Top 10 Recomended Books in 2024
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The Forest Unseen by David Haskall

The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell is just the kind of scientifically informed dreamy musings of nature that we love to read. The first chapter describes lichenization and takes a firm stance against the moral judgements placed on some symbiants by scientists while really leaning into contemplations of the dissolving barriers between 'individuals' and how the tree of life doesn't just split and branch, it also fuses and intersects. He sustains a rich level of insight and what shouldn't be 'radical' acceptance of life through the entire book.

The Forest Unseen is a diary of the wildlife in a patch of forest the author visits a few times a week for a year explains how it’s different every time. He talks about fungi, fireflies, snails, spring flowers and explains the biologic and even the non biotic systems at play. He believes that non-human organisms were not put here to serve us. He believes that humans and our culture, however poisonous and greedy, are a part of nature and that we should be compassionate with ourselves as well as with the wild.

Other favorite books about forest ecology: The Hidden Life of Trees & The Secret Wisdom of Nature by Peter Wohlleben are easy reads that present forest mechanics and interconnections of ecology. They should be read by everyone. The Journey of Trees by George Zach is a radical look at how ecosystems evolve and how species move around.

Best Hope
Nature's Best Hope

by Douglass W Tallamy

Whatever you are reading right now put it down and read this. This book of DIY conservation explains the mechanics of ecology to show why and how we should plant trees on our lawns for maximum benefit to wildlife.

Tallamy presents a history of our relationship to wildness and suggests that the suburban front yard acts as a symbol of community solidarity but that the lawn does enormous amounts of damage to the land and to wildlife, contradicting this message of care. He suggests ways to update our culture so our landscaping aesthetic supports our values.

If you own land you must read this book. It will guide you to make a deeper more loving relationship to your land and your neighborhood. If you are feeling nervous about climate change, or loss of biodiversity, read this book. It will give you hope and ideas about how you can be a positive influence in the world.

Other good books about cutting edge ecology: Ed Yong's I Contain Multitudescompares large external ecologies to our gut microbiomes and links health problems to microbial dysbiosis.

entangled life

Entangled life by Merlin Sheldrake

This is a sexy book (if you are a sapiophile like me) about mushrooms that's my all-time fave. It talks about mycology with style and looks at experiments by a range of contemporary mycologists, but is praised for leading people to think about what it’s like to be mycelium.

Other favorite books about mushrooms: Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds by George Hudler, Fungipedia by Lawrence Millman, Fungorium by Kew Gardens


Stirring the Mud
by Barbara Hurd

This book is gooey and soupy and dreamy. The author dons hip waders to squish out metaphor and opaque imagery. It's scientifically informed poetry. It's about liminality, emptiness, spirituality, the unknown, death, decay, preservation and human relationships with wildness. It showcases Tamarack, Ghost Pipes, Pitcher Plants, Lady Slippers, Duck Weed, swamp gas, Bog Beacons and mud. This book was written for me.

Other favorite poetic books about nature: Field Guide to the Haunted Forest and everything by Jarod Anderson (@Cryptonaturalist), Anything by Christian Bok, Madam Lulu’s Book of Fate by Sarah Falkner (cartomancy guide)

secrets of water

The Secret Knowledge of Water

by Craig Childs

Craig Childs describes his adventures seeking water in the desert and the relationships between water and life and our utter dependence on it. He describes mechanisms and dramas of storms and powerful natural phenomenon in words that are neither scientific nor spiritual but also are both. He says things like: 'if I prayed for rain the sky would laugh at me' and 'The world changes color when you think you might die soon.' This book is unpretentious, easy to read and cool.

Other favorite books about being in nature
: Anything else by Craig Childs. The Living Mountain by Nan Shepard and Underland by Robert Macfarlane- which is especially good for anyone working on describing physical spaces and forms of unseen things. His descriptions of what is underground are very physical, non-visual, sensuous and balance between science and deep prose. His topics include burials, mushrooms, caves, abandoned buildings, traveling through snow and ice…this is literally a list of program topics Ayatana has focused on.

An Alchemy of Mind
by Diane Ackerman

This is a spectacularly dreamy indulgence. It's a squishy ricochet around the brain. Ackerman basically writes all her sentences as metaphores and similes so this book, about how the brain works, particularly how it creates and processes things like metaphore and similes is an infinity mirror or meta-metephore.

Other books about conciousness: Metazoa by Peter Godfrey-Smith muses about the nature and evoution of the mind.
Biocentrism by Robert Lanza uses quantum physics to argue that all life snapped into existence retroactively once consciousness became aware of it.  Everything (start with Brain: The Story of You) by David Eagleman.


by E.O. Wilson

This book is a description of EO's love of biological systems. He was considered the greatest biologist alive until he died in 2022. His insights are deeply informed by biology and are also a bit mystical. He articulates the magic of life in the language of science and puts into words many passions that I share.

This book explores the innate human urges to observe and learn about wildlife and asks 'is it possible for humanity to love life enough to save it?' He describes his own Biophilia as the awe he feels while observing and learning about non-human organisms and how indulging in these practices increases his appreciation of all life. He places the value of wildlife within a context of culture and human survival. He describes the elegance of art and science as part of human evolution.

Other books like this: Any of the many books he’s written, next on my list to read is his Superorganisms but if you like ants he is the King of Ants and wrote several good books about them.


What it's like to be a Bird
by David Sibley

This new book about bird behavior and physiology is beautifully illustrated with watercolor and is very easy to read cover to cover, although it's designed to be flipped through and explored casually and has a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure structure built in.

Other good books about birds: The Genius of Birds and The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman


Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
by David Eagleman

40 short pieces of speculative writing by a neuroscientist. It's fiction, but there are no characters, instead you insert your own life and identity into the parameters described so the book is different for everyone. Each one is creative and playful and funny and offers clever and unchallenging opportunities to reflect on your own life and identity and check in on how you feel about your choices and what you think life is. It suggests afterlives where you relive your life in different orders or from different points of view. And afterlives where the underlying codes of reality are revealed in different ways. It presents novel ideas of our relationship with a creator or present fractal infinities and eternities; all center on the satisfaction from the unraveling of a profound reveal.

Other good books about death: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity by hip mortician and leader of the Order of the Good Death Caitlyn Dougherty, Stiff  by Mary Roach (pretty gorey), Life After Death by Deepak Chopra (existentially stimulating)

lab girl

Lab Girl
by Hope Jahren

This is a terrific book. It's about a woman's life as a research scientist and about plants. Her analogies between botanical physiology and the scientific world are insightful and entertaining. I've learned so much about how seeds and leaves and roots work and about what a plant is. It's beautifully written and I've read it far too fast.

Other important books about plants: What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz, Everything by Internation Plant Inteligence Lab director Stefano Mancuso. Thus Spoke the Plant by Monica Gagliano and everything by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Other good books about female scientists making paradigm shifts in patriarchal policy, science and academy: Finding the Mother Tree (about studying mycorrhyzal relationships within forestry practices) Symbiotic Planet by Lynn Margulis (about how single-celled organisms merged to make multicellular life and the basses of the Gaia theory that the planet and its ecosystems are a single living individual.)

Bonus Books on connecting with the wild through foraging:Make INk


Make Ink by Jason Logan

I want to mary this book. It's about foraging for color in the city. Its beautiful and printed on lovely paper and the descriptions and stories and histories are dreamy. The book keeps repeating that there are no rules! Try everything!

Jason Logan publishes a free newsleter every Friday about color and ink making that is the only newsletter or blog I read regularly. I look forward to it every week.



The Wildcrafting Brewer by Pascal Baudar

This book does a beautiful job at expressing the non monetary value of wildlife and place.

(Both of these books revolutionized my foraging practice) I read them concurrently with Terrance Mackena’s Food of the Gods, a sublimely complementing trinity of books.