Great books about nature: Environment America staff picks

Looking for a great book about nature? We got you covered. We asked some of our staff to share their favorites.

Looking for a great book about nature? We got you covered. We asked some of our staff to share their favorites:

Wendy Wendlandt, President, Environment America

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. “The Big Burn is a really great, interesting read about the terrible forest fire that raged through the Northwest in 1910. It shows the role of President Teddy Roosevelt and Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot advancing the very idea of public forests.” 

Mark Morgenstein, Director of Media Relations, Environment America

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. “Bryson perfectly captures both the euphoria and the mundane and pain of long hikes.”

Marcia Eldridge, Digital Director, Environment America

Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. “I grew up in the intermountain west, in the shadow of the Nevada nuclear test site, just as the author did. Her beautifully haunting personal account of the consequences of radioactive fallout alongside the story of a salt-water flood in a wildlife refuge sticks with me, years after I read the book.”

Skye Borden, State Director, Environment Montana

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. “Ok, so Wild isn’t exactly a book about nature. But the memoir, which tracks Strayed’s solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, is a gorgeously written story about the healing power of solitude and wild places. And, it’s a powerful reminder of why we need to preserve special places for future generations.”

Dan Jacobson, State Director, Environment California

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. “Mr. Abbey combines a love for the outdoors with a call to action and throws in a lot of humor along the way.”

Johanna Neumann, Senior Director of Campaigns for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. “Evolutionary biology was a college fascination of mine, and so Pollan’s explanation of how different plants appeal to human senses to multiply themselves was riveting. I loved putting myself into the genome of an apple, tulip or pot plant and imagining how I could get humans to grow more of me. This book helps you see the world from an unexpected and wonderful vantage point – that of the plants we grow.”

Pat Kelley-Fischer, Senior Digital Organizer, Environment America

Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone by George Black. “This is a fantastic deep dive into how our first national park came into existence, including the genuinely complicated conflicts that made it imperfect. It also put visiting Yellowstone incredibly high on my bucket list — hopefully it reopens soon!”

Andrea McGimsey, Senior Director of Global Warming Solutions, Environment America

Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey. “My favorite book is Gorillas in the Mist about Dian Fossey’s work to save the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the African rainforest. It’s a true story of a brave and fascinating woman and the beautiful world we inhabit – and the amazing gorillas, the great apes that are so close to us. This is the one book I regularly recommend people read.”

Rich Hannigan, Senior Communications Director, Environment America

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. “My favorite book about nature changes all the time, but I keep coming back to A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. He writes about our relationship to the natural world in a way that is deeply personal and moral, without self-righteousness or condescension, as evidenced by his first two sentences in the forward: ‘There are some people who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.’”

Amy Floyd, Grants Department Managing Director, Environment America

Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee. “Unquestionably one of the best writers of the 20th century, John McPhee recounts three conversations between David Brower and three people he clashed with as they journey through the wild places Brower fought to protect. While it was written 40 years ago, the arguments are still relevant today if not more so, and the frame of the conversations happening in the wilderness beautifully illustrates what’s at stake. At a time when leaders with opposing ideas rarely are willing to engage with each other, it’s a refreshing and insightful read.”

Alex Peterson, Conservation Advocate, Environment America

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner. “Cadillac Desert, a highly-entertaining history of water development in the American West. Great characters and it’s just stunning how badly we screwed up the environment and managed to do so at an economic loss. A really good cautionary tale. I basically only read non-fiction and this one is way up there on my list.”

Graham Marema, Digital Campaigner, Environment America

Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel by Robert Gipe. “This book has a lot of personality, which is easy to spot in its endearing illustrations and its bold, wry main character, 15-year-old Dawn Jewell. The story is especially significant to me because it centers on Eastern Kentucky, where I was born, and the blue, rolling mountains of the region, a piece of nature that is precious to everyone from Southeast Appalachia. Dawn gets roped into her grandmother’s radical protests against mountaintop removal and finds a passion for preserving nature and protecting the unique mountaintops of her home.”

Susan Rakov, Director, Frontier Group

The Overstory by Richard Powers. “The Overstory is Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 novel about trees. It’s been described as a ‘masterwork,’ a ‘visionary, accessible legend’ and a reminder that ‘we walk among gods every time we enter a forest.’ This book is like no other, and it will stick with you forever.”


Celeste Meiffren-Swango

State Director, Environment Oregon

As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.