I don’t know about you guys, but I absolutely love winter and the possibilities it presents. It’s a time of opportunity – of reflection – of being baked hermit crab pancakes that never leave the house because they have a zillion books to read! *insert dancing red dress emoji* That’s me and I’m not ashamed, not even a little bit.
“Do we know of any other so silent and sudden a change?” – Thoreau, on snowstorms (if only my Facebook feed could be this optimistic)
The thing is, this season is the perfect time for self-care and incremental self-improvement. Winter allows so much time and opportunity for us to reflect on who we are, what we have yet to do and where we want to be in our lives. I do this in part by reading books. Lots of different books. It’s like each one plants a seed in my brain for a new conversation I want to have, or a thing I want to do for myself or someone else. And sometimes you find that one book that wacks you blind in the face like a duh moment from hell. We need to experience all of those things.
I’ve assembled this list of books based on ones I’ve read in the past 5-ish years that have really left a mark on me. Books 18-27 are ones on my winter reading list that I have come across through various portals – mostly Instagram, and the slightly invasive yet never off “Related to Items You’ve Viewed” slider on Amazon. So please, if you have an incredible book suggestion, share it in the comments! (Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and buy something I’ll get like 4 cents for it.)
1. Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting by Thomas D. Seeley
Bee Hunt– WAIT. What? My initial reaction to this book title was one of intrigue and pure disbelief that people actually hunt bees. But they do (in a very peaceful, bee-worshipping way, of course!) Bee hunting, or bee lining, is a recreational sport that has been enjoyed by people for thousands of years, reveled over by Thoreau, and totally something I’m going to start doing when winter’s over (major, major *nerd alert*). And it’s totally something you could do, too. Tom Seeley teaches us exactly how to build cheap bee-catching equipment, how to trick and catch bees, and track them to their nests scavenger-hunt style. The whole point of bee hunting is the thrill of finding their homes and mapping out the locations of your local wild beehives – no bees harmed in the process.
2. The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray
This is a super political read but it’s one of my favorite “food movement” books. Janisse Ray has a very unique, poetic writing style that she wields fiercely and straight from her heart. She tells you exactly like it is. And in this fascinating book she weaves stories of heirloom seeds that have been saved (and rediscovered) by generations of families. The stories are equally informative as they are heartwarming.
3. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
In Liz’s latest, she describes creativity, and our ability to be creative, in a way I’ve never heard or even considered before. Without spoiling it for you, the jist is that creativity can be transferred between people – that it arrives at opportune moments in a tangible form – and when it does, we need to be ready and seize the moment. If we don’t, someone else will. Fascinating book. It also made me laugh out loud, always a plus.
This is the ultimate new-age “hippie” health guide for those in pursuit of a holistic life. This book will inspire you to cook and bake things and ferment things and question things you never even considered before. Who doesn’t love a good personal challenge at the height of a new year?
This book should be required reading for everyone from the conventional monocropper to the backyard organic gardener. Gary eloquently describes the effects that climate change is having on our soils, and details very specifically how we can adopt tactics from desert farmers to save our precious water. These steps can even be implemented in our own backyards! If you’re looking for a practical gardening book this winter, definitely put this one on your list.
6. Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life by David Perlmutter, MD
A MUST READ for anyone who eats food. So, you, right? Dr. Perlmutter provides ample amounts of evidence that the health of our brains is directly correlated to the health of our guts, and most specifically, the microbial life within our guts. This book is of special interest to me because I am so fascinated with soil microbiology, and read this book only to realize that our own stomachs are no different than the soil we grow our food in. I read this and it has inspired me to take great steps to enhance my physical health and ensure the stability of my mental health in the future.
7. A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams by Michael Pollan
Not just for architecture majors. Michael Pollan, who is absolutely one of my favorite writers by the way, describes to us how he built a cabin in the woods and the fire inside of him that led him to do so. It is an eloquent read and will speak to your off-grid, woodland fairy soul.
8. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
The reason I love this book so much is because of the completely random (but beyond useful!) information I learned from it. Alan Weisman is a great writer and weaves a ton of antecdotes, snippets, facts, events, stories, etc. into a call for action to save our planet. It’s a brilliant read that I’ve gone through twice and will definitely revisit again.
9. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This is literally my favorite book of all time. For anyone that has loved another person, has loved and lost, and for anyone who enjoys literature completely saturated with emotions and symbolism and motif – this book is for them.
“How long can we keep up this goddamn coming and going?” he asked. “Forever,” he said. Best line ever.
10. Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
“All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better.” That line has never spoke to my soul more than the day I accidentally found it on the dunes of Lake Michigan. My dear friend Rori introduced me to Mary Oliver on a camping trip in Northern Michigan and she stuck like glue. It’s poetry, by the way.
11. The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka
If I had the opportunity to meet just three people in past or present this man would be one of them. Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese farmer who spent 65 years championing his idea of “do-nothing farming” and revegetating desert land with clay seed balls. The One-Straw Revolution is less about methodology and more covers his theories of living simplistically and in harmony with nature. If you live stressed and need some chill-out inspo, read this one.
12. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of my top two favorite childhood books that I have revisited in my adult life and I love it just as much as I did when I was nine years old. Published in 1911, the language is refined – and quite a charm if I do say! A selfish brat of a girl befriends a whiny boy while important life lessons are revealed to them in a beautiful, secret garden. It’s an absolute delight of a story.
13. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
If you’re looking for sound, professional advice on how to hike the Appalachian Trail… don’t read this book. If you are looking for something to die laughing over, absolutely read this book. I find Bill Bryson charming and authentic and his accord of hiking the AT is nothing short of brutally honest and endearing.
14. The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology by Paul Radin
This book is a compilation of actual Native American trickster stories that I read in a mythology class in college (best class I ever took, by the way). These stories were passed down and collected over the course of thousands of years. Some of them are so outrageous they will make you laugh out loud, and reveal to us how similar people always have been and always will be.
15. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda
A legendary work of fiction in Native American literature. It is not “a book about tripping” but rather, Carlos Castaneda’s view of the world through the eyes of Don Juan and his meeting with Mescalito. The man has an imagination of a lifetime if he’s never actually taken mescaline. Regardless, I will be revisiting this book again soon, I love it that much.
16. The Future of Life by Edward O. Wilson
This is a smart book that will make you think. Written by the “father of biodiversity” and an absolute gem of a person – you can watch him in TED talk action here. Very biology-driven and fact-forward so if you love learning about different types of animals, bacteria, landforms, etc. and how they function in the ecosystem, this is the book for you.
17. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
The most eye-opening book I’ve read about the horrific treatment of women living in the third world- maybe the most eye-opening book I’ve ever read about anything. It certainly isn’t fun to read, but I believe it’s truly necessary, if anything, to make us sit back and realize gratitude for our near-perfect, privileged lives. There is a lot of criticism against the author, Kristof, but most of it is hogwash criticism in my opinion. I dare you to read this one.
Now for my winter reading list….
18. If You Find this Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers by Hannah Brencher
If you’ve ever received a random letter in the mail with no return address it was probably from me. I love writing letters to people – even people I never have and never will meet – and adore that this woman made a personal pursuit dedicated to the effort. I’m already inspired.
19. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
A classic in the world of environment/nature books. Published in 1949, it’s a collection of essays written by the author about humans and nature living in harmony with one another. I’m under the impression everyone should read this book.
20. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
Okay, so it’s questionable this book might be “life-changing,” but it’s on my list nonetheless. I’ve read several other novels by Alice Hoffman and enjoyed them, so this one seems like it would be a good, fun read. “The Dovekeepers weaves the story of four different women who–” Done. I’m sold.
21. Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice
Featuring locally-grown, nutrient-dense, natural foods and the traditional ways we have cooked them throughout human history. I gather this is lore weaved with history weaved with recipes that have been passed down and enjoyed for a very long time. Another escape to help us figure new ways to reconnect with our natural roots.
Everyone’s talking about this one. My thought process is, maybe if I read this book, I’ll find some sort of joy or self-fulfillment in cleaning all my shit up off the floor. Or maybe not. I’ll let you know how it goes.
23. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I just purchased this book because I feel it will be one I refer back to for the rest of my life. There are many inspiring, smart, earthly women that recommend this book. I’m not one for shoving away emotions and I think this book caters to that – that we are all wolves inside and our wolves deserve to be nurtured and celebrated. Nothing crazy about that in the least.
I love Brene Brown. I mean, I loooove her. Listening to her audiobook, The Power of Vulnerability, taught me more about myself and the habits of humans in general than anything I’d ever watched or read or listened to before. It also helped me change a lot of things about myself. I’m looking forward to what this book also offers in the realm of self-improvement.
25. The Earthwise Herbal Repertory: The Definitive Practitioner’s Guide by Matthew Wood
Matthew Wood, renowned herbalist, writes his most practical cross-reference guide on plant medicine. It just came out in November and I can’t wait to crack open a copy! If you’re enamored with plant medicine like I am, I think this book would get a ton of use in your home.
26. Moon Time: Harness the Ever-Changing Energy of your Menstrual Cycle by Lucy Pearse
It’s only in my very recent life where I’m exploring the idea of my period being a sacred time to celebrate my body and everything it’s capable of. I was never taught to appreciate the way my body functions, less how to actually take care of myself and nurture myself during our times of transition and change. I think we (men and women) all need to embrace the fact that there’s nothing gross about a period. Period. And as women, encourage ourselves to recognize and appreciate its very deep meaning.
27. A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans
I can’t remember how I heard about this book, but it’s been on my list for awhile because, well, dogs. Who doesn’t love dogs! This account is a true story of a wild wolf living in Juneau, Alaska, and how he came to live in harmony with the humans and domesticated canines of the town. There are reviews that this is the best man-animal species gap book written as of late.
I sincerely hope this reading list has intrigued you in some way – or maybe even inspired you to get out of your reading rut! We all read books for different reasons, whether it be to learn something new, expand our knowledge on a subject, to get lost in a story, I could go on. Regardless of why you like to read, force yourself to look for meaning and purpose when you do. A person writes words for a reason, and you actively choose to read them for a different one. Peace & love.