Five of my favourite books of nature writing

recommended by Cal Flyn

I read and write a lot about the natural world, particularly my native Scotland, although my reading ranges more broadly. There are so many wonderful books it’s difficult to choose, but here are five of my favourites.

  • 1


    The Living Mountain
    by Nan Shepherd

    Beautiful, brief and sensual account of gilded summers and snow-frosted winters on the Cairngorm plateau in the Scottish Highlands. It wasn't published until years after it was first written, but has stood the test of time, making Nan Shepard one of the most vivid recorders of natural beauty.

  • 2


    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
    by Annie Dillard

    Gorgeous, Thoreauvian evocation of the Virginian countryside interwoven with musings on the nature of perception, learning to look intelligently (and intuitively) at the natural world, and at times delving into a mystical aspect. Very funny too, not at all pompous.

  • 3


    Desert Solitaire
    by Edward Abbey

    I love this raw and occasionally combative book about a season spent working as a ranger in the remote Arches National Park in Utah. He brings alive the wonders of the unique desert landscape, and I'll never forget his account of catching a gopher snake and happily cohabiting with it in his caravan for some time in a bid to ward off a more dangerous rattlesnake, which has taken up residence below.

  • 4


    Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides
    by Adam Nicolson

    Beautiful description of the Shiant Islands, a tiny group of islands in the Outer Hebrides, which Nicolson's family 'own'—in a loose sense, as they have no permanent inhabitants. Like Shepard, Nicolson writes of a patch of landscape he has come to know inside out, in every season, and this book is all the richer for it.

  • 5


    Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World
    by Kathleen Jamie

    Either of Jamie's collections of lyric essays, this or her earlier book Findings, deserve to be included on this list. She writes thoughtfully and perceptively, and each essay stands beautifully alone, deserving to be digested slowly.

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