Reading List


The nature strand is associated with the Stellar: ways of looking at the natural world as wild, unsettling, series of alien minds, something profoundly outside of the anthropomorphic. We're looking for encounters with nature that have something of the trippy or arcane about them.

The Seasons (1969) - David Cain


Album | Iconic haunted generation for-schools album, haunting seasonal poems over an unsettling experimental score. A good example of the improbably uncanny children's pastoral of the era. These poems are unbeatable for use in ritual, wonderful creepy stuff; I love to tune out while listening and let words wash over me. Look, I know everybody stans the Seasons, but it really is that good.

Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (2010) - David Abram

Book | Unread. "The shapeshifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in Abram's investigation. He shows that from the awakened perspective of the human animal, awareness (or mind) is not an exclusive possession of our species but a lucid quality of the biosphere itself - a quality in which we, along with the oaks and the spiders, steadily participate."

Abram was recommended (and paraphrased) by an author I like immensely, who turned out to be A Literal Fascist as well as a notorious community hazard. I hate when that happens! So I'm trying to pull together the pieces of what I liked in that person's writing, from checking out their original sources; Abram is basically a Western philosopher who is cribbing from Buddhism/animism a lot, and what I've read so far is quite mentally taxing and not as sprightly as my nameless author's retelling, but I'm going to keep with it once I'm back on my meds. I also have his "The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World" on my shelf.

The Plague Dogs (1977) - Richard Adams

Book | Unread, both book and film. Adams wrote Watership Down, that was adapted into a notoriously nasty kids cartoon. This is about two dogs that have escaped from a medical research facility, and are trying to get to safety while people who believe they carry disease are hunting them. It sounds very Us - very nature red in tooth and claw, plus children's stories that are in no way suitable for children - but also, I've just never figured out what the right mood for reading this is; I suspect there isn't one.

Rewild Youself (2018) - Simon Barnes

Book | Disliked extremely strongly. Self-satisfied, expensive, not-Stellar, insufficiently sensory, middle class and incurious. Do you know what is good and you will learn a lot from? My review of this terrible book.

Being a Beast (2016) - Charles Foster


Book | What is it like to be a swallow who can ride the winds or a fox who has a map in her nose? Non-fiction pondering on questions of that kind, including the author spending a bit of time living in a burrow and pretending to be a badger. Maybe you should try that, dear reader. Great read that asks us to consider nature as alien and strange, and thus rather a Stellar view of the wild. And sensuous; one to read when you are stuck indoors, and need to be reminded of the great aliveness of the natural world, the wetness of rain. I gave my copy to a friend, and I regret it. Foster namechecks some quite unsavory people in his acknowledgements (Kingsnorth & company again), but that doesn't diminish the power of the book.

H is for Hawk (2014) - Helen Macdonald


Book | Memoir about a woman who gets out of a depression by getting a goshawk. It's a good read, some of it about the alien perception of animals; but there's a lot of background here too on T.H. White (author of Sword in the Stone), which is also good general knowledge for the British tradition of pastoralism and exploring myths.

Complete works - Robert Macfarlane


Book | Macfarlane is an environmentalist and author who writes about place - the natural world, and its sense of presence. His first hit was Mountains of the Mind, about the draw of mountains; and he's followed it since with Underland, Landmarks, Wild Places. His Twitter is great; his books, I'm finding, are not hitting the spot I'm looking for. It's nature writing: descriptions of places and things seen, with something of a mechanical eye. For the time being, I don't recommend them unless you especially enjoy this genre.

After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene (2015) - Jedediah Purdy

Book | Unread. "begins with a history of how Americans have shaped their landscapes. He explores the competing traditions that still infuse environmental law and culture - a frontier vision of settlement and development, a wilderness-seeking Romanticism, a utilitarian attitude that tries to manage nature for human benefit, and a twentieth-century ecological view. These traditions are ways of seeing the world and humans' place in it. They are also modes of lawmaking that inscribe ideal visions on the earth itself. Each has shaped landscapes that make its vision of nature real, from wilderness to farmland to suburbs - opening some new ways of living on the earth while foreclosing others."

Watership Down (1978) - Rosen


Film | Classic example of the too-scary-for-children Haunted Generation trend, as well as a sombre and non-anthropomorphic vision of the natural world. Extremely good.

The Plague Dogs (1982) - Martin Rosen

Film | Unwatched. "An animated adaptation of Richard Adams' novel, about a pair of dogs (Snitter and Rowf) who escape from a research laboratory and try to survive in the wild with the help of a cunning fox (The Tod), while hunted as possible carriers of the bubonic plague.." Same author as Watership Down, so I'm sure this is bloody horrifying and not for bloody children. Still, nice apocalyptic landscape stuff. Probably. If I watch it.

Practice of the Wild (1990) - Gary Snyder

Book | Unread. Essays by an American environmentalist and Buddhist, who popularised the term "bioregional"