I don't know about you but books are one of the great loves of my life. Books have been, and continue to be, my inspiration, learning, adventures and frequently a chance to escape from real life for a while.

So, when thinking about what might help people locked down at home, when all the world around them is in turmoil, naturally my first thought was books. I sent a call out to the RSPB Campaigners across the UK, asking them to recommend books (on any subject) that have inspired them. In turn, we hope they will inspire or comfort you during these difficult times.

 Silent Spring Revisited by Conor Mark Jameson

Recommended by Kim Matthews, RSPB HQ Senior Campaigner

I read this in my first year as a campaigner at RSPB, and woven into it is some of the more recent history of the RSPB and the big campaigns we were part of - including the efforts to ban DDT; stop tankers from dumping oil at sea; and helping to bring about the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

 It's a reminder that people have fought and won some hugely important issues over the years. Rarely now do oil-smothered birds wash ashore, and peregrines, ospreys and red kites have returned to our skies. Of course we have so much more to do, but it is good to also remember how far we have come.

Wild Kingdom: Bringing Back Britain's Wildlife by Stephen Moss

Recommended by Krissy Le Huray, RSPB HQ Campaigner

Let Stephen Moss take you on a journey, starting 5,000 years ago and ending in the present day, to see how the UK's landscapes have changed.

He brings us realistic, yet optimistic stories of species from great white egrets to beavers, but with the reminder that we still have work to do. I absolutely loved reading this book; I learned a lot about the UK's history and our relationships with wildlife - what they have been and what they could be.

 Why Women Will Save The Planet by Friends of the Earth and the C40 Cities Group

Recommended by Eleni Morus, RSPB Cymru Campaigner

If you want to feel empowered and come out the end of this lockdown fighting, I can wholly recommend this book. It is a collection of interviews and essays by prominent women in the environmental movement, like Christiana Figueres, author of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

In it these women discuss the challenges facing women globally and techniques that they use to further the environmental agenda. Each woman intricately weaves together issues surrounding gender, the environment, business, society, travel and more so well that by the time you finish you’ll be itching to get out and save the planet.

Corvus: A Life With Birds by Esther Woolfson

Recommended by Erica Mason, RSPB Scotland Campaigner

Esther Woolfson is an author in Aberdeen who has a rook named Chicken, but she explores other birds she has taken in like a magpie, a parrot and a jackdaw. The birds are her pets, and she treats them as her familiars.

This is very much a book about finding and appreciating the intelligence in other creatures, not about seeing them in their natural habitat. But it does give a marvellous sense of what life with birds is like, and what it means to have a wild creature in your home, caring for it, and learning about it.

 Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

Recommended by Tabitha Newell, RSPB Northern Ireland Campaigner

If you’re missing the smell, sound and feel of the sea right now, this captivating autobiography by William Finnegan will take you straight there. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is the story of one man’s lifelong love affair with the ocean; from catching his first wave in Hawaii to travelling the globe searching for the world’s most challenging rides.

Even if surfing isn’t your thing, his language, respect and emotional connection to the ocean will transport you from your reading chair to floating on a board right beside him. Something we all could do with right now.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind: A Memoir by William Kamkwamba

Recommended by Ruth Lindley, RSPB HQ Campaigner

This is the inspiring memoir of William Kamkwamba, a man who, when just a teenager, brought electricity and water to his small, rural village in Malawi by constructing a windmill from pictures in old textbooks, using scraps of metal, old bicycle parts and wood from the blue gum tree.

Set in the true context of floods, drought and famine, this remarkable story shows ingenuity, determination and strength in the face of adversity and demonstrates the potential for renewable energy to bring electricity to those without access.

 Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Recommended by Natasha Yorke-Edgell, Head of Campaigns

My best friend from childhood gave me this book as a birthday present in my late teens. She underlined all her favourite bits, doodled in the edges, wrote me her personal story how it affected her journey as a young queer woman learning how to transform her suffering and dreams into action for a better world.

I have taken so much from this book and have read sections over and over at different times in my life. Lorde’s experiences and perspectives are raw and powerful accounts that we can all learn from – they reveal our common struggles as well as our common strength and compassion in the face of adversity.

It may not seem on the surface to speak directly to our fight for the natural world, but in my opinion it is one and the same. The same drivers that erode our human rights and define our social struggles are the ones that drive environmental degradation. It speaks to something I am truly passionate about – that all of our struggles are connected and that we will only grow and create meaningful systems change if we are truly intersectional in our work. We share a history of movements fighting for social and environmental justice that spans generations, and we will never be done learning from our sisters and brothers (and everyone in between’s) experiences. So read, learn, reflect, and I hope it brings you the same feeling of hope and empowerment that it gives me as a campaigner.

What do you think of our eclectic selection? What books would you recommend to others right now? Drop us an email at campaigns@rspb.org.uk and why not share on Twitter using #lockdownreads and tagging in @Natures_Voice


Kim's Top Tips for getting books right now:

  • Check out your local library online. I've only just discovered that my library card gets me free access to thousands of ebooks and audiobooks!
  • I can also recommend betterworldbooks.com where you can buy secondhand (and new) books and for every book you buy they donate books and money to literacy programs. Look out for the books that are in their UK warehouse (they used to have a separate UK website) otherwise your book could end up coming all the way from the US!
  • Lastly, if you are buying new and want to avoid Amazon, you could try hive.co.uk as they donate to local independent bookshops (you get to pick which one!) for every sale they make.

Anonymous
  • Thanks for the great roundup of recommendations, Kim! 

    I put my own recommendation in the Book Club forum a while ago, and I've just started reading 'Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather' by Tessa Boase - a book about Etta Lemon and her crossover with the suffragette movement whilst campaigning against the use of feathers in fashion. A really interesting book with strong ties to the history of the RSPB.

    Reading has been really important over the last month being at home, and I plan to mail order some of the recommendations above from my independent bookseller. They need us now more than ever to keep afloat and we all need to rediscover the joy of reading to get us through these unusual times!