Nature’s summer reading list: 5 staff picks

Si'u Point Trail, Ta'u Island, National Park of American Samoa

A beach scene in American Samoa perfect for enjoying one of the books recommended by CI staff. (© U.S. Department of the Interior/Flickr Creative Commons)

As the summer kicks off here in the Northern Hemisphere, millions of people will flock to beaches, mountains and lakes in search of a brief respite from everyday life. Whether you’ve got a vacation coming up or are just daydreaming about one, get closer to nature with these book recommendations from Conservation International (CI) staff.

1. “The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene,” by Richard Dawkins

1. “The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene,” by Richard Dawkins

“The trouble with evolution is that everyone thinks they understand it.” Richard Dawkins’ writings changed my life. This book is a rollicking good read — never boring, always stimulating and sometimes surprising. Its arguments are pervasive and persuasive — how natural selection actually works at the level of individual genes — and, above all, why this is the most magical show on Earth. You’ll understand all of life and its wonders just a little bit more after reading this book.”

– Keith Lawrence, senior director of CI’s seascapes program

The Urban Bestiary, Encountering the Everyday Wild

2. “The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild,” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

“An aspiring “urban naturalist” myself, I’m looking forward to reading Haupt’s humorous but ecologically insightful observations of the nature she encounters on a daily basis near her Seattle home. After moving to D.C. from Maine two years ago, I still struggle at times to appreciate the smaller pockets of “everyday wild” that call this urban center home — so I’m eager to learn more about Haupt’s perspective on uncovering wilderness just outside your window.”

– Cassandra Kane, communications manager of CI’s ecosystem finance division

3. “The Future of Life,” by E.O. Wilson "The Future of Life," by E.O. Wilson

“I loved this book. E. O. Wilson is a scientist I very much admire; I actually once stayed in a little cabin he used when visiting Costa Rica. To me, the book is a very passionate, inspiring and clear call for us to take better care of our planet.”

– Marco Quesada, director of CI Costa Rica




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4. “Unbowed: A Memoir,” by Wangari Maathai "Unbowed, A Memoir,” by Wangari Maathai

“I think this book is really inspiring in that it (along with her book “The Challenge for Africa”) set the landscape of what it’s like to work on the African continent while giving a positive message of someone who was able to overcome hurdles and make a lasting impact on the environment in the region.”

– Kim Reuter, natural capital accounting director for CIs’ Africa division


"Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America,” by Jon Mooallem

As for my pick, I highly recommend 5. “Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About
Looking at People Looking at Animals in America
by Jon Mooallem. From watching polar bear tourists in Manitoba to documenting the bizarre, human-led whooping crane migration from Wisconsin to Florida, Mooallem reveals the complex relationship between humans and other animals and asks readers to rethink their notions of “wildness.”

Happy reading!

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature.

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