Nature Study Reading Society
Book Group

The Nature Study Reading Society is devoted to reading and discussing an array of nature books. Book group discussions are generally held on the second Friday every other month from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. During COVID-19 we will be meeting virtually via Zoom, which is available on tablets, computers or smartphones, or even by telephone (without the video component).  We will reassess the format of these meetings in late fall. For more information, or to join the group contact [email protected] or call 804-262-9887 x275.


Book cover of Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane; a blue and white print depicts a forest opening into a clearingAugust 14, 2020 (Zoom)
by Robert Macfarlane
434 pages

Macfarlane explores place-words: terms for aspects of landscape, nature, and weather, drawn from dozens of languages and dialects of the British Isles.

Book cover for The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson; a photo taken from above shows blue waves crashing into rocksSeptember 11, 2020 (Zoom)
The Sea Around Us
by Rachel Carson
256 pages

Originally published in 1951, Carson’s book provides a timely reminder of both the fragility and the centrality of the ocean and the life that abounds within it.

Book cover of American Eden by Victoria Johnson; a painting of the Elgin Botanical Garden with flowers and medicine bottles superimposed in frontNovember 13, 2020 (Zoom)
American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic
by Victoria Johnson
480 pages

This groundbreaking biography tells the story of the physician who built America’s first botanical garden.



Book cover of Erosion by Terry Tempest Williams depicts a colorful collage of a tree in front of a white backgroundJanuary 8, 2021
Erosion: Essays of Undoing
by Terry Tempest Williams
335 pages

Williams sizes up the continuing assaults on America’s public lands and the erosion of our commitment to the open space of democracy.

Book cover of The Overstory by Richard Powers; illustrations of redwoods are layered in concentric circlesMarch 12, 2021
The Overstory
by Richard Powers
502 pages

The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is an impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a paean to the natural world.

Past Selections 

Book cover for "Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds" showing a large white egg in a small nest on a blue backgroundLife List: A Woman’s Quest for the Most Amazing Birds
by Olivia Gentile

A frustrated housewife sets out to see more bird species than anyone in history—and ends up risking her life again and again in the wildest places on earth.


Book cover for "Rain: A Natural and Cultural History" showing an umbrella shading the title text from stylistic rain
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
by Cynthia Barnett

It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world’s water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain.


Book cover for "The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers" showing an illustration detail of a roaring river and a photograph of a river deltaThe Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers
by Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle tells the epic story of America and its rivers, from the U.S. Constitution’s roots in interstate river navigation, the origins of the Army Corps of Engineers, the discovery of gold in 1848, and the construction of the Hoover Dam and the TVA during the New Deal, to the failure of the levees in Hurricane Katrina and the water wars in the west.


Book cover for "Braiding Sweetgrass" showing a braid of green sweetgrass on an off-white background
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert).


Book cover for "Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island" showing a fishing boat on blue ocean
Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island
by Earl Swift

Chesapeake Requiem is an intimate look at the island’s past, present and tenuous future, by an acclaimed journalist who spent much of the past two years living among Tangier’s people, crabbing and oystering with its watermen, and observing its long traditions and odd ways.


Book cover for "A Naturalist at Large: The Best Essays of Bernd Heinrich" showing a number of butterflies, eggs, leaves, and a yellow and black bird
A Naturalist at Large: The Best Essays of Bernd Heinrich
by Bernd Heinrich

From one of the finest scientist/writers of our time comes an engaging record of a life spent in close observation of the natural world, one that has yielded “marvelous, mind-altering” (Los Angeles Times) insight and discoveries.