Nonfiction and Poetry


These books are non-fiction and poetry selections. Again you can click on the Amazon links to go directly to purchase these items or any associated books. A few of the books noted are not available from Amazon. (If you are getting mostly flashing Amazon orange buttons for the book links just refresh the page.) You may search Amazon here as well and stay on the page.

 

For some untested notable new poetry try this page link.

Selected Nonfiction

The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Bulfinch

 

Three volumes. With frequent moments of stunning insight. Inside a mind breaking down around an impressively attuned soul. And hints at how the world looked in this color genius' eyes.

 

In Trouble Again, Redmond O'Hanlon

 

Like being a witness to a slow disaster with a comedy soundtrack. Mister O'Hanlon gained my permanent readership with this remarkable travelogue.

 

The Inland Island, Josephine Johnson

 

Seasonal cycle of essays from an Ohio naturalist with an acutely tuned eye. Written at the time of the Viet Nam war. Her despair creeps into her watchfulness of sparrows. One of the great unknown essay cycles.

 

The Malay Archipelago, Alfred Russell Wallace

 

The travels of the co-author of the theory of evolution. Miraculous and at times harrowing, Mister Wallace remains a hero. From adopting an orphaned orangutan baby (he orphaned it) to finding Birds of Paradise species for the first time -- astounding.

 

My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell

 

A child naturalist among non-believers. One of those children who hauled frogs and snakes into the house with the squeamish family on the run. This guy even tried seagulls. Told with absolute honesty and with moments of great humor. A fine memoir from the British side of the world.

 

Nature Writing, Finch and Elder

 

Large collection of natural history essays from the past several hundred years. Classics and modern masterpieces amix. Anyone who enjoys this format and the natural world transmitted with remarkable skill should add this to the shelf.

 

The Passionate Observer, Jean-Henri Fabre

 

Almost any book of this man's original essay work is good enough. This one happens to still be available in, well, an available form. If you find old copies at antiquarian book stores of The Hunting Wasps, or The Mason Bees, they are all fair game.

 

The Peregrine, J. A. Baker

 

This book, of all in the nonfiction section, is the hardest for me to try and blurb. Usually I reserve this kind of feeling for rare poetry books. I cannot recommend this book enough and it appears it has been recently re-released. It has not been easy to obtain at times. No book I know expresses the beauty of the singular raptor animal, the Peregrine, Baker's obsession, anywhere close to as visually as this volume. I am glad for his obsession. I keep this book close. I read some of it every month. Again and again.

 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard

 

The first essay I ever read by Miss Dillard, "Living Like Weasels", changed the way I looked at natural history essays. And this long evocation of a stretch of time in her native woods is still a source of repeated joy. Muskrats to Praying Mantises, she sees them all with a clear eye and a unique voice.

 

The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins

 

Hard to go wrong with Dawkins. This is one of many with the genetic aspects of natural selection at its heart. Dawkins has a genius for communicating the difficult aspects to us earthlings. Impressive mind communicating impressively to the rest of us.

 

The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen

 

The standard against which all other nature travelogues should be compared. Still unsurpassed after all these years.

 

Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck

 

The standard against which...wait...okay, this isn't really a nature travelogue. But it may have taught me to love dogs. Even, gulp, poodles. Steinbeck watching humans do their sometimes stupid and sometimes lovely tricks with his dog as companion.

 

The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin

 

If you have, for some reason, postponed reading this due to the misguided opinion that it might be a dry and difficult, self-absorbed study of the man who envisioned the natural selection theory where no one else ever had seen it, then stop it. Stop it now. This is the young Charles expressing his wonder at the far flung world during the happiest and most carefree period of his life. And he can write. If only all scientists could write like this.

 

The Song of the Dodo

 

One of the premier nature essayists focuses on island extinction biology for an entire book that is one of the great works of the last thirty years. His writing style is a sustained pleasure. Yes, you need it.

Eating Stone, Ellen Meloy

 

Transcendent. I have never met her. She died a few months after this was published. I literally miss her like she was a friend. Mr. Baker and his Peregrines would be proud. And the first quote in the book is from Baker, so she must have understood. Please. Buy this book. Put this and Baker over your bed in a little lighted shelf.

 

Selected Poetry

After the Lost War, Andrew Hudgins

 

My favorite long form modern poem. And not really one poem. Just a sustained theme and time setting. By a true naturalist. And one of our finest southern poets. From "A Child on the Marsh" to "Postcards of the Hanging", it is worth the ride.

 

Black Zodiac, Charles Wright

 

I will not presume to comment on Mister Wright's qualities. Trust me on this one. One of the many writers on this page that could frighten you from trying to touch pencil to paper yourself.

 

Deepstep Come Shining, C. D. Wright

 

A voice unlike all others I know. I refuse to be without this book. One can open it like a horoscope and dive in expecting to be informed at each turn. Along with Johnny Cash and Lucinda Williams, C. D. is one of Arkansas' gifts to the artful world. Let us hope she lives a long and fruitful life.

 

The Selected Poetry of Rainier Maria Rilke, Stephen Mitchell translation

 

Mitchell translating Rilke. I don't think one need know more. But Rilke can be translated badly. I know that much. Worth it for Mitchell's interpretation of the Duino Elegies alone. Yes, go here.

 

Transparent Gestures, Rodney Jones

 

Run on sentences that transcend explanation. Rhythm and meter to make one give up on the normal wordplay of every day life. Striking and true. You think you are in a simple moment watching simple things transpire, and suddenly you are in the satellite view. A trick that requires long practice -- witness a master.

 

    

 

           

         

 

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