Skip this post if you’re looking for the next Margaret Atwood, Bernard Cornwell, celebrity biography or self help book. “This-is-not-the-Good-Read-Review-you’re-looking-for“! If you’re interested in wildlife, outdoors, conservation and the landscape stick around, I’ve got some little gems for you.

Before I go through my favourite reads of last year, I need to highlight how revolutionary my audio book subscription has been. As a parent of two under fives, trying to run a small business, who battles daily the challenges of Attention Deficit Disorder, I would not have got through half of these books without the use of audio books. I know some people will jibe that listening to a book is “cheating”… I can live with that. For the insightfulness, challenges, motivation and inspiration I’ve picked up from the books listed below you can call me anything you want!

Our Place, Mark Cocker – Top Read

A truly brilliant piece of writing that pulls no punches when examining the British landscape, conservation, the big conservation groups and the industries who manage our land. I really rate this as one of the most important books I’ve ever digested. Full of surprising and sometimes shocking revelations, Mark Cocker’s hard hitting arguments are continually backed up with at least one, jaw dropping fact or statistic.

To say this book would be great for your pub knowledge / Sunday Roast round the table debates alone would almost be a disservice. This book is so good at putting across the complexities and paradoxes intertwined in our landscape. I think if everyone read this book before they commenting on conservation issues via social media, facebook might not become a nicer place but it might be better informed one.

 

 

Curlew Moon, Mary Colwell – Top Read

When we first ventured into the Yorkshire Dales I was gobsmacked to encounter Europe’s largest wader cutting across and reverberating through the landscape. I’ve been captivated with Curlews ever since and most winter evenings I’ll see there unique silhouettes pass over my studio window.

Little did I realise how important this book was and is. With a detailed and riveting account of the complex difficulties facing Curlew as well as wider conservation and environmental issues, Curlew Moon might be the most important read on this list.

 

 

The Dun Cow Rib: A very natural childhood, John Lister-Kaye

Despite coming from an author whose childhood seems a galaxy away from my own.

An author who can trace his family’s land and estates back to the Plantagenets. An upbringing  where social networking meant shooting birds with royals and high ranking politicians. In spite of John Lister-Kaye’s life seeming rather alien to my own, I was no less enthralled by his wild tales, no less empathetic and enraged at his abhorrent treatment at public school and no less inspired by his ambitions as a naturalist and writer. It is an enchanting read full of wildness.

 

 

Ring of Bright Water, Gavin Maxwell

When John Lister-Kaye described Gavin Maxwell in the book mentioned above, I had a faint recollection of some archive footage shown on something like the BBC’s Countryfile. The vague memory and Lister-Kaye’s own accounts of Maxwell and this book were enough to intrigue me further.

As a bestseller in the sixties along with its cult following this might not be anything new to many but for anyone new to this work, an enthralling venture awaits!

 

 

The Unexpected Truth About Animals, Lucy Cooke – Top Read

One of my favourite books of last year. Not just mine either as it was shortlisted for the Royal Society Investment Science Prize. Not only is it full of incredible, surprising and sometimes shocking animal behaviour, the engaging, entertaining and laugh out loud delivery make it an absolute joy to read. In fact, this books wins the award for “most likely to create an awkward moment” category. Whether it’s a gasp, chortle, or splurting out your coffee over the kitchen table, it’s best to read this book away from witnesses!

 

 

A Brush With Nature, Richard Mabey

A collection of intriguing essays concerning nature, environment and conservation published over several decades in various publications. The broad subject matter and generous time-span make these essays a very enlightening read.

 

 

The Book of Dave, Will Self

I bought this after it was referenced in Richard Mabey’s  A Brush With Nature. You should be aware that this is not a nature book and is not for the faint of heart either. It’s a futuristic, dystopian novel formed by a vivid imagination and told in a most unique and riveting way.

 

 

Inheritors of the Earth, Chris D Thomas

A thought provoking book, with an interesting and alternative perspective on the state of biodiversity around the globe. I’m still not sure on what to make of this book and the way the author presents their arguments. However, I still consider this a particularly insightful and fascinating book.

 

 

Tamed: Ten Species That Changed Our World, Alice Roberts

If you like your Natural History entangled with a bit of… well, history, then this is the book for you! As someone who’s watched every episode of Time Team and nearly every natural history programme ever broadcast by the BBC over the last 20 years, I was always going to love this book.

This is a page turner that ties nature, science and archeology so masterfully together. Not only does the text look at how Humans came to be where we are now, but it  also considers how our relationships with these ten species might continue and develop in the future.

 

 

The Salt Path, Raynor Winn

Compelling, entertaining, emotional and stunning. This beautifully crafted memoir describes how a journey on foot, rooted in hopelessness evolves into a walk of hope and resilience. As well as a gripping read, the book continually gives an eye-widening and insightful account into state of homelessness in Britain.

 

 

The Seabirds Cry, Adam Nicolson

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m a bit of a geek. The Seabirds Cry ticks all my geeky boxes. I don’t think you need to be a geek to enjoy this though. It’s packed full of remarkable tales, extraordinary facts and unforgettable anecdotes about many species that grace our shores and coastal waters.

 

 

A Bad Birdwatcher’s Companion, Simon Barn

Now this is a book that’s better heard than read, for the simple reason that on my Audible player it includes brief recordings of all the 50 common birds featured. It’s a light, entertaining and rewarding listen!

 

 

Raptor: A Journey Through Birds, James Macdonald Lockhart

Think you know your British Birds of Prey? Well you’ll certainly know them a lot better after this book. Each chapter gives an intoxicating serving of Raptor awesomeness while still leaving you hungry for more!

Lockhart contrasts his own raptor quests and experiences with the encounters of unsung ornithological and botanical hero William Macgillivray as he walks from Aberdeenshire to London.