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Father’s Day Reads: The Naturalist

For some dads, harmony with nature is a way of life. We’ve got a few illuminating books for those rare moments when these wild fathers need a break from all that digging, hiking, weeding, and wandering.

Darwin’s Origin of Species / Janet Browne
No book has changed our conception of ourselves more than Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The idea that living things, including humans, gradually evolve through natural selection is nearly as controversial today as it was upon publication over a century ago, and it remains at the heart of an intense debate between scientists and creationists. In her illuminating history of Darwin’s great work, Janet Browne, the evolutionists foremost biographer, shows why it can fairly claim to be the greatest science book ever published.

The Eternal Frontier / Tim Flannery
The unforgettable story of the geological and biological evolution of the North American continent, from the time of the asteroid strike that ended the age of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, to the present day. The story takes in the massive changes wrought by the ice ages and the coming of the Indians, and continues right up to the present, covering the deforestation of the Northeast, the decimation of the buffalo, and other facets of the enormous impact of frontier settlement and the development of the industrial might of the United States. Flannery is the author of a whole host of titles appealing to naturalists; click here to check them all out.

H is for Hawk / Helen Macdonald
Named a best book of the year by TIME, NPR, O, The Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and many others, this “beautiful and nearly feral” (New York Times) book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer’s eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish / Andrus Kivirahk
A bestseller in the author’s native country of Estonia, The Man Who Spoke Snakish is the imaginative story of a boy who is tasked with preserving traditions in the face of modernity. Set in a fantastical version of medieval Estonia, the novel follows young Leemet, who lives with his hunter-gatherer family in the forest and is the last speaker of snakish, a language that allows its speakers to command all animals. With bears who wordlessly seduce women, a legendary flying frog, and a charismatic viper named Ints, The Man Who Spoke Snakish is an inventive novel for readers of David Mitchell, Sjón, and Terry Pratchett.

Second Nature / Michael Pollan
A new literary classic, Pollan’s Second Nature has become a manifesto not just for gardeners but for environmentalists everywhere. “As delicious a meditation on one man’s relationships with the Earth as any you are likely to come upon” (The New York Times Book Review), Second Nature captures the rhythms of our everyday engagement with the outdoors in all its glory and exasperation. With chapters ranging from a reconsideration of the Great American Lawn, to an essay about the sexual politics of roses, Pollan has created a passionate and eloquent argument for reconceiving our relationship with nature.

Should the Tent Be Burning Like That? / Bill Heavey
For more than twenty years, Bill Heavey has staked a claim as one of America’s best sportswriters. In his Field & Stream column, A Sportsman’s Life, he takes readers across the country and beyond to experience his triumphs and failures as a suburban dad who happens to love hunting and fishing. This new collection gathers a wide range of his best work. Whatever the subject, Heavey’s tales are odes to the notion that enthusiasm is more important than skill. We’ve published three other fantastic Heavey titles in addition to this one—so for new Heavey fans, there’s tons more great writing on the outdoors to get into.