Many of you will already have heard about this inspired project from the Arts and Humanities Research Council encouraging Brits to nominate their favourite book about the natural world. Each nomination must be of a book ‘by a UK-based writer or by an author who writes about the UK’s landscape and/or wildlife’, and the deadline for nominations is midnight on the 30th November 2017. As we have now turned the corner into November (still no sign of significant rain on the horizon in Essex!) I thought it appropriate to get you all thinking about potential books to nominate.
Personally I am struggling to settle on one. I have amassed a collection of nature books that I am particularly fond of, and I think that they have all influenced me in different ways. Books on the shelf have different identities depending on whether you have read them yet. Before opening the cover and turning your way through the pages an unread book has a certain mysteriousness, and as a reader I garner butterflies and eagerly anticipate the experience ahead. After having read a book and returned it to the shelf it is seen in a different light, riddled with your own perceptions, memories, thoughts and feelings. As a reader I throw myself into the work and engender a new relationship with the author. If I have read a previous work by them it is like meeting a friend after a long time apart, catching up where you left off, eager to hear about their new stories and thoughts on whatever the subject at hand is.
Yes, making this decision will be tough. Robert Macfarlane’s books (especially The Wild Places and The Old Ways) will certainly be on my shortlist as I whittle them down, as will The Peregrine by J.A Baker, a literary feast of the wildlife and landscape of my own county of Essex. Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk and Rob Cowen’s Common Ground are two other obvious choices for my shortlist. Books by Patrick Barkham, John Lewis-Stempel and Peter Coates would also probably need to feature, for different reasons, partly due to the influence that they have had on me personally over the years. Even George Monbiot’s Feral would be worthy as it helped to change the way I think about the British landscape It’s going to be a tough choice, although thankfully the deadline remains fairly distant! I needn’t decide for a while. The most difficult thing is that there are many dozens of nature books that I am yet to read but almost certainly deserve my nomination. I realise it’s impossible to nominate a book that you haven’t read, but I’m sure you understand my point.
Once all the books have been nominated a panel of experts has the tricky task of creating a shortlist of just 10 books. Then, in January 2018, there will be an online vote to decide the UK’s favourite work that captures our relationship with the natural world. The results will be announced on 1st February 2018.
Further information, including terms and conditions and how to nominate can be found by clicking here. To search on social media for other people’s nominations simply use the hashtag #favnaturebook.
My hope is that this project will rekindle wider interest in some of the more obscure nature books, and we will learn from each other as to how this very special genre of the written word has influenced British readers.