A well-written book is a wonderful find. They motivate us to feel and can inspire us to make changes in our lives, or comfort us during difficult times. We learn new things, or go on a voyage of rediscovery. They help us feel connected, not just to the world envisaged by the author but to other people who have also found joy in that particular book.

With many fantastic natural history and popular science books to choose from, we’ve asked our conservation science team to recommend some of their favourite reads. We hope you enjoy them.

 A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There by Aldo Leopold

Quite simply, one of the first true books about connecting to nature and still one of the best. Wonderfully evocative writing by someone with a deep connection to nature and the land and who understands our influence and dependence on both. I go back to it often.

Richard Bradbury, Head of People Conservation Science

 

 Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell

A wonderful account of the plight of the curlew. Inspired by Mary’s “Curlew Walk” across the UK and Ireland to highlight their plight and find out more about the landscapes they inhabit and the way these areas are managed, and their place in our cultural history.

David Douglas, Principal Conservation Scientist

 

 

 Cuckoo - Cheating by Nature by Nick Davies

A beautifully written book about a truly remarkable bird, written by one of the global stars in the field of behavioural ecology. The book is an amazing detective story, bringing together several decades of detailed field observation and experiment, complemented by elegant prose and delightful artwork.

David Gibbons, Head of Conservation Science

 

 On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Read it from cover to cover in my first term at University. A slow burn but a beautifully crafted scientific argument that carries you along. A must read.

Richard Gregory, Head of Monitoring Conservation Science

 

 

 Naturalists in Paradise: Wallace, Bates and Spruce in the Amazon by John Hemming

This is a fascinating account of the travels and work of early naturalists in the Amazon during the 19th century, including Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-originator (with Darwin) of the theory of evolution. As they battle immense logistical challenges to make extensive collections of specimens (the sale of which funds their work), they puzzle over the patterns in the incredible biological diversity of Amazon rainforest. 

Mark Hancock, Senior Conservation Scientist

 Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds by Bernd Heinrich

A fascinating insight into this amazing bird, packed with intimate stories from the author's personal research becoming deeply acquainted with ravens lives.

Sorrel Jones, Conservation Scientist

 

 A Sea of Glass by by Drew Harvell

This is a book about the Blaschkas, a father and son team of glassblowers from Dresden who used to make the most amazing replicas of marine invertebrates from glass. I saw an exhibition at the Turner in Margate featuring some of their work and was blown away at the accuracy of their models of anemones and jellyfish. The models were originally made for educational purposes, but have really become priceless objects of art. Once seen never forgotten. The book is all about marine conservation – the author is an ecology Professor – but it also tells the story of these remarkable, and fragile, glass models. 

Rick Lewis, Science Fundraiser

 Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen

This book is superb and clearly the most topical book to read during lockdown, although sad to see that this was all known by 2008 and…nobody has acted.

Steffen Oppel, Senior Conservation Scientist

 

 The Seabird's Cry: The Lives and Loves of the Planet's Great Ocean Voyagers by Adam Nicolson

My favourite natural history book. I just thought it was really beautifully written, I loved how Nicolson interwove science, history, classics and literature to create really evocative portraits of seabirds. What other book could contain the line “Look at a herring gull now, sicking up food for its chicks, and you will have a glimpse of the foundations of the universe”?

Connie Tremlett, Conservation Scientist

 Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine

This was on my reading list before starting my zoology degree at Oxford - next to Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins) and Ascent of Man (Jacob Bronowski). Almost 40 years later (am I really old!?) I remember something of former and almost nothing of the latter but many of the scenes so poignantly and entertainingly painted by Adams remain vivid in my mind.

Adams and zoologist Mark Carwardine go on an extraordinary global search for exotic and endangered creatures - the weird, wonderful and on the brink of extinction.

Through his humour and unique way of viewing the world around him, Adams takes a passionate and critical look at the human species and our influence on our planet - one that resonates today more clearly than ever. In a world where we increasingly make the case for nature based on the services it provides - carbon, clean water, human wellbeing he ends with ...." the reason why so many people have devoted their lives to protecting the likes of rhinos, parakeets, kakapos and dolphins. It is simply this: The world would be a poorer, darker, lonelier place without them."

Juliet Vickery, Head of International Conservation Science

 Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A fantastic science fiction inspired by the natural world. The human race is doomed and seeking to populate a new earth. They discover a perfect world, terraformed by their ancestors, but a mishap has released a nanovirus which has caused the inhabitants invertebrates to evolve. The protagonist is a jumping spider called Portia.

Tchaikovsky studied zoology and had entomological support from Max Barclay, Coleoptera and Hemiptera curator at the Natural History Museum. Great fun, especially if you like bugs!

Ness Amaral-Rogers, Science Communications Executive

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