Inspiring Books on Nature Study

I'm a podcast fan. Perhaps it's because I enjoy the banter while cooking, or it helps break the monotony of folding laundry. Regardless of the reason, one of my absolute favorite podcasts is Read Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackenzie. It speaks to my librarian soul, my mama spirit, my homeschooling mind. When she and Greta Eskridge of Ma and Pa Modern recently did a podcast on nature books, I eagerly listened. After the show ended, I knew this post had to be written.

The ladies do a wonderful job at listing titles that are perfect for inspiring nature study and understanding of the natural world. I was thrilled to hear of some books I was totally unfamiliar with! Here are a few titles I'd like to add to their list.

For the children: 

This isn't strictly a nature book. However, it has loads of information about sea animals and it shows the joys of observation. I love how simply it's illustrated (all of McClure's work is this lovely!) but unlike previous books it includes far more detail in the prose. My preschooler likes picture walking through the pages and my elementary student is gleaning facts and nature study while having fun. It's a win-win-win!

While not a "living book" in the strict Charlotte Mason definition, this non-fiction title caught my daughters' attentions. The illustrations are what you'd expect from a mass produced series title and the text is informative. What I liked best, were the examples and non-traditional way the students in the book collected data. Not super inspiring, but when it comes to learning facts not a dry read either. :-)

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science - by Jeannine Atkins
Written in verse, the book is broken into three parts. The first section shares the story of Maria Merian who studied the life cycle of insects. The second section gives you a glimpse into Mary Anning's life and how fossil hunting was more than a pastime, but a livelihood. The final section, and our favorite, told of Maria Mitchell, a Quaker and astronomer who discovered a comet. For my budding scientist, this book was one we'll definitely cycle back to down the road. Giving biographical information via verse makes it a little difficult to list facts, but the author has graciously given further resources at the end of the book. Overall, this is an informative read and will surely whet the appetite of any child who enjoys science, biographies, or exploration.

For the grown-ups:

Ever since taking a college course on Plants & People, I've been drawn to books that tell the history behind the science of botany. This book does exactly that. How did the black eyed Susan come to be? Who first discovered the azalea and why? How was the Douglas pine named? Circumnavigate the globe with these botanists, adventurers, and plant enthusiasts. You will finish this book with a greater appreciation for common plants and those who brought them to our backyards. 
The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72- by Molly Peacock
I adore this book. While the personal life of Mary Delany is sad, her achievement is astounding. This book solidified my desire to one day see the V&A in London and simultaneously redefining the age range and scope of what it means to be in "one's prime". You will be inspired.
Lab Girl- by Hope Jahren
I have not yet read this title, but I'm moving up the hold's list at the library. [smile] It fits the type of science/biographies I enjoy and I have it on good authority (knitters never lie) that it's a fascinating. I can't wait to follow Jahren and her lab partner as they grow in friendship and peel back the layers of nature.
Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum- by Richard Fortney
This book perhaps pushes the envelope of nature study, and provides more of a history of archival and museum workings. Still, what happens to artifacts is as fascinating for me as their discovery. Fortney takes you behind the scenes, down into the bowels and forgotten stacks of the Natural History Museum in London. Confession: I have started this book twice, but have not finished it. It's not that it isn't incredibly intriguing it's that I've had young children and little sleep. This is on my summer list to revisit and complete!  
*While the book links direct you to Amazon, I read all of these books for free at my public library. :-)


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