To See Something New In Your Own Backyard: A reading list for appreciating nature’s minutiae by Brennan Keifer

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Because of the Climate Crisis, we often think about nature and the environment on a large, often global scale. The question then asked is what can we, as cities, states, and nations, do to protect the earth and offset global warming. There is utility in this way of thinking. In fact, the Climate Crisis has reached a point where a global mindset is necessary to develop sustainable solutions for combating climate change. But a global perspective is limiting in some ways too. It turns nature into a macrocosmic abstraction rather than an immediate, tangible presence in our individual lives. The books that make up this reading list focus on small-scale nature, nature in your own backyard. They encourage personal relationships with our surrounding landscapes and demand we look at them closely. At their core, they are guides on seeing the magic in the mundane, recognizing the new in the familiar, and revealing what was always there but overlooked.

After reading Wildwood by Roger Deakin, I began to pay closer attention to trees. One tree, growing at the center of a graveyard near my apartment, struck me in particular. It was at least two stories tall, with large, blood-red leaves. The trunk and branches were bone white, stripped of any bark. After consulting a field guide, I learned it was an American Sycamore, a tree that grows so fast its bark can’t keep up and so it flakes off. After I discovered what species it was, I began seeing sycamores everywhere. The simple act of naming the sycamore altered what I perceived in the landscape. And who knows what else is out there, standing in plain sight, just waiting to be realized.


Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places
By John Stilgoe

The Shape of a Year
By Jean Hersey

Pilgrim At Tinker Creek
By Annie Dillard

Rock Run Hollow
By Isaac B. Rehert

The Woods: One Man’s Escape to Nature
By Charles B. Seib

A Winter Walk
By Henry David Thoreau

Wilderness Essays
By John Muir

By Robert Macfarlane

The Living Mountain
By Nan Shepherd

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees
By Roger Deakin

The Peregrine
By J. A. Baker

Silent Spring
By Rachel Carson

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Future
By Merlin Sheldrake


A Small Porch
By Wendell Berry

The Best of Robert Service
By Robert Service

Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems

By Edward Thomas

Brennan Keifer is an ex-woodworker turned freelance writer living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He graduated from Washington College with a BA in English and a minor in music. If he isn’t reading, he’s wandering outside looking for bones, old beehives, cool rocks, neat sticks, and other natural knickknacks to fill his bedroom with. 

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