forest in Tennessee. Library Journal says, "Haskell brings the aspects of forest life that most often go unnoticed to the forefront with vibrant detail as he easily moves from microscopic to global observations." Recommended by Lukie.

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  • The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal about Being Human

    2014 by Strycker, Noah K.

    Naturalist Strycker goes into the field to study bird behavior and, in every instance, makes comparisons with human behavior and evolution. Reading this book made me regret that I didn't become a naturalist myself, although I can't imagine going so far as to bring home a reeking deer carcass to watch vultures do their work. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • How to Fly (in Ten Thousand Easy Lessons): Poetry

    2020 by Kingsolver, Barbara

    Kingsolver's novels and essays always have themes of nature and environmentalism. Most of the poems in this collection do as well. I particularly loved "Love Poem, with Birds," and the several-pages-long prose poem, "Where it Begins," about shearing sheep and knitting with the wool. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

    2010 by Bailey, Elisabeth Tova

    This book will be particularly poignant for those who are unable to venture outdoors. Author Bailey, too sick to move out of bed, achieved a sense of wonder and solace through daily observations of a snail in a terrarium of violets. I read this book years ago, but I'll never forget the author's sense of curiosity and the positive effect this small creature had on her life. Recommended by Lukie.

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