The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
This enchanting retelling of an old fairytale will have you wishing for snow. It is the story of Vasya, a young girl living in the medieval Russian wilderness where winter rarely releases its grip on the land. She loves sitting by the fire with her siblings listening to their nurse’s old tales. As Vasya grows up, she finds that she has special powers that others do not and more and more, her beloved fairytales become reality. On top of all that, she must make a decision between marrying a man of her father’s choosing or entering a convent. This is my favorite book I read this year and I’m so excited that this will be a trilogy. The second book, The Girl in the Tower, is now available, although this book can thoroughly be enjoyed on its own.
The Nature Fix by Florence Williams
We all know that time spent in the outdoors makes us feel good, but could it be essential to our health? Florence Williams dives deep into the science of the effects of nature on the brain. She travels the world from Korea to Scotland to find ways that people use nature for healing and therapy. She finds that time spent in the outdoors can help people with depression, PTSD, ADHD, and many other physical and psychological ailments. And she has good news; it doesn’t take much time in the outdoors to experience these benefits.
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
For years, police in a small town in Maine had been looking for a thief. The thief was pillaging through cottages and cabins, never disturbing anything or hurting anyone, only taking things like books, food, and warm clothing. There was talk of a hermit who lived in the woods nearby, but no one had ever seen him or could figure out how he survived the harsh Maine winters. The story that follows is truly extraordinary. Christopher Knight left his home in 1986 to live in the solitude of the woods for 27 years before police arrested him for burglary. In those years he only ever saw a few people and didn’t say a word. After his arrest, he returned to society which had changed greatly over the years. All he wanted was to be completely alone, but is it possible in this day and age? Should he have just been left alone instead of being forced back into society? Michael Finkel brings Knight’s remarkable story to life and highlights not just the strangeness, but the humanity of this remarkable man.
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
The wilderness doesn’t always have to be in the woods or in the mountains. Sometimes it can be our own communities and neighborhoods. Brene Brown explains, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.” In her latest book, Brene Brown encourages us all to be our own true selves and to have the courage to stand alone when necessary. In this day and age, it is easy to stay within the comfort of our ideological bubbles, but Brown wants us to brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism to reach across ideological lines and challenge what we believe about others and ourselves. This is a timely call for civility when it feels like the world is full of chaos.
The Push by Tommy Caldwell
Tommy Caldwell is probably most famous for his 19 day climb up Yosemite’s 3000 foot vertical Dawn Wall in 2015. But his life and early climbing career is even more interesting than this seemingly impossible feet. He was raised by his mountain-guide, weight-lifting father and was taught to always push the limits to the max. Tommy became a climbing prodigy and won many competitions, often as the youngest climber. He was destined to become a great climber, but in his early twenties he suffered many tragedies. He travelled to Kyrgyzstan with a climbing team and was taken hostage by militants in the middle of a remote mountainous region. He later lost his index finger in a freak accident and his wife and main climbing partner, struggling to cope with the PTSD of their hostage situation, left him. But even with these obstacles, he kept pushing himself. This is a raw and thoughtful story of resilience, love, and determination.
There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk
When Swedish-born Linda Akeson McGurk moved to Indiana with her husband and two young children, she felt very different. She was the only one walking with a stroller in the cold winter weather, people even pulled over to ask if she needed a ride. In the summer she was fined for allowing her kids to swim in a nearby creek. This was much different than how she grew up in Sweden where parents let their babies outside in freezing weather to nap, as recommended by their doctors, and where children spent more time outside playing at school than in the classroom. McGurk wondered if the Swedish way of raising children would lead to better lives for her own girls, so she took them back to Sweden for six months to see for yourself. The differences between her old and new cultures are quite drastic and emphasize the need to get our children outside more, no matter the weather.
A Sideways Look at Clouds by Maria Mudd Ruth
Maria Mudd Ruth’s enthusiasm is contagious. She already got me to care about a silly little not-so-smart bird called a marbled murrelet in her book, Rare Bird. Now her latest book has me obsessed with clouds. Each chapter of the book takes a closer look at the ten words that are used most often to define clouds: a visible mass of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere above the earth. She breaks down what each of these words mean and makes the science easy to understand while also having a great sense of humor. She’s not afraid of asking the big questions, like why is the sky blue? She even gets her very own meteorologist from NOAA to answer all of her probing questions. I know I am a bit of a nerd, but you guys, this book about clouds is downright riveting and I could not put it down!
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
This is the story of an orphan boy named Weylyn Grey who was raised by wolves, can control the weather, and has a pet horned pig named Merlin. Need I say more? Weylyn’s story is told from the perspective of the people who knew him and were affected by his unusual presence. Never quite fitting into his surroundings, he moved around the country escaping messes he always seemed to get himself into. But no matter how people treated him, he always kept his optimism and eagerness to help others. This heart warming tale is a must read for anyone who has ever felt different or like the odd one out. Haven’t we all?