This is where you can find out about some of my recommendations in truly great nature or walking writing, with a selection of the covers or quotations from my favourite titles below.
Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain: a wonderfully spare work which charts the relationship between Shepherd and the Mountain, with the Mountain functioning as a changing and changeable character in its own right. A book very strongly located in place.
Roger Deakin, Waterlog: a Swimmer’s Journey through Britain: a jubilant account of the writer thinking and feeling and travelling ‘in his element’; the writing is as lucent as the water which is its idiom. Joyful and a refreshingly supine perspective!
Robert Frost, Collected Poems (various): Frost writes with the appearance of great simplicity, yet his poetry brilliantly bodies forth his ideas in compact forms. Musical, lyrical and often melancholy (sometimes humourous), his poems throb with the love of the land: of working, walking and writing it.
Ben Law, Woodsman: a very humble account of a deep-rooted love of forests and woodworking, this book opens with a beautiful reverie about a night spent out of doors in the woods to get to know the trees and the habits of the woodland he will work.
Mary Oliver, Collected Poems (various): I recognise the feeling of peace found in nature and the landscape which threads through Oliver’s poetry. She has a wonderful compression of style which belies the immensity of emotion and tenderness invoked by the wild.
E.M. Forster, Howards End: I include this for its treatment of place and how a place can restore, rejuvenate and act as a lodestone in the lives of those who come into contact with it. It was one of my favourite novels growing up and the power of Howards End and its garden – and everything it represents – is for me one of the primary archetypes of place-love.
Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: I (very humbly) acknowledge this book as a major influence on my own writing. It is so richly insightful and so skilfully builds a picture of our relationship with the old ways that cross-hatch Britain that you just want to get out of doors and take off. A sublimely melancholy and finely drawn portrait of the great Edward Thomas too.
Ibid., Landmarks: here Macfarlane revives some of the peculiarly vernacular and esoteric language of place, landscape and walking. It has a feel of an archaeological exploit, digging up words in their specific place contexts and re-dignifying them with meaning and purpose to write the landscapes around us.
Ibid., Stanley Donwood & Dan Richards, Holloway: there is a strange and beguiling alchemy at work in this short almost prose-poem ode to the holloway that seems to act like the holloway itself to suck you down into the writing of it. Simply beautiful, and possibly my favourite of all the books recommended here.