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Top 10 Recomended Books
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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 in a pop science 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

mud

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 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

He 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: The Living Mountain by Nan Shepard, Nettle-Eater by Tom Hirons 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.

hidden life of trees

Hidden Life of Trees & Secret Wisdom of Nature by Peter Wohlleben

These are both in-depth looks at the ecology of a forest written by a German forester who grew to love understanding the mechanics and interconnections of ecology. They are both very easy reads and should be read by everyone.

Other favorite books about forest ecology: The Journey of Trees by George Zach is a radical look at how ecosystems work and how species move around.

Biophilia

Biophilia by EO 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.

bird

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

biocentrism

 

Biocentrism by Robert Lanza

This book uses quantum physics to argue that all life snapped into existence retroactively once consciousness became aware of it. (I hope that wasn’t a spoiler) It's readable pop physics that explores questions of the nature of consciousness. There is a new book: Beyond Biocentrism which I also review on our blog if you click the picture.


Other important books about consciousness: Metazoa by Peter Godfrey-Smith

sum

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), Death and the Afterlife by Clifford Pickover (flash reporting, lots of pics), 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 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.)

 

I Caterpillar by Suzuko Momoyama

Holy Caterpillar I love this book. Suzuko Momoyama loves caterpillars and she paints them in juicy, spiky, hairy detail. Every detail. I want to see them huge. She writes a few short paragraphs about her experience with each one which are fun because she's lived, collected and raised caterpillars in New York and Japan. Each page is in English and Japanese.

 

multitudes

I Contain Multitudes, Ed Young

This is a super book about microbes. It compares large external ecologies like coral reefs to our gut microbiomes and talks about loads of cutting edge research being done linking all sorts of health problems to microbial dysbiosis. It’s nicely written and easy to read. I looked forward to rereading it all the way through.

 

Bonus Books on Foraging:

Make INk

Make Ink by Jason Logan

Omg I love this book. 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 ook forward to it every week.

wildbrew

The Wildcrafting Brewer by Baidar

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.

Bonus Art Book:

drowning world

100 Views of the Drowning World by Kahn and Selesnick is a treasure. It’s 100 single page surreal stories that follow a traveling circus theater group in a non-linear fashion. Each unbound page is accompanied by a photograph of them in costume in nature doing strange circus things. It’s dark, trippy, batty and wet.