Recommended Reading List

The books in the list below are recommendations from book club members.   This list is in alphabetical order by author. If you’ve read a natural history related book that you would like to add to this list, please e-mail your ideas to Linda at linda.rhines@gmail.comWe also have a list of more than 100 books we have already discussed in this group on the first page of the Book Club website, so make sure your suggestion is not already there. 

Jonathan Balcombe, What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins (2016)  What a Fish Knows will forever change how we see our aquatic cousins. We rarely consider how individual fishes think, feel, and behave.  Balcombe describes a variety of fish behaviors, such as courtship rituals and cooperative hunting behaviors. What a Fish Knows offers a thoughtful appraisal of our relationships with fishes and inspires us to take a more enlightened view of the planet’s increasingly imperiled marine life.

Paul Bogard, The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light (2013).  Bogard discusses light pollution in the night skies of most people on the planet, and the effects of this loss on Human physical and mental health and on ecosystems.  (Recommended by Kathy)

Douglas Chadwick, Four Fifths a Grizzly: A New Perspective on Nature that Just Might Save Us All (2021)  We share 80 % of our DNA with grizzlies (40% with salmon, 24% with a wine grape), and Chadwick, who has spent many years observing animals like mountain goats and grizzlies, reflects on the value of exposure to nature on human biochemistry and mentality.    He also gives lots of examples of helpful changes we can make in our own lives to make a difference in what is happening to our global environment.  (Recommended by Linda)

Gary Ferguson and Mary Clare, Full Ecology: Repairing our Relationship with the Natural World (2021) 
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of global climate breakdown. So how might we develop the inner resolve to confront it? Full Ecology, a collaboration between social-cultural psychologist Mary M. Clare and longtime science writer Gary Ferguson, suggests a path forward. Breaking the modern impulse to see humans as separate from nature, Clare and Ferguson encourage us to learn from the “supremely methodical and highly improvisational” natural systems that touch our lives. True change, they argue, begins with us stopping and questioning assumptions about our place in the world. From this process of reflection, they offer us an alternative blueprint for acting in ecologically healthy ways, and for inspiring others to do the same. Practical and poetic, scientific and spiritual, Full Ecology presents a strong, nourishing foundation for climate action. (Recommended by Holly)

Peter Fiekowsky with Carole Douglas, Climate Restoration: the only future that will sustain the human race (2022) contends that the only way to guarantee a livable future is climate restoration, which can reduce greenhouse gases to historic levels. Scientist and entrepreneur Peter Fiekowsky explains the technology and maps a practical path that will let humankind survive and thrive.  (Recommended by Phyllis)

 Charles Fishman, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water (2011) Excellent information about water, with information also about other parts of the world, particularly the water crisis issues in Australia. (Recommended by Dave)

 Hope Jehren, The Story of More: How We Got To Climate Change and Where To Go From Here (2020) 

K. David Harrrison, The Last Speakers: The quest to save the world’s most endangered languages (2010).  The author is a linguist who is documenting languages in danger of disappearing.  Barry Lopez recommended it in his book Horizon. (Recommended by Andrea Woods)

Peter Harrison, Seabirds: The New Identification Guide (2021)  Harrison, a local Port Hadlock resident and expedition travel guide, has written the essential new field guide to the 437 species of seabirds of the world, replacing his 1983 publication of Seabirds.  The stunning 239 full color plates were done by Harrison and Swedish artist Hans Larsson.  You can find more about the book, including some beautiful illustrations, at (Recommended by Diane McDade)

Elin Kelsey, Hope Matters: Why changing the way we think is critical to solving the environmental crisis (2020).  Timely, evidence-based, and persuasive, Hope Matters is an argument for the place of hope in our lives and a celebration of the turn toward solutions in the face of the environmental crisis.  (Recommended by Holly and Oma)

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Monique Gray Smith, Nicole Neidhardt, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants (2022)  Although we read the original 2013 version of Braiding Sweetgrass in 2017, many of us have joined the book club since then.  This new shorter version by Smith, who is Cree and Lakota and worked closely with Kimmerer, includes lovely illustrations by Dine (Navajo) artist Neidhardt.  The book reinforces how ecological understanding comes from listening to the plants around us.   (Recommended by Linda)

Elizabeth Kolbert, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (2021)  The author takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. (Recommended by Wendy)

David Montgomery and Anne Bikle’, What Your Food Ate: how to restore our land and reclaim our health (2022)  shows that the roots of good health start on farms. What Your Food Ate marshals evidence from recent and forgotten science to illustrate how the health of the soil ripples through to that of crops, livestock, and ultimately us.  (Recommended by Nan)

Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American west and its disappearing water (2018 edition). It was originally written in 1986 and was made into a four-part television documentary in 1996. It is a classic, well written historical account and provides a lot of insight about water management and law in the western US. The 2018 is not a revised edition but has a 50-page Postscript to the revised edition. (Recommended by Dave)

Mary Roach, Fuzz: when nature breaks the law (2022)   A humor filled investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet. What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A grizzly bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? As New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology. PTLibrary Book Club Kit

Carl Safina, Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, create beauty and achieve peace, (2020) focuses on three species: sperm whales, Scarlet Macaws, chimpanzees, and their relatives and ecologically similar species. (Recommended by Nan)

M. E. Schuman, The Understory: A Female Environmentalist in the Land of the Midnight Sun (2022) Passion and peril are intertwined in this true tale of Michelle’s drive to make the natural world a better place; she found her greatest hindrance not in physical challenges but in human adversaries. In the understory, largely concealed from view, are saplings and shrubs, herbs and grasses, rooted in a carpet of moss, beneath the canopy of trees. They provide the sustenance for the magnificent forest, and this is the inspiring story of one woman’s battle from beneath the forest canopy to the beyond—in a scramble to undo what has been done. (Recommended by Michelle Schuman)

Amy Tan, The Backyard Bird Chronicles (2024)  “Tan’s observations of her avian guests, recorded in journal form, are both entertaining and informative. And the drawings that illustrate her musings are remarkable . . . Like the early naturalists, Tan learns by watching, bringing no preconceptions, and it’s a pleasure to sit with her as she observes and accumulates knowledge. She takes careful notes, she sketches what she sees and she tries to draw conclusions . . . Fun, messy spontaneity, it turns out, can make for an awfully good book.” Sue Horton, Los Angeles Times.  (Recommended by John Goldwood)

Jack Turner, The Abstract Wild (1996)  If anything is endangered in America it is our experience of wild nature—gross contact. There is knowledge only the wild can give us, knowledge specific to it, knowledge specific to the experience of it. These are its gifts to us. We hunger for a kind of experience deep enough to change our selves, our form of life, writes Turner. Readers who take his words to heart will find, if not their selves, their perspectives on the natural world recast in ways that are hard to ignore and harder to forget. (recommended by Kathy)

David B. Williams, Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound (2021)  Focusing on the area south of Port Townsend and between the Cascade and Olympic mountains, Williams uncovers human and natural histories in, on, and around the Sound. In conversations with archaeologists, biologists, and tribal authorities, Williams traces how generations of humans have interacted with such species as geoducks, salmon, orcas, rockfish, and herring. He sheds light on how warfare shaped development and how people have moved across this maritime highway, in canoes, the mosquito fleet, and today’s ferry system. The book also takes an unflinching look at how the Sound’s ecosystems have suffered from human behavior, including pollution, habitat destruction, and the effects of climate change.  Witty, graceful, and deeply informed, Homewaters weaves history and science into a fascinating and hopeful narrative, one that will introduce newcomers to the astonishing life that inhabits the Sound and offers longtime residents new insight into and appreciation of the waters they call home.(Recommended by Kathy)

E.O. Wilson, Tales from the Ant World (2020)  “Ants are the most warlike of all animals, with colony pitted against colony. . . . Their clashes dwarf Waterloo and Gettysburg,” writes Edward O. Wilson in his most finely observed work in decades. In a myrmecological tour to such far-flung destinations as Mozambique and New Guinea, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dauphin Island and even his parents’ overgrown yard back in Alabama, Wilson thrillingly evokes his nine-decade-long scientific obsession with more than 15,000 ant species. A personal account by one of our greatest scientists, Tales from the Ant World is an indispensable volume for any lover of the natural world. (recommended by Wendy)