The drastic changes occurring in the Earth’s climate systems due to global warming are worrisome. Recent years have seen a surge in the number of books on environmental issues and our efforts to reconnect with nature. They cover a range of topics from global warming to the depletion of natural resources, endangered species, the effect of urbanisation on wildlife, and many more.
This list is a selection of seven non-fiction books on the environment by female authors who have managed to carve out a space of their own within this genre. With books on classic environmental activism, wildlife protection policies, interesting biographies of trees and wildlife memoirs, this list works as a wonderful guide for reading books on the environment, whether you’re new to the genre or a nature-lover.
Often hailed as the classic book on environmentalism, Silent Spring has remained a bright beacon of ecological awareness since its publication in 1962. Rachel Carson, a marine biologist, wrote this daring piece of work that criticised the wanton use of pesticides and insecticides in agriculture. Her war of words was especially against dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DTT), which was used as a common but unregulated insecticide until scientists learnt about its damaging effects on insects and birds. The book’s description of an apocalyptic situation of dead birds and animals was so powerful that it led to tighter pest control regulations and the eventual ban of DTT in several countries. By juxtaposing the effect of chemicals used for the benefit of mankind against the havoc it has caused the planet’s wildlife, Silent Spring helps readers understand the importance of citizen-scientists and their role in creating environmental awareness.
Buy it here.
The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis
Prerna Singh Bindra
Wildlife conservationist, author, and journalist Prerna Singh Bindra’s The Vanishing is an engaging and comprehensive account of the miserable state that India’s flora and fauna are in today. The book discusses the inherent problems of wildlife preservation in India, the role played by government agencies in the protection of the indigenous animals and birds of our country along with the bureaucratic red tape that impedes such efforts. Bindra’s personal experiences as a conservationist add to the rich documentation of the wildlife crises in India. The Vanishing is an essential read since it reminds all of us to speak up in favour of the wildlife who do not have a voice of their own and to be aware of how government policies and elected officials can affect their fate. More importantly, it is a book that reminds us that it is our responsibility to create save havens for the wildlife of India.
Buy it here.
Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom From The Urban Wilderness
Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Lyanda Lynn Haupt changes the way we think about crows in this wonderful book on urban nature. In a world where modernisation has encroached upon wild spaces, crows remain our not so glamorous but ubiquitously present companions. Haupt uses crows as a subject to inspire us to utilise our keen powers of observation to reconnect with nature in order to be more ecologically responsible. This book stands apart from others on the environment because it talks of hope in times of ecological crises rather than focussing on the imminent doom faced by our planet. Despite being based on crows, Crow Planet addresses universal concerns like climate change and is a great read for all nature-lovers.
Buy it here.
A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings
Helen Jukes takes up beekeeping in Oxford when her mundane office job and city life fails to provide her with a tangible purpose. Jukes’ glorious and luminous writing takes off from the first page as she describes her fascinating plunge into the world of bees after her friends gift her a hive. What makes this book exceptional is the use of the hive as a metaphor for human relationships, the growing apathy seeping into urban existence, and the underlying existential problems of an entire generation. Spread over the course of a year, the book talks about the history of beekeeping, details of bee physiology, ancient folklore, and even bee etymology. This book works as a delightful introduction if you want to read about the marvellous creatures who produce the golden and sweet honey used in your breakfast cereal.
Buy it here.
Cities And Canopies: Trees In Indian Cities
Harini Nagendra & Seema Mundoli
Cities And Canopies is a rich and breezy compendium of anecdotes, experiences of the authors, grandmother’s tales, ancient texts, folklore, and journal articles about trees in India, written by academics but aimed at a wider audience. Not only does it cover the natural histories of the common trees and plants that we encounter on a regular basis, but it also discusses the roles played by Mughal rulers, maharajas, and the British when it comes to tree plantation and how they have shaped our modern metropolises. The book never gets boring because the histories are complemented with engaging riddles, games, and even recipes for the readers to try out. If you’re searching for a delightful book to read as you bask in the cool breeze from the neem tree outside your window, this is the one to pick up.
Buy it here.
My Husband And Other Animals
In this collection of articles, Janaki Lenin, the prolific essayist for The Hindu, recounts her experiences and adventures with her husband Romulus Whitaker, the herpetologist and founder of the Madras Crocodile Bank and Madras Snake Park. Written with the trademark wit and charming humour that defines Lenin’s style, the book narrates episodes from the journeys undertaken by the couple as they travel in search of venomous snakes and crocodiles, encounter tree frogs, Gila monsters, porcupines, leopards, and various other members of the wild. The book explores animal behaviour and the research that goes behind understanding their traits in a detailed and thorough manner. Engaging, highly amusing, and extensively referenced, Lenin’s book is a highly recommended companion for every nature lover.
Buy it here.
H Is For Hawk
Evidence suggests that the art of falconry is as old as civilisation itself. The taming and training of birds of prey to be used for the hunting of wild animals is the prime subject of Helen Macdonald’s heart-wrenching memoir. Macdonald descends into deep depression due to grief and loneliness following the sudden death of her father. She eventually befriends a goshawk, called Mabel, and writes about her experiences of taming the wild bird as she comes to terms with her grief. She finds companionship in a fellow goshawk trainer, the novelist T.H. White, and realises that she isn’t alone in her quest of taming the wild. H Is For Hawk is a must-read since it gives us a detailed look into an ancient art, while also helping those who are facing grief and loss.
Buy it here.
Sayani Sarkar did her Ph.D. thesis on protein biochemistry and structural biology. When she is not working in the laboratory, she reads and occasionally writes book reviews. Her favourite genres are science, history, nature, crime, mystery, and historical fiction. She also illustrates and finished a short graphic novel from her Inktober stints. Her prose and scientific illustration have been published in The Write Launch and Alluvian: Fall 2017 Climate Change issue. Her artwork can be found on @sketchygraphia and other adventures @sayaniblue. She lives in Kolkata, India.
You can read her articles here.