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January 11, 2018 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Women who write about the wild cannot be easily labeled. They are conservationists, scientists, and explorers; historians, poets, and novelists; ramblers, scholars, and spiritual seekers. They are hard to pin down but for their willingness to be “unladylike,” to question, and to seek. The following list is in no way definitive, but if you want a primer on some of the best nature writing you probably haven’t read yet, you’d do well to start with these 25 women.

Towards a wider view of nature writing, by Catherine Buni:
Lauret Savoy writes, "I couldn’t understand why, in a book so concerned with America’s past, the only reference to slavery, to human beings as property, was about ancient Greece. What I wanted more than anything was to speak with Mr. Leopold. To ask him. I so feared that his “we” and “us” excluded me and other Americans with ancestral roots in Africa, Asia, or Native America... Did Aldo Leopold consider me?"
Lauret Savoy on race and history in the national parks:
One lesson I learned as a small child was this: the American land did not hate. People did. This was the late 1960s, when riots ignited cities across the nation. These were years when journeys with my parents introduced me to our national parklands. Yellowstone. Grand Teton. Badlands. Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Zion. Bryce Canyon.
posted by ChuraChura (16 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
The following list is in no way definitive

No Jane Goodall? She's all of those things!
posted by adept256 at 9:40 AM on January 11

The FPP does say "the best nature writing you probably haven't read yet." I imagine Jane Goodall is something of the Marie Curie of female naturalists and writers, and I'm frankly rather delighted by Chura's focus on other women.
posted by sciatrix at 9:52 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]

Just in time for my trip to the library this week. Lovely.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:53 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]

Two of the most recent books I've read are Nan Sheperd's The Living Mountain and Robin Wall Kimmerer's Gathering Moss, and they are both glorious works of nonfiction that I would highly recommend. If they weren't both on this list I was prepared to flip out.
posted by oulipian at 9:59 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure of the exact parameters of "nature writing," but I learned about Jacquetta Hawkes and her A Land here on Metafilter and I find her writing wonderful.

Thanks for this, ChuraChura! I've only read a few of the authors on the list, but I'm looking forward to checking out these authors' works.
posted by kristi at 10:11 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]

... and having looked for The Living Mountain and Gathering Moss (thanks, oulipian!), I'm dismayed to find that The Living Mountain does not exist anywhere in my entire extended library system - but there is at least an excerpt in Ali Smith's The Book Lover, which I have out from the library right now, so I'm thankful for that - and at first glance, yes, her prose is lovely.
posted by kristi at 10:18 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]

This is a great list! I would like to add another, very recent book that I really enjoyed reading.
posted by Desertshore at 10:26 AM on January 11

Checked for Annie Dillard and was not disappointed. Go read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, it's one of those books that changes how you look at the world.
posted by lydhre at 10:42 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]

I just recently finished Robin Wall Kimmerer's most recent book, Braiding Sweetgrass, and was totally blown away. Strong recommend.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:04 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]

I'm glad that Rachel Carson is on that list. I read Silent Spring during undergrad for a course on Creating Writing and Environmentalism. A very interesting blend of these two subjects. And Silent Spring has stayed in my brain for the past 10 years. It was a punch to the brain and gut at how fragile our system is and the abuses of government and big business.

Also, I'll add Mary Oliver to this list. She's a poet and she writes quite a bit about the environment, nature, and dogs. She recently released a collection of essays called Upstream and her poetry collection A Thousand Mornings is probably my favourite poetry collection from the past 10 years. She's a gifted poet/writer, please find a way to read her, you will not be disappointed.
posted by Fizz at 11:10 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]

Kristi, I also wanted to add Jacquetta Hawkes and A Land to this list! What a book.
posted by apricot at 12:11 PM on January 11

Incidentally, A Land is now $3.99 on Kindle.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:36 PM on January 11

This is a great resource. I've been reading bits of the nature canon recently, including Thoreau and Leopold, plus novels by people like Barbara Kingsolver. This is a good reminder of differing perspectives, possible blindspots, and wider horizons. I knew a few of the bigger names on the list, but look forward to exploring the rest (along with the other names people have commented). Thanks for the post!
posted by rollick at 12:57 PM on January 11

Let me add Christa Sadler to the list, geologist, educator, writer, naturalist, river guide and truly remarkable person.
posted by Long Way To Go at 7:21 PM on January 11

The poet Joy Harjo writes powerfully about the land. Secrets from the Center of the World opens my eyes wide to it.
posted by kokaku at 12:51 AM on January 12

Really glad to see Annie Dillard included on that list.
posted by werkzeuger at 9:19 AM on January 16

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