Miriam Darlington

An acclaimed writer and University academic is helping track down the nation’s favourite nature book.

Lecturer in English and Creative Writing Dr Miriam Darlington was part of a panel of experts given the job of narrowing down hundreds of nominations from the public to a shortlist of ten top titles. The quest to identify the UK’s best-loved book on wildlife or the outdoors is part of a wider Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded project called Land Lines: British Nature Writing, 1789-2014.

Launched today, a three-week poll on the AHRC website will give people a final chance to have their say, before the winning book is announced on the BBC’s Winterwatch at the end of January.

Dr Darlington is an authority on the subject, as the author of Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter (2012), as well as a regular Nature Notebook column for The Times. After an earlier career as a secondary school teacher, and the publication of a first book of poetry, Windfall, in 1998, her PhD took the form of an important ecocritical study of nature writing.

Her latest book, Owl Sense is set to be released by Guardian Faber in mid-February 2018. It will be serialised on BBC Radio 4 as Book of the Week from Monday 12 February, and sold in translation across Europe.

Dr Darlington, who is taking a sabbatical to continue her research, writing and impacts and promote Owl Sense, said: 

People turn to the comfort and inspiration of nature when times are tough. Nature books have always offered an inspiring way to connect with the wild environment, whether it’s through fiction, non-fiction, memoir, diaries or poetry. It was a privilege to see what people find important, memorable and inspiring in nature books. It showed how deeply people care.

‘These books are doing work that reconnects us, I believe; connects us to how to feel, and to see clearly what there is to be done to enjoy, appreciate and ultimately to save our cherished natural places and their wildlife.

’When the project was launched on the BBC’s Autumnwatch programme and in the October edition of BBC Wildlife Magazine, naturalist Chris Packham, musician and BBC 6 Music presenter Cerys Matthews and children’s author Julia Donaldson all helped to get the ball rolling with their own nominations. 

Members of the public named a total of 278 titles by 213 writers, and although many were published in the last decade, they spanned more than two centuries. 

Getty image of trees, forest, woodland 636753858

Vote for your favourite

The poll opens today (Thursday 4 January) and will close at midnight on Thursday 25 January.

To vote visit www.ahrc.ac.uk/favouritenaturebooks. You can also champion your favourite from the list on social media, using the hashtag #favnaturebook.

The shortlist

The Peregrine by J A Baker

Poems by John Clare

Common Ground by Rob Cowen

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Findings by Kathleen Jamie

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

The Natural History of Selborne by Gilbert White

Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson

Student writing in a workshop