12 Moving Nature Memoirs

By Kaitlyn Johnston

These stirring reads will sweep you away.

The following celebrated narratives explore nature through a human lens, blending environmental writing with personal memoir to express how our lives interact with the natural world. Here are 12 must-read nature memoirs that capture the splendor and fragility of life on planet Earth.


By Mya-Rose Craig

Activist and environmentalist Mya-Rose Craig powerfully chronicles her adventures in birding alongside her mother’s struggles with mental illness in her debut nature memoir, Birdgirl. With insight and warmth, Craig shares her family’s travels, documenting the joys of observing rare birds in the wild and exploring how nature — and bird-watching in particular — became a source of comfort and guidance in the face of her mother’s deepening mental health crisis. An “excellent mix of travelogue, memoir, and advocacy” (Kirkus, starred review), Birdgirl offers a bold new perspective on how nature brings us together.

The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall & Douglas Abrams

The Book of Hope

By Jane Goodall

In this New York Times bestseller, renowned naturalist Jane Goodall joins author Douglas Abrams for a lively conversation about her career and finding hope and renewal in the natural world. The scientist draws on her years in the field to impart her inspirational message about our planet’s future. While current events look bleak, Goodall’s experiences studying nature and advocating for environmental justice have transformed her perspective — she’s optimistic about what lies ahead, and here she tells us why. A timely, enlightening, and ultimately hopeful book, The Book of Hope is a stirring portrait of an environmental icon that doubles as an uplifting guide to our uncertain present.

The Home Place

By J. Drew Lanham

Ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham delivers an extraordinary examination of nature, race, and belonging in The Home Place. Edgefield County, South Carolina, serves as the backdrop to his nature memoir — a place that generations of Lanhams have called home. As the author describes how he fell in love with the region, he introduces us to the members of his family, tracing his lineage back through the years to his enslaved ancestors, who were forced to work the land. Lanham explores what it means to find beauty and joy in the same place as his family’s suffering, and he borrows from his ornithology background in his consideration of being “the rare bird, the oddity.” Beautifully written, The Home Place offers an “illuminating…meditation on home, family, nature, and the author’s native South” (Kirkus).

The Salt Path

By Raynor Winn

In The Salt Path, Raynor Winn recounts the life-affirming journey she shared with her husband as they traversed England’s South West Coast Path. When Winn’s husband is diagnosed with a terminal illness and they lose their house and farm, the couple decide to pack up what they can and set out on the 630-mile hike along the English coast. Together they marvel at the wild seaside scenery and celebrate their bond while reckoning with end-of-life grief. Winn combines striking descriptions of nature with candid reflections on life in this search for home and belonging. The result is an evocative nature book enriched by a double love story: that of two soulmates embarking on a grand adventure and of the author’s deep love of the natural world.

Wild by Nature

By Sarah Marquis

National Geographic explorer Sarah Marquis documents her one-woman hike across the Gobi Desert in Wild by Nature. Her adventure, which lasted 1,000 days, was a feat of human resilience. Alone and entirely immersed in the wild, Marquis survived on her own know-how and hunting skills while facing down a slew of ill-intentioned encounters with the Mafia, drug dealers, thieves on horseback, and dangerous wildlife. Marquis’s vibrant writing brings her surroundings to life in this incredible story of survival and perseverance in the untamed world.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

By Annie Dillard

In this Pulitzer Prize–winning narrative, Annie Dillard vividly recounts life in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley. Tinker Creek runs through the region, which hums with energy and is home to an array of insects, mammals, and microscopic organisms. Dillard’s wondrous descriptions of migrating butterflies and hungry muskrats are a meditation on life of all sorts. An ode to witnessing nature, living alongside it, and sensing it within you, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is truly special.

The Old Ways

By Robert Macfarlane

In this celebrated nature memoir, award-winning author and journalist Robert Macfarlane blends the studies of cartography, geology, and natural history with the lush prose of a personal journey. The Old Ways examines the shape of the land and how it shapes us in turn. Throughout, Macfarlane follows the ancient paths that crisscross the globe, guiding readers across England, Scotland, Spain, and Palestine to the Himalayas. In retracing travelers’ footsteps from thousands of years ago, McFarlane offers a fascinating rumination on the landscapes of the past and our relationship with nature as we move through the present.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

By Elisabeth Tova Bailey

In this celebrated work of nonfiction, Elisabeth Tova Bailey reminds us to cherish nature’s gifts — no matter how small. Bedridden from an illness, Bailey notices a woodland snail inching across her nightstand. Intrigued, she begins to observe the tiny creature, opening her eyes to its remarkable existence and deepening her appreciation for her place in the world. Beautifully told, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is an intimate celebration of nature’s grandeur and a “delicate meditation on the meaning of life” (Kirkus).

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H Is for Hawk

By Helen Macdonald

Naturalist Helen Macdonald turns to the skies in this soaring nature memoir of grief and resiliency. Reeling from her father’s death and inspired by T.H. White’s The Goshawk, Macdonald decides to adopt Mabel, a wild-tempered bird of prey. Using White’s record of falconry as a guide, Macdonald trains with Mabel, testing the limits of her own humanity as she strives to understand the winged predator and reckon with her heartbreak. An award-winning nonfiction narrative, H Is for Hawk beautifully blends nature writing and literary biography with a deeply felt account of a father–daughter relationship.


By Doreen Cunningham

In this bighearted new nature memoir, Doreen Cunningham muses on motherhood and our responsibilities to the planet as she tracks the northern migration of gray whales. With her young son in tow, Cunningham follows a pod of whales as they swim from Mexico to Alaska, documenting the sea mammals’ journey and witnessing the worsening state of the climate in crisis. Threaded through this narrative are Cunningham’s recollections of living with indigenous whale hunters in Alaska and the close bond she developed with an Iñupiaq family. “Beautiful and brave, and startling in its raw emotional honesty” (author Neil Ansell), Soundings captures humanity’s delicate relationship with the natural world.

The Outrun

By Amy Liptrot

In The Outrun, Amy Liptrot relates her story of addiction and recovery as she looks to nature to help her in her journey. After years of hard living in London, Liptrot returns to her island homeland of Orkney, Scotland, in search of a fresh start. There she traverses the windswept coast, plunges into the frigid ocean, and engages with the land and its inhabitants as she reconnects with her family, home, and sense of self. Lyrical and forthright, The Outrun is a valiant memoir of resiliency and rebirth grounded in Scotland’s rugged seaside landscape.

Late Migrations

By Margaret Renkl

In this collection of essays, Margaret Renkl tenderly discusses her relationship with her parents as she transitions from daughter to caregiver. Alongside her personal family narrative, Renkl observes the birds, bees, and butterflies around her home in suburban Nashville, finding parallels in the fragility of life and the inevitable decline of all living things. “Beautifully written, masterfully structured, and brimming with insight into the natural world” (bestselling author Ann Patchett), Late Migrations is a delicate blend of backyard nature writing and family memoir.

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