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Holiday Gift List: Get Outside

The best 10 books on nature, science and the great outdoors / BY Nathalie Atkinson / December 16th, 2021


Often as lyrical as they are scientific, these books explore ecology, science and the natural world.

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1On Animalsby Susan Orlean

This collection of musings, profiles and essays dating back to 1995 by the acclaimed New Yorker staff writer (and author of bestsellers The Orchid Thief and The Library Book) showcases her wide-ranging interest in both untamed and domestic animals.


2Waterlogby Roger Deakin

It’s taken more than 20 years, but at last there is a North American physical edition of this landmark 1999 story about natural history and wild swimming, written in sumptuous prose. Inspired by John Cheevers classic short story The Swimmer,” the late writer and environmentalist takes “a frog’s eye view” of his journey to swim the seas, rivers, lakes, ponds, moats and pools of Britain. With an afterword by his friend, writer Robert Macfarlane, who dubs Deakin a latter-day Thoreau.


3Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscapeby Cal Flyn

For her acclaimed non-fiction narrative, the Scottish journalist was inspired by a night spent on the island of Swona in Orkney decades after its two remaining inhabitants deserted the island in 1974 and left a herd of cattle behind. It’s an exploration of the world’s terrain – from Estonian farms to the abandoned First World War battlefields and buried chemical weapons of Verdun – and the extraordinary ways animals and plants are reborn when humans leave.


4Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Lawby Mary Roach

In this entertaining, globetrotting selection, Roach (who wrote about the intersection of science and eating in Gulp) tags along with forensic investigators to look at conflicts between humans and animals around the world, as was the case with monkeys raiding New Delhi mansions for smartphones and demanding bananas as ransom.


5Revelations in Airby Jude Stewart

Anyone who loved Diane Ackerman’s landmark book, A Natural History of the Senses, will be gripped by this journey into the world of smell and its lavish descriptions by Stewart, a design journalist. Her field guide considers olfaction’s unique ability to unlock memories – the nose on your face is the Buckingham Palace Guard of your body,” as one reviewer put it – and is perfect for dipping in and out of, complete with simple exercises to improve one’s experience of smell.


6The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees Above Usby Meg Lowman

This is a thoughtful, scientific and lightly philosophical analysis of the complex architecture of foliage and the forest canopy by Lowman, a biologist, well-known conservationist and director of the non-profit TREE Foundation, who explains why it’s crucial to preserve it for future generations. Together with Finding the Mother Tree, Canadian ecologist Suzanne Simard’s captivating and surprising catalogue of forest discoveries, it’s a perfect book-gift double bill.


7The Hidden Histories of Houseplantsby Maddie Bailey and Alice Bailey

Their Dutch grandfather was a flower merchant and nursery owner, their mother is the noted horticulture writer Fran Bailey, and these sibling authors grew up at a cult plant shop in London. Ideal for plant nerds, their book explores the place of the world’s 20 most common houseplants in social history, science and culture.


8Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid: The Fraught and Fascinating Biology of Climate Changeby Thor Hanson

The American biologist and Guggenheim fellow’s vivid lyrical descriptions of nature, in future-facing stories about the ways plants and animals are responding to climate change, will both inspire understanding and empower action.


9The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens – and Ourselvesby Arik Kershenbaum

The noted Cambridge zoologist – whose research specialties are listed as wolves, dolphins and aliens – argues that because some evolutionary challenges in natural selection are universal, life beyond our planet and throughout the cosmos may share some features. Drawing on his research into animals’ physical adaptations and communications, it’s a persuasive argument.


10The Secret Life of Fungi: Discoveries from a Hidden Worldby Aliya Whiteley

Mushrooms are in the zeitgeist and this is one of several books on the organisms out this season. It’s a casual and engaging read in which the novelist and mycological enthusiast muses on foraging, researching and cooking fungi.


THE SCROLL

American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history


Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."


European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.


Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events


Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards


Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde


Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 


Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members


Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations


Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


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