Ask the book buyer about...Books about the great outdoors

Dear reader,

It has been a glorious weekend and I imagine that many of you have spent it outdoors, in your garden, in the park, out walking in your neighbourhood, or further afield in the countryside, even on the beach (in which case, see the review for Rock Pool below!) Maybe you even took a book along and indulged in some outdoor reading. Bliss.

The natural world has long been a source of inspiration for writers and great thinkers, both in terms of process (‘all truly great thoughts are conceived while walking’ said Nietzsche) and subject: landscapes, animals, trees and plants provide rich pickings for all kinds of fiction and non-fiction.

I’d like to highlight some recently published gems that celebrate, reflect on and teach us about the great outdoors in different ways. And luckily, because this is England after all, these books can be enjoyed equally outdoors and in!


Still Water


Still Water: The Deep Life of the Pond by John Lewis-Stempel

RRP £14.99
Jarrold price £12.99

Lewis-Stempel has written widely on many aspects of our natural world, including Meadowland, The Wood and The Running Hare. Now he turns his attention to ponds or ‘magnets for wildlife’ as he describes them. Still Water takes the form of a diary, moving through the year and across different ponds (past and present, in Herefordshire, Western France and Gloucestershire) following the animals, insects, flora and fauna that live in and around them. Winter to summer, these humble ponds teem with nature and the book also includes terminology, poetry and candid stories that remind us of the disappearance of many ponds due to pollution and land reclaimed for housing.


Where the Hornbeam Grows


Where the Hornbeam Grows: A Journey in Search of a Garden by Beth Lynch

RRP £16.99
Jarrold price £14.99

I adored this beautiful, tender memoir about the power of  gardening to help heal grief and forge a sense of belonging. Not long after selling her late parent's home in Sussex, which meant saying goodbye to the garden she grew up in, Lynch and her husband moved to Switzerland. Uprooted from everything familiar, it wasn’t until she reconnected to nature through planting and tending a new garden – connecting with the foreign soil – that she found a sense of purpose again and could come to terms with the loss of her parents. Understated but sumptuous writing make this a wonderful read about gardening, grief, dislocation and relocation for anyone who has ever felt adrift or lost their connection with home.


How to Catch a Mole


How to Catch a Mole… and Find Yourself in Nature by Marc Hamer


Heart-warming and life-affirming, this book is part-autobiography, part nature writing and yes, partly about mole-catching. Now a gardener, Hamer grew up in the Welsh countryside and spent periods of time homeless, sleeping in hedgerows. He previously worked as a traditional mole-catcher though made a decision to give this up, which he reflects on in the book. Hamer explores the myths that surround moles and how they can teach us about our own attitudes to and relationship with nature. With great dignity and perception, Hamer reflects on the difficulties he has overcome in his life and a life in nature, can tell us about our own humanity and our search for contentment. This lovely little hardback also features beautiful wood-cut style illustrations by artist Joe McLaren.


Rock Pool


Rock Pool: Extraordinary Encounters Between Tides by Heather Buttivant


A curiously engaging read about the ‘fragile beauty and drama of intertidal existence’ – that’s the life of rock pools to you and me. I was gently and pleasantly surprised by this book, written by a naturalist with a life-long love of the shoreline. While most of us will recall rock pools as a place for childhood games, Buttivant has sought to understand what really exists in and sustains these salty worlds. The book is written in 24 chapters, each focusing on a different creature or element of marine life, exploring their life in the rock pool, from limpets and barnacles to the velvet swimming crab and cephalopod. With colour photographs and quirky little illustrations throughout.


Prices and availability checked Friday 31 May 2019.

Back to top