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Appalachian Nature Fiction

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#Springathon involves nature writing. Nature fiction is not always as easy to find as nonfiction titles though. Here is a short list of some of the “nature novels” I’ve enjoyed. While the story itself is not necessarily about nature, the writing is vivid in bringing the nature surrounding people and events to life.

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Map of Appalachia. Click for map credit.

The Books

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Although a middle grades book, I highly recommend this story for the nature story within it–that of the herbs and medicinal plants the family collects and sells. Where the Lillies Bloom by Vera and Bill Cleaver.

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This novel brings to life the migration of the monarch butterflies. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

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Marshes and wetlands can be beautiful. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

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While this book focuses on the family of a coal miner, the surrounding nature is an integral part of the story. This is “the” classic of Appalachian literature. River of Earth: A Novel by James Still.  

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The Awakening Land trilogy covers the settling of Southeastern Ohio and include magnificent descriptions of the area. It is very good read as well. The Trees, The Forrest, and The Town all by Conrad Richter.

 

Like River of Earth, this book is not “about” nature, but due to work and way of life of the characters. a great deal of nature is included. Like Where the Lillies Bloom there is a good deal of discussion of medicinal plants, too. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and The Book Woman’s Daughter both by Kim Michelle Richardson.

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I wanted to include the Mitford book that introduces Lace Harper, for she earned money selling the most valuable plants growing in the area. Sadly, I couldn’t recall which book it was and, surprisingly, the internet to not give me that information. So, I’m linking to the first book in the huge, but wonderful, series. At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon.

Are you aware of other novels set in Appalachia with great nature writing in them? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

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Nature Writing: Springathon 2022–May 9 to May 22, 2022

This is my second year participating in Springathon! You can read last year’ announcement post or my Springathon reviews:

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (fiction) or A Furious Sky by Eric Jay Dolin (nonfiction)

My 2022 Reading Possibilities

I have picked up Diary of a Young Naturalist and read little bits here and there, but not the whole thing. And, yes, it was on last year’s possibilities list!

Four Gardens by Magery Sharp is from my favorite–Dean Street Press’s Furrowed Middle Brow collection. 

Recently, I did a post on Nature Books on my TBR–click the link to read it if you are looking for more book suggestions. Last year’s Springathon announcement post also lists several good books. The introductory video, the video below, and other videos of participating vloggers also have a wealth of book suggestions.

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Nature Books on my TBR

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I love nature. I do not spend enough time out of doors. Today I took a walk around the parking lot at work–a habit I have had for year. Usually at 3 pm I get up and do a lap around the parking lot. It was good to re-establish that habit on my new job. I took time to really LOOK at the sky, to see the overgrown field near the parking lot, to smell the fresh air. It’s the best kind of break. I also enjoy nature writing.  So here are a few of the nature books on my Goodreads TBR shelf.

I loved the author’s book Wintering: A Season With Geese and have been looking forward to this one. I will probably have to buy it though–hence the delay. The Eternal Season: Ghosts of Summers Past, Present and Future and The Seafarers by Stephen Rutt.

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The pretty cover of this book caught my eye. The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin.

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I so enjoyed the Hawk parts of H is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald that this title called to me. Goshawk Summer by James Aldred.

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I’ve always wanted to go to Maine. This book sounds so wonderful. A Year in the Maine Woods by Bernd Heinrich.

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I’ve always wished I hadn’t been too shy to take the bird watching class in college. I’ve signed up for a bird watching group, paid my fee, but was too shy to go. So, this book was obviously written for me. Field Notes From an Unintentional Birder by Julia Zarankin.

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This sounds so lovely I hope I can find it somewhere. On the Marsh by Simon Barnes.

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I’m embarrassed to say that I ordered this from the UK when it came out. It’s on the desk before me. I’ve barely cracked it open. I must read it. Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.

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This sounds wonderful. I’ve never lived on or near water so I’m fascinated. Life Between the Tides by Adam Nicolson.

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Fungi are the most interesting “life forms”–are they plants? They are nature at least. I went to a program at my local library a few years ago and learned even more about them. This book came out after that. I enjoyed the book The Mushroom Hunters, which I discovered in that program, and since have been looking for more very readable layman’s books on the subject. Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake.

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I started this years ago and was mesmerized, but then something happened and I got distracted and forgot it. I need to pick it up and finish it. I regret that I gave away the Young Reader’s Edition several years ago. It was fabulous. I still have the “grown up’s” version though. The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson.

How about you? Are you a birder? Do you garden? What nature books have you enjoyed? Leave me a comment or a link to your post(s).

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Nature Reading Challenge 2022

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This has been Challenge week here! I was happy to find each of them, but a Nature Reading Challenge really fits with my enjoyment of reading nature books. Thank you to blogger Gum Trees and Galaxies for hosting this one! And, thanks to blogger The Bookstop by Curly Geek for introducing me to it.  (Yes, I will make a list of all the challenges I mention this year–whether I participate or not).

Sign-up HERE please

There’s a fun bingo card to download, if you like, in this post.

What I Want To Read (so far):

I already plan to read another Stephen Rutt book, so there’s one–maybe two! Here is a link to my review of his book, Wintering.

The Seafarers came out in 2019, and The Eternal Season comes out on Kindle in May, in hardback late in the summer.

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In my recent post of Books I didn’t get to in 2021, I mentioned The Diary of a Young Naturalist as one I regretted not getting to. Since I own it, it will be a must-read this year for this challenge. How fun that this book is mentioned in the bingo card post linked above!

If you are new to nature reading, here are a books I recommend beyond Wintering, which I mentioned above.

That Quail, Robert  My mother read this aloud to us and I have reread it several times, but do not have a review of it to link to so the link is to Amazon.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Sound of A Wild Snail Eating

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Do you enjoy nature reading? Do you have favorite nature books? Leave me a comment or link to your own post–even you post for this or a similar challenge. Word-of-mouth (should that be “word of blog?”) is how most people learn of challenges and of good books!

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Review: Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison

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My Interest

I found this little gem while looking around for books short enough to finish for #Springathon, a nature book reading challenge I participated in May. I would love to do some walks in the countryside of England, Scotland, or Wales, if we are ever able to travel again, so I thought this book might help keep that hope alive. Happily, I was right–it did the job and did it well.

Thank you to blogger Lola Et La Vie for introducing me to this book. Won’t you be nice and click on the link and explore her blog?

The Story

[T]here are hips bright as blood, too, and beside the path a straggle of field mustard, most likely a farmland escapee, blooms yellow and incongruous against the grey January sky: I crush a little between my fingers for its peppery smell and wonder whether spring may not be so far away after all.

The Walks:

  • Wicken Fen in January
  • Shropshire in April
  • The Darent Valley in August
  • Dartmoor in October

I intended to read this one seasonally, but it was so good, and so short, I just kept reading. It is part memoir, part nature book, part walking-as-hobby book. The writing drew me in and let me feel the surrounding countryside as well as the rain. There were just enough personal memories and stories to make this a complete nonfiction “novella.”

The old drystone walls bounding the road where we walk are shaggy with moss and dog lichen and pinned with medals of pennywort and the delicate buttonholes of maidenhair spleenwort, all beaded silver with rain.

My Thoughts

Author Melissa Harrison, whose book At Hawthorn Time was shortlisted for the Costa Prize in 2015, write wonderful prose. Her descriptions of the surrounding environment are vivid and enticing. I am a little sad that I discovered her work nearly two seasons into my year of seasonal reading because her other books include 4 seasonal anthologies–what a treasure those must be. I hope to at least work in the Autumn volume this year.

Her writing is so well done that I had several new vocabulary words to learn. Two of them were:

  1. Cagoules: a lightweight, hooded, thigh-length waterproof jacket, essential for walking in the rain.

2. Tors: a hill or rocky peak–an interesting name for such a landmark.

There is also a helpful glossary in the back of the book with 100 words/phrases describing rain and another section with meteorological terms for rain–both of which I found fascinating.

My Verdict

4.0

A perfect little read for Novellas in November‘s nonfiction week–or maybe some year there will be a nature week?

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Review: The first of two books with the same title: Wintering. Stephen Rutt’s Wintering: A Season With Geese

My Interest

I started this year determined to read “seasonally”–winter books in winter, etc. I had encountered both of these books, and both resonated with me when I read about them. I tried the sample on Amazon for each–something I rarely do. I actually purchased both because I did not want to rush through either one. They are the first two of my “winter” books that I’ve finished.

Thanks to Liz Dexter’s review at Shiney New Books for bringing this book to my attention, Won’t you be nice and click to read her review, too?

“I find hope in the borderless world of birds.”

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The Story

Geese have become fascinating to me because for the 12 + years on my current job, a gaggle of geese has made our office parking lot, and the little fake pond by the Mercedes Benz dealership next door, it’s Springtime home. A goose sits on eggs most years in the same little island in the parking lot, it’s ground covering plants [what are they? vines? Not grass that’s for sure] must appeal to female geese. They walk around the parking lot, risk their lives crossing the street to Burger King and Wendy’s or follow the cul de sac to Buffalo and Wild Wings or Bob Evans. They do not have nice toilet manners, nor are they always nice to passing humans. But it is enjoyable to see them arrive and, especially, to arrive in the morning and find the mother is now on her nest.

Author Stephen Rutt says of his childhood: “I grew up awkward. Always unsure of my place in the scheme of things. Never sure what I was working towards. The world was a vast and perplexing and the temptation to retreat into a book was always strong. Getting into nature–in its broadest sense of the world around me–was a salve. (p. 129). He began bird watching–his father liked bird watching around their home in Suffolk. In time he says, “The quest becomes something bigger. A way of understanding the world around me. A way of understanding me” (p, 131).

For a year he spends his time studying geese from his new home in Dumfries and in the environs known to have geese making their annual stop in the UK while migrating. Later in the year, he teams up again with his father to search for certain elusive geese in the marshlands near their home and elsewhere in the U.K,

My Thoughts

Educator Charlotte Mason championed educating only with living books, not textbooks. This is certainly a living book. the geese, their markings, their habitats, and habits are made real by Rutt’s prose.

The neck collar meets at the front, like a pearly white, expensive smile. It carries a clarity about it. The sharper goose” (p. 126).

I love some of his descriptions of the scenery in which he finds the geese, too.

I had never seen ice on a beach. The shingle solid, each individual pebble delicately thorned with hoar frost (p. 149)

Possibly this one entranced me because I’ve never been to “shingle” beach with rocks–only those with and. The picture he paints is awe-inspiring.

The marsh is bleached with ice” (p. 150) I can just picture. I’ve seen marshland. I know its look and its feel. “Bleached” is the very word needed for this description.

This is a delightful book. It may be a little slow for today’s kids to enjoy as a read aloud, but I would try it. Maybe in the Spring when the geese come back. Look for them at nearby ponds or lakes or even at the shopping center–they seem to like those as well as my office parking lot. Maybe throw in a viewing of Fly Away Home, a movie Stephen enjoyed as a child. Regardless, read this one yourself if nothing else. It is beautiful.

My Verdict

4.5

Wintering: A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt