Did you enjoy World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, the November 2022 selection for the Facebook Book Club? Check out some more nonfiction by authors who find grace and meaning in the world at large then head over to the group to find out what December’s book will be and join in on our community conversations.
Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day by Diane Ackerman
Diane Ackerman awakens us to the world at dawn–drawing on sources as diverse as meteorology, world religion, etymology, art history, poetry, organic farming, and beekeeping. As a patient and learned observer of animal and human physiology and behavior, she introduces us to varieties of bird music and other signs of avian intelligence, while she herself “migrates” from winter in Florida to spring, summer, and fall in upstate New York. Humans might luxuriate in the idea of being “in” nature, Ackerman points out, but we often forget that we are nature–for “no facet of nature is as unlikely as we, the tiny bipeds with the giant dreams.” Dawn Light is an impassioned celebration of the miracles of evolution–especially human consciousness of our numbered days on a turning earth.
The Way of Imagination: Essays by Scott R. Sanders
Scott Russell Sanders shows how imagination, linked to compassion, can help us solve the urgent ecological and social challenges we face. While reflecting on the conditions needed for human flourishing, he tells the story of his own intellectual and moral journey from childhood religion to an adult philosophy of life. That philosophy is tested when his first wife and then their son fall ill. Compelled to leave their beloved old house, they design a new one, and then transform their vision into a home and their raw city lot into a garden.
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
The first nonfiction book from award-winning poet Ross Gay is a record of the small joys we often overlook in our busy lives. Among Gay’s funny, poetic, philosophical delights: a friend’s unabashed use of air quotes, cradling a tomato seedling aboard an airplane, the silent nod of acknowledgment between the only two black people in a room. Gay never dismisses the complexities, even the terrors, of living in America as a black man or the ecological and psychic violence of our consumer culture or the loss of those he loves. More than anything else, though, Gay celebrates the beauty of the natural world-his garden, the flowers peeking out of the sidewalk, the hypnotic movements of a praying mantis. The Book of Delights is about our shared bonds, and the rewards that come from a life closely observed.
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver
“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” So begins Upstream, a collection of essays in which revered poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature.
How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery
Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and adventurer Sy Montgomery. To research her books, Montgomery has traveled the world and encountered some of the planet’s rarest and most beautiful animals. From tarantulas to tigers, her life continually intersects with and is informed by the creatures she meets. This restorative memoir reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals and the truths revealed by their grace. It also explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love and become empathetic; how we find our passion; how we create our families; coping with loss and despair; gratitude; forgiveness; and most of all, how to be a good creature in the world.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her encounter with a Neohelix albolabris –a common woodland snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater understanding of her own place in the world. Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, offering a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world can illuminate our own human existence, while providing an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.