Recommended Books on British Nature Writing
Book Recommendations on British Nature Writing
The below non-fiction nature writing books are unusual, inventive and refreshingly unique! Whilst written a while ago, I hope they quench your thirst and curiosity for British nature writing, as they work their magic and charm as the perfect form of escapism.
(a) The Goshawk (Memoir) by T. H White
This is T.H. White’s memoir as he tries to train one of the hardest birds known to man, a wild pet goshawk. At a time where there was limited information on how to do it, T.H. White obsessively sets out to train ‘Gos’ as he fondly refers to it, failing over and over again, with the overarching goal that maybe once he has mastered the Goshawk, he’ll experience the freedom he has been longing for all his life.
T.H. White had a difficult childhood. His childhood traumas and his struggles with his sexuality seemed to be soothed by this mission – as though he was using nature as a mirror into his own life, to master his pain, as a young child who’d been neglected and unloved.
A perhaps painful read, his compassion and search for peace makes this nonetheless a moving read.
(b) The Redstart (Non-fiction) by John Buxton
This book is part of The Collins New Naturalist series - one of the most influential natural history series in the world spanning 100 volumes over 6 decades.
John Buxton’s The Redstart was one of the most widely read because of his incredible knowledge and discovery of the birds. The book itself was written in 1950 and is a slim read, however it provides a comprehensive narrative of how the birds live and what they do.
Buxton, initially a prisoner captured in the second world war by the Germans, began observing a pair of the redstarts in an attempt to breed them while he passed time in the Bavarian prison. His observations and drawings led to an incredible understanding of the birds: their mission, how they protect their space and raise their young, how they court and mate and how they build their nest homes. A fascinating and passionate read.
Also, other books in this series that might be of interest include:
1 The Badger by Ernest Neal
2 The Redstart by John Buxton
3 The Wren by Edward A. Armstrong
4 The Yellow Wagtail by Stuart Smith
5 The Greenshank by Desmond Nethersole-Thompson
6 The Fulmar by James Fisher
7 Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos by Miriam Rothschild and Theresa Clay
8 Ants by Derek Wragge Morley
9 The Herring Gull’s World by Niko Tinbergen
10 Mumps, Measles and Mosaics by Kenneth M. Smith and Roy Markham
11 The Heron by Frank A. Lowe
12 Squirrels by Monica Shorten
13 The Rabbit by Harry V. Thompson and Alastair N. Worden
14 Birds of the London Area Since 1900 by R. C. Holmes and the London Natural History Society
15 The Hawfinch by Guy Mountfort
16 The Salmon by J. W. Jones
17 Lords & Ladies by Cecil T. Prime
18 Oysters by C. M. Yonge
19 The House Sparrow by J. D. Summers-Smith
20 The Wood Pigeon by R. K. Murton
21 The Trout by W. E. Frost and M. E. Brown
22 The Mole by Kenneth Mellanby
(c) The Wild Isles: An Anthology of the Best of British and Irish Nature Writing (Non-fiction) by Patrick Barkham
The first two books focus on birds so I thought you might appreciate this anthology about the landscapes of Britain and Ireland, and the life, animals and plants that live in them.
This is British nature writing at its very best. Patrick Barkham has collected some of the most prolific pieces authored by the likes of Robert Macfarlane, James Rebank and Helen Macdonald as well as a diverse range of writers of colour, whose fresh voices come to appreciate our landscapes in new, novel and joyful ways. I hope you enjoy this collection very much.
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