Books About Living More Closely to Nature

Posted by Lucas Kelly on 11/14/19 4:09 PM

Lowell School’s science teacher and outdoor educator, Lucas Kelly, has spent a lifetime exploring the out-of-doors and delving into what it means to live more closely to nature. He has compiled this list of books that will deepen your interest in the natural world and give you ideas for helping the children in your life connect with nature.

Recommendations from Lucas Kelly

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan

Is it possible to live in the middle of Manhattan and make zero impact on the environment? This is one family’s story. I love this book because it is an extreme experiment of sustainability in New York City, which is not an easy place to live without impact.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter

A gardening memoir set in Oakland. Carpenter recounts eating only the things she grew in a vacant urban lot. It makes you realize how difficult it is to eat in a fully sustainable way.

Sharing Nature with Children: The Classic Parents’ and Teachers’ Nature Awareness Guidebook by Joseph Cornell

A still-relevant, award-winning classic thoroughly updated with new activities. Wondering what to do with the kids outside? This book gives you clear, concise direction.

Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System by Jack Gilbert

Written by two scientists on the leading-edge of microbiome research. In this book you’ll learn the physical health benefits of exposing kids to nature.

The Natural Navigator: The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be Your Guide by Tristan Gooley

You don’t need a GPS to find your way. Gooley shows you how. This is a book for adults that has nuggets you can pull out to share with your kids. Learn about nature from someone who has spent countless hours outside observing nature.

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley

Outdoor Book of the Year, The Great Outdoors Awards 2015. If you liked The Natural Navigator, you’ll want to check out this book, too.

The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David George Haskell

Focusing on just one square meter of forest, Haskell brings the world of nature to life. Through the practice of observing nature up close, Haskell reveals the science of the seen and unseen. The ideas in this book can be easily translated into activities for kids.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

A memoir and investigation of what it takes to take a hyperlocal approach to food. Kingsolver and her family decide to live off of America’s food system grid in a rural area.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Based in research, this book explains how experiences in nature positively impact children’s development. Louv spends significant time addressing the benefits for children with ADD and ADHD.

The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv

Louv argues that you don’t have to dismiss technology to embrace nature. Living in the modern world means balancing our connection to technology with a connection to nature.

Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life by Richard Louv

Chock full of resources and ideas for anyone seeking a deeper connection to nature.

The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Spaces by Gary Paul Nabhan and Stephen Trimble

How wild places, wild creatures, and our childhood experiences shape our understanding of nature. The authors are terrific storytellers who describe their own childhood experiences in wild spaces and explain how these experiences shaped their lives. The authors are also naturalists, and research shapes their insights.

The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

There’s a whole world above us in the clouds, and Pretor-Pinney can tell you just about anything scientific you ever wanted to know about them.

Earth Education: A New Beginning by Steve Van Matre

One educator’s view on how to promote meaningful experiences in nature and live a life that lessens our collective impact on the planet. This is a philosophical book that would be of special interest to outdoor educators.

What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young

Not your average birder’s book. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and I could read it again and learn more every time. Young begins with the sounds that birds make and follows them to discover things in nature you would never know were there. His idea of creating a sit spot to make deep observations of nature is one I use with my students.


Books on Lucas’s Reading List

  1. Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney
  2. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  3. Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives and Save Theirs by Richard Louv
  4. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

Title image: ID 124653945 © Nattapong Wongloungud |

Looking for a school for your child?

Lowell School is an independent school in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, DC, that offers Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School programs. It offers a rigorous and hands-on curriculum that nurtures each child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, and supports the development of individual voice and self-reliance. For more information, please call 202-577-2000, email, or follow Lowell on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Topics: Reading and Books, Science, Nature, and Outdoor Education

Lucas Kelly

Written by Lucas Kelly

Lucas Kelly earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland and his MAT from the University of Maryland University College. Lucas started his teaching career at the Echo Hill Outdoor School and then became the director of the Voyagers’ Outdoor Program and science/math teacher at the Voyagers’ Community School in Eatontown, NJ. Lucas joined the Lowell School faculty in 2016.