The very best of British and Irish nature writing selected by the natural history writer Patrick Barkham.
The landscapes of Britain and Ireland, together with the creatures and plants that inhabit them, have penetrated deep in our collective imagination. From Gilbert White and Dorothy Wordsworth to Laurie Lee and Nan Shepherd, literature inspired by the natural world has become an integral part of our shared identity, and shaped our relationship with the islands we call home.
In The Wild Isles, Patrick Barkham has gathered together a wide array of the very best of British and Irish nature writing, characterized by an arresting diversity of moods and voices. His choices are arranged under themes that range from birds, woods and coastlines to childhood, the seasons and urban nature, and juxtapose extracts from much-loved classics with passages by contemporary writers such as Robert Macfarlane, James Rebanks and Helen Macdonald. Here the reader will find joyful celebrations of landscape and the wildlife it nurtures, probing explorations of the environmental problems facing us today, as well as the fresh and vital perspectives of writers from underrepresented backgrounds. 'If British and Irish nature writing is to grow and endure,' writes Barkham in his introduction, 'it must be diverse, complex, multi-faceted and dynamic, and relevant to everyone who lives on this land.'
Encompassing the bleak heights of the Cairngorms, the ancient woodlands of Essex, the storm-lashed islands of Ireland's west coast and the lush fields of Devon, The Wild Isles highlights nature's capacity to terrify and to delight, to soothe and to heal, to surprise, inspire and bring wonder.
'To successfully combine this kind of travel writing and natural history with theories about cultural history requires accessible, rhythmic prose and a genial narrative voice, and [...] Barkham has both' Independent, on Coastlines.
'"Every day," writes Barkham, "there is something surprising, joyful and new to be found beside the sea." The same might be said of many pages of his book. Delightful' Sunday Telegraph, on Coastlines.
'Barkham's best chapters made me want to drop everything and go there. An intriguing, cerebral guidebook' The Times on Coastlines.
'Brimming with nature, this is a fitting tribute to the strangeness and beauty of our British isles' Financial Times, on Islander