Summer 2018 Reading List


Summer 2018 Reading List

Every Summer we like to take some time and review our reading lists. School summer reading lists remind us of the great books that have inspired us, and of the books we have yet to read. There are always new ideas and perspectives to find, from authors we know well to those we’re meeting for the first time. Here’s what we’re reading this summer:

Nature by Design: The Practice of Biophilic Design
Stephen R. Kellert

We miss our colleague, Stephen Kellert, and having worked with him on biophilic design over the last 18 years, his passing is greatly felt. What he left us in his last book is a clear statement of the philosophy and underlying principles for connecting humans to nature in the built environment. Stephen emphasized that this is a holistic approach. He wanted people to experience a connection to nature not just in the abstract, but in a way that motivated action through a connection to local ecology. Nature by Design is beautifully illustrated and a compelling narrative. It is an important addition to the movement of biophilic design.

On Trails: An Exploration
Robert Moor

If you’ve ever been hiking through the wilderness or trekked down a busy urban street with quirky angles or a distinctly native name, you may have wondered how that ‘trail’ came to be—whether it was intentionally crafted by man to get from point A to point B, or a snapshot of an intricate network that has evolved over hundreds of years. Moor explores the origin of trails, from their immaterial value to practical functionality. The book starts off with a trip to Newfoundland for a look back at the first soft-bodied, Precambrian trail-blazers of 565 million years ago and routinely circles back to the experience of the thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail. Through a series of anecdotes seamless sprinkled with literary references each of a poetic, philosophical, or scientific nature—from Descartes, Darwin, Lord Byron and Wendell Berry, to the Cherokee and Navajo—Moor draws parallels between the trail networks of swarms of insects and herds of mammals, while questioning humankind’s proclivity for independence and travel to unfamiliar places and, ultimately, how these inclinations have shaped the ground beneath our feet.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative
Florence Williams

“Being in nature actually makes us more human.”

Williams examines our fascinating response to being immersed in nature through scientific research that explains what happens to our bodies while we’re there. From a strengthened immune system induced by the smell of pine trees to greater alpha brain wave activity after listening to bird songs, this book is not short on intriguing results to share. Williams is able to make the research not only accessible and understandable, but also compelling and fun to read. Through it all, she is able to convey a fairly simple message. In her own words: “Being in nature actually makes us more human.”

The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy (2015)
Michael McCarthy

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness?  Let them be left
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘Inversnaid’

Opened by this poem, McCarthy’s book shares personal recollections of his experiences with nature, and how earth’s great abundance of life has been “thinned out” by drastic farming practices, pesticides, and the ability of neither sustainable development nor ecosystem services alone to make the case for preserving nature.  While his personal stories often impart an urgent sense of loss and devastation, the book is fundamentally about the joy we are all capable of finding in nature itself.  As he writes,  “…there is an ancient bond with the natural world surviving deep with us, which makes it not a luxury, not an optional extra, not even just an enchantment, but part of our essence —the natural home for our psyches … and to destroy which, is to destroy a fundamental part of ourselves.”

Rebecca is the Director of Operations at Terrapin and has a background in natural resource policy and management. She is interested in how policy helps shape our relationship to nature, and how we can work with and learn from natural systems to address human needs.