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We asked the Conservancy’s expert staff to brainstorm their favorite books about nature, the outdoors, and conservation. Now we’ve compiled a few of them into a handy list that you can take to the library or bookstore. We think there’s something for everyone!
Find a comfy spot at the beach, under a tree, or anywhere in our parks—and enjoy.
Don’t forget to share your favorites, too, by leaving a “Comment” below.
Encounters with the Archdruid, by John McPhee
“This narrative nonfiction book contrasts the beliefs of iconic Sierra Club leader David Brower (who saw value in wilderness itself)—and the convictions of those who see land and natural resources as commodities, useful only for what they produce. McPhee conveys facts and perspectives through entertaining storytelling.”
—Jennifer Greene Ringgold, Associate Director, Community Engagement
The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration, by Bernd Heinrich
A phenomenal naturalist and writer, Bernd Heinrich explores how animals (from ants to birds to people) navigate the world. The writing is superlative: “engaging, accessible, and scientifically sound.” Plus, this book will inspire you “to spend more time really observing the world around you—just in time for hawk migration!”
—Laura Young, Program Manager, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory
Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You, by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth
“I love this book—it’s full of ideas to inspire you to get outside and draw! You don’t have to be an amazing artist, buy expensive materials, or travel to the wilderness to start a nature journal; this book is about observing nature wherever you are and having fun doing it. It has easy tips for sketching bugs, leaves, and even your family dog.”
—Hayden Murray, Director of Membership
NOTE: If you like nature sketching, we also highly recommend the drawing books by John Muir Laws, who has generously been teaching classes through our Park Academy. His next class, on Composition, is on August 11.
The Last Season, by Eric Blehm
Mesmerizing, harrowing, transcendent. A real-life detective story infused with gorgeous descriptions of the wild, The Last Season recounts the extraordinary life—and disappearance—of a legendary backcountry ranger in the Sierra Nevada. “One of my all-time favorites!”
—Sue Gardner, Director, Park Stewardship Program
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane
On this epic, ruminative stroll through time and space, the author takes you from ancient paths in the British Isles to Palestine to the Himalayas. The writing—imaginative and grounded in rich detail—will whisk you away. “Immersing yourself in Robert Macfarlane’s beautiful prose feels almost like you are walking beside him through these magical places!”
—John Donelan, Assistant Manager, Warming Hut
NOTE: Come to the Warming Hut and our other bookstores to browse an outstanding selection of books themed around nature and outdoor explorations!
PrairyErth, by William Least Heat-Moon
Subtitled “A Deep Map,” this magisterial work is just that—a complex, multi-layered deep dive into a landscape and its infinite resonances. A “lyrically descriptive narrative which delves into the geographical, social, and natural history of one county in Kansas.”
—Amy Louison, Academic Intern, Park Stewardship Program
Shell Games, by Kirk Russell
The first in a series of “eco-crime thrillers” featuring fictional Fish & Game agent John Marquez, Shell Games pits the hero against a vicious abalone smuggler. “Intelligent, well-done, and enlightening mysteries about saving the endangered fauna of California.”
—Christina Crooker, Restoration Manager
Sutro’s Glass Palace, by John A. Martini
“A must-own for local history buffs and armchair time travelers. The story of this extraordinary oceanside edifice is vividly illustrated by Martini’s erudite writing and astounding archival images. Learn all about this lost landmark from a lost world—and then explore the ruins today, thanks to the handy map!”
—Mike Hsu, Senior Communications Specialist
NOTE: Get it in our park stores, or at our online store!
Wanderlust: A History of Walking, by Rebecca Solnit
“Now a world-famous essayist, Rebecca Solnit was once a fellow at the Headlands Center for the Arts. As much as I enjoy all her work, my favorite is her opening essay in Wanderlust, “Tracing a Headland” wherein she describes walking in its simplest terms: ‘One leg a pillar…the other a pendulum.’ With pillar and pendulum she starts the reader on her walk through the Marin Headlands and the tracing of walking through human history—from demonstrations to processions, from first ascents to treadmills.”
—Allen Fish, Director, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory