We are endlessly curious about the connection between people and place. Undoubtedly the spaces we inhabit and the natural world that surrounds us shape who we are, how we connect with each other, and how we view our relationship to the plants, animals, water, and landscapes that around us.
There are a handful of books that have greatly aided in our practice of broadening our perspectives, challenging the assumptions we were told and taught to believe, and living more into our felt experiences. These books have been more than just interesting reads or teachers, they have informed the way we perceive the world. If you’re at all interested in the relationship between people and the natural world or find yourself intrigued by the interconnectedness of our common animacy or simply enjoy expanding your mind and challenging your perspective, we recommend the following books.
Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver - All of Mary Oliver’s exquisite work invites us to move more slowly and pay closer attention to the world around us. Her poems teach us how to show interest in and respect for the tiniest flower and the largest sea swell all the same. This collection is particularly poignant, breath-taking, and in a way that is hard to explain, truly life-giving.
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman - Physicist Alan Lightman knows firsthand that science can be learned, understood and reasoned. Yet, like many of us, he also knows that there are things we feel, experience, and sense in life that are often beyond scientific logic. This beautiful book intellectually explores the tension between sensation and science.
Things That Are by Amy Leach - Together Amy Leach’s attentiveness and humor fuel her delightfully whimsical observations and thoughtful questions regarding the curious world of creation all around us. If fully engaged in, this book can evoke the kind of wide array of emotions that nearly cracks someone open in some of the best possible ways.
Becoming Animal by David Abram - This book is a dynamic and deep dive into the kinship between humans and the living breathing earth. By following David Abram’s lead, the reader is taught to witnesses the natural world, which is also witnessing us, through the intelligence we share with it.
How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery - If you’ve ever had a pet you felt especially connected to or an interaction with a wild animal that impacted your life, you, like us, will relate to this book in ways you may not be able to put into words. This collection of essays features different animals each that in their own ways taught Sy Montgomery how to better understand the world around her and in turn herself.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer - The brilliance of Robin Wall Kimmerer is difficult to articulate. With plants and animals understood to be our oldest teachers, she weaves personal experience, science, native stories, history, and especially clever and insightful reflections as she builds a compelling case of reciprocity between humans, plants, and animals. This book felt like a wise friend, meeting us where we are and moving us along into greater understanding with strength and grace.
I am Birch by Scott Kelley - Children’s books are sometimes the best of all. The illustrations in this book stand-out, but the story is worth the read in and of itself.