Gum Trees and Galaxies

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Okay this is a bit of an impromptu challenge. I had no intention of hosting a reading challenge and I certainly have not given any time to planning and setting up. The first day of a new year is a totally inappropriate time to launch a challenge but at Karen’s, (Living on the Downs), suggestion I have decided to host an environmental themed reading challenge for 2020. Karen also pointed out that 2020 was the international year of plant health and the issue of climate change is a major one so it seemed appropriate to start a challenge that encouraged connection with and knowledge about our natural world. To be honest it is a bit self indulgent since I read a lot of natural history related non fiction any way and while I was looking for a reading challenge for this year I noticed that there were no challenges that seemed specifically related to the environment or nature. The closest thing I found was Emily who hosts a nature book club on twitter and who puts an extended nature themed reading list on her blog; groweatgift check it out, it is a great resource. I am not a big fan of twitter but I am thinking of joining in on Emily’s nature book club

So here goes:

Lets call the challenge the Gaia 2020 reading challenge, (really not sure about that name but it evokes all the themes I guess). The parameters are simple, read one or more books that have a nature, climate or environment theme of some sort. To really get back to nature read at least one book a month on this theme. You don’t have to blog to participate, you can set up a Gaia reading challenge shelf on goodreads and link to it. If you blog, write a post about the challenge and what you plan on reading and leave a link to your blog post here in the comments, you can link to your goodreads shelf as well in the comments. The challenge button above is optional, if you want to grab the button just copy and paste the code into your post.

I would love discussion and sharing of ideas, given that climate can be a contentious subject I just want to state that I respect the views of everyone and just want to fascilitate respectful sharing and understanding.

Books can either be non-fiction or fiction, so for example thrillers with an environmental angle like those of Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) or say James Patterson’s Zoo could be counted, or maybe some of John Wyndam’s classic science fiction, or a classic nature novel like Watership Down. Goodreads is full of lists with an environmental theme including a cli-fi (climate fiction) list, I only just discovered that such a genre exists.

This is meant to be flexible and inclusive. Non-fiction could be anything that touches on nature, environment or climate. Emily’s nature book club list is one good stating point or Goodreads has plenty of lists on the environment and sustainability. Re-reads are okay, as are double ups with other challenges. The only restriction books must be read between the 1st of January 2020 and the 31 of December 2020

I will set up an end of each month post that you can link to for any reviews you might write. I may be the only person indulging in this reading challenge and that is okay but if you would like to join in just leave me a comment with a link. I will try and put up some additional themes each month but for now this is just to get started. Depending on how this goes I will put up an end of month post you can link your posts or goodreads reviews to, if there is no interest I might just abandom the idea, but will see how things go. You can join the challenge at any time during the year.


My favourite read of 2019: Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking can save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta would be perfect for this challenge. This is an amazing book, fizzing with ideas and philosophical challenges to our ways of thinking, this is a book that embracesses complexity and challenges us to think anew about the world and the challenges we face. Intelligent and stimulating, filled with insight and delivered entertainingly and with humour, definetly my favourite read of 2019 and one I intend to read again. It touches on more than just environment but then our world is complex and not easily reduced to one issue, everything is interconnected and that is just one of the take aways I got from this text, the importance of listening to everyone and humility were others. I highly reccomend this book. From the blurb at Goodreads:

This remarkable book is about everything from echidnas to evolution, cosmology to cooking, sex and science and spirits to Schrödinger’s cat.
Tyson Yunkaporta looks at global systems from an Indigenous perspective. He asks how contemporary life diverges from the pattern of creation. How does this affect us? How can we do things differently?
Sand Talk provides a template for living. It’s about how lines and symbols and shapes can help us make sense of the world. It’s about how we learn and how we remember. It’s about talking to everybody and listening carefully. It’s about finding different ways to look at things.
Most of all it’s about Indigenous thinking, and how it can save the world.

The first two books on my list for the Giaia themed read are both gifts from my daughter, one deals with the intersection between nature and mental health and the other is an international best seller I have been meaning to read for awhile:


From Goodreads: The Wild Remedy: How nature mends us – a diary by Emma Mitchell 4.30  ·   Rating details ·  204 ratings  ·  43 reviews Emma Mitchell has suffered with depression – or as she calls it, ‘the grey slug’ – for twenty-five years. In 2003, she moved from the city to the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens and began to take walks in the countryside around her new home, photographing, collecting and drawing as she went. Each walk lifted her mood, proving to be as medicinal as any talking therapy or pharmaceutical.
In Emma’s hand-illustrated diary, she takes us with her as she follows the paths and trails around her cottage and further afield, sharing her nature finds and tracking the lives of local flora and fauna over the course of a year. Reflecting on how these encounters impact her mood, Emma’s moving and candid account of her own struggles is a powerful testament to how reconnecting with nature may offer some answers to today’s mental health epidemic. While charting her own seasonal highs and lows, she also explains the science behind such changes, calling on new research into such areas as forest bathing and the ways in which our bodies and minds respond to plants and wildlife when we venture outdoors.
Written with Emma’s characteristic wit and frankness, and filled with her beautiful drawings, paintings and photography, this is a truly unique book for anyone who has ever felt drawn to nature and wondered about its influence over us.


The second book is the international best seller The Hidden Life of Trees: What they feel, how they communicate by Peter Wohlleben, from Goodreads:

In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.

Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.

Hope this challenge encourages us to discover more about our beautiful planet.

Happy 2020 reading!

25 thoughts on “2020 Nature/environment reading challenge

    1. I did really enjoy it, did have to stop and think about what I was reading a lot but that was part of the pleaure, not that many books make you stop and think, or maybe I am just not reading the right books. Happy reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Haha, so glad you took up the challenge! You can count me in. I might not manage one book a month but it is important to understand the world we live in. Good idea to include some sources for finding books and I do like the name “Gaia 2020 Reading Challenge”. I do have Watership Down, but after that I’ll be looking in the library.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I will join, having let go of hosting my own “Reading Naturally” challenge this year. The biggest problem I foresee will be wanting to rush out and buy/beg/steal/borrow the books that other folks are reading! Sand Talk and The Wild Remedy sound amazing! I will pass on the trees book — because I already own it. (Ha!) Anyway, a sign-up post will follow pretty soon. Thanks for hosting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a good idea. I’m going to do my best.
    A couple of years ago, I read Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver. The book is fiction but with a climate change theme. This winter in England has been very wet (even by English standards) while fires have raged in drought- striken Australia. This so much echoed the final senario painted in this book, it was scarey! She was criticised I think for the book being a bit trivialised by the slightly chic-lit storyline. But actually, I strongly disagree. If you want to get a message to climate change sceptics, what better way to do it. It’s not by any means her best (The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer (the latter also with an environmental theme) but it’s an interesting read from an author who trained as a biologist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome and I have been meaning to read Flight Behaviour, I have really enjoyed some of Kingsolver’s other books and she does write wonderfully on the theme of nature. I follow a few British blogs and I always look enviously at the grey skies and rain. Happy reading and I hope you get some bright dry days.


      1. Thank you, Shsron. We spend winters here in Spain if possible because the grey skies are so depressing. Here there is more sun but it’s still cold at night and just pleasantly warm in the day. But we will be back in England in May. Its my favourite month. We live in apple orchard country so full of blossom. I have friends in Oz and I hope to get there one day. Thanks for your interest in our walk. X

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi,
    Was blog hopping and stumbled onto your place. Would love to join in on this challenge. I’ve got a few books listed and bookmarked a few sights that have this kind of book. I’ve also posted at my blog about this challenge. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ahhhh…Just the challenge for this nerdy reader…Haha…I have just finished Climate Justice by Mary Robinson…Lots of facts which gave me hope and made me think…I loved it…The first book I have ever written in and put post-it tags in and will be a read again and again book…I love trees so will look up the tree book…Thank you for the follow, Sharon I look forward to seeing the response to this challenge 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

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