We’ve been writing and thinking about the natural world for a long time in this country, at least since Thoreau sojourned in the Massachusetts woods. The genre matured further when John Muir took his famous walks in the Sierra Nevadas in the 19th century and eloquently shared his observations in several books and essays. Since then nature writing has taken on many faces from the mild to the wild.
Many recent books of nature writing take their cues from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or Bill McKibbon’s The End of Nature; they are cautionary tales about the impact that humans are having on the planet. I like many of these books, and I find that they serve their purpose of warning us about our behavior. For me though, I find the books that best help to raise my awareness about the environment are not cautionary tales of human impact on the climate, but ones that celebrate nature’s tranquil beauty and (especially) its frightening power. I particularly like a good adventure yarn about surviving the horrors that nature can unleash.