What’s your favourite book about the natural world? Perhaps you have a vivid memory of a well-loved children’s book, or maybe a recent reconnection with the natural world through the popular Wainwright nature writing prize shortlists.
Whatever your favourite book, whether poetry or prose, imagined or studied, a new project wants to hear from you. The ‘Land Lines’ project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), explores British nature writing from the late eighteenth century onwards.
Our relationship with the natural world is ever shifting, for better and for worse, and Land Lines aims to help us understand these changes, and how they may be reflected in the books and poems we choose to read. You can participate by nominating your favourite book before 30th November.
Wonder and ponder
To celebrate the Land Lines search for the nation’s favourite nature books, and to widen and deepen our connection with the natural world through books, The Ecologist is launching a new series of nature-inspired book reviews.
As part of this ‘Learning from Nature’ series, we will be highlighting books from tens or sometimes hundreds of years ago alongside the latest nature writing.
What can we learn from the voices and sights that have been framed for us on the page? Can discovering new lenses on the natural world — whether personal or objective — help us to conjure a future that defies current imagination?
Can these books offer tools to connect our individual experiences of nature with our desire to share with others? — What might happen if we do that?
Among the many books on my own list of favourites, I’ve been enjoying an old book of poems by Walter de la Mare. He reminds me that to truly understand the natural world and humanity, we need to look, wonder and ponder both the grand scenes and fleeting moments:
Eyes bid ears
Ears bid eyes
Heart bids mind
Mind bids heart
Politics and community
With the aim of looking, wondering and pondering, in the coming weeks and months we’ll feature books by authors from around the world and through the ages — from landmark books like Silent Spring, to African nature poetry; from essays and novels to Latin American folk tales.
As well as looking through their lens on the wonders of the natural world, we’ll explore how they help us think about injustice, politics, community, environmental degradation, and more.
You can find the Land Lines project on Twitter, @LandLinesNature
Elizabeth Wainwright is The Ecologist‘s Nature Editor. She also co-leads the global community development charity, Arukah Network. She is based in Exeter, UK. @LizWainwright