Best Books for Nature Journaling

What is your favorite nature journaling related book?  Do you use books that don’t have ‘nature journaling’ explicitly in the title?  Join Marley and me for this episode of “The Nature Journal Show” where we share the best books for nature journaling.

The subject of nature journaling is quite the multi-disciplinary one.  Natural history, ecology, art technique, mindset, and many other areas of study combine to make this unique subject.  Which categories are most important, are up to you.  But if you are looking for a place to get started in terms of resources, check out our list below.  We include some of the best books for nature journaling that have many of our fellow journalers going ‘Aaaaah!’*

*A quick note before we begin: Please don’t go out and buy all these books!  Please be selective – not each book will be everyone’s cup of tea.  Check your local library for hardcopies and audiobooks (or befriend a librarian).  Check your child’s school library and have them borrow books for you (hey, worth a shot!).  See if there are nearby nature journalers who might want to share books.  Ask in the online community to see if anyone is getting rid of any nature journal books and is looking for a new home for them.  Who knows, we may even start a traveling book collection or a nature journalers’ library someday!

In addition to listing the books we have also included links to many of them in case you want to buy them. The amazon links are affiliate links so we will get a small percentage if you use the link for a purchase without any extra cost to you. This helps support the Nature Journal Show. Where possible we have included the links to the author’s websites so they get the most benefit from the purchase.

Check out our list by categories:

Best Nature Journaling Specific Books

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws

How to Teach Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren

Keeping a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson

The Curious Nature Guide by Clare Walker Leslie

A Life In Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal by Hannah Hinchman

Best Natural History and Ecology books for Nature Journalers

The Diversity of Life by E.O. Wilson a great book about the evolution of biodiversity from one of the foremost naturalists and biologists of today.

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley

Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering Moss, both by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Roadside Geology of Northern California

A Tracking Companion by Marley Peifer

When You Are Lost by Joy Colangelo

The California Field Atlas by Obi Kaufmann

Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel

How to Identify Plants by H.D. Harrington

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

The Total Skywatcher’s Manual

Secrets of the Oak Woodlands by Kate Marianchild

Best Field Guides for Nature Journalers

What it’s Like to be a Bird by David Allen Sibley. An amazing new look into bird’s lives

Sibley Birds East by David Allen Sibley

Sibley Birds West by David Allen Sibley

Reptiles of the Galapagos

Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals

The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws

Mammals of the San Francisco Bay Region by William D. and Elizabeth Berry

The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Other Nature Art Forms

California’s Wild Edge by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder. A beautiful collection of landscape prints, poems, and history of California’s coast.

Also by Gary Snyder and Tom Killion:  The High Sierra of California

Planet Ocean, Dancing to the Fossil Record by Ray Troll. Beautiful illustrations and stories about paleontology and fossils. A fun read and amazing pastel art work.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Frontiers of Enchantment: An Artist’s Adventures in Africa

Best Art Technique and Sketching Books for Nature Journalers

Rosalie Haizlett’s new book: Watercolor in Nature (coming November 2)

Cyclopedia Anatomicae: More Than 1,500 Illustrations of the Human and Animal Figure for the Artist

Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Dibujar la Naturaleza by Juan M. Varela Simó. One of the best books about nature sketching in Spanish. Many examples of nature journal type approaches.

Alaskan Field Sketches by William D Berry

Art Forms in Nature by Ernst Haeckel

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde

The Restless Kingdom: An Exploration of Animal Movement

Drawing Ideas by Mark Baskinger and William Bardel

Artist’s Sketchbook by Cathy Johnson

The Sierra Club Guide to Painting in Nature by Cathy Johnson

Painting Nature’s Details in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson

Botanical Drawing in Color by Wendy Hollender

The Complete Book of Textures for Artists by Steven Pearce, Denise J. Howard, and Mia Tavonatti

Urban Watercolor Sketching by Felix Scheinberger

Drawing Birds by John Busby

The Field Guide to Drawing & Sketching Animals by Tim Pond

The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals

How to Draw Animals, Jack Hamm

The Art of Animal Drawing by Ken Hultgren

Bird Anatomy for Artists by Natalia Balo

Capturing the Essence Techniques for Bird Artists by William T. Cooper

Art of Field Sketching by Clare Walker Leslie

Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson

Drawing and Painting from Nature by Cathy Johnson

Educational Coloring Books (which you can also use for line work inspiration)

The Botany Coloring Book

The Marine Biology Coloring Book by Thomas M. Niesen

A Field Guide to Butterflies Coloring Book by Roger Tory Peterson et al

National Parks Coloring Book by Peter F. Copeland

State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book by Annika Bernhard

Mindset and Motivation

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Nature Poetry

The Home Place by Dr J Drew Lanham

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Please add your own best books for nature journaling to the comments below!  Happy Reading!

Using My Words at International Nature Journaling Week

7 days.  7 themes.  When Bethan Burton announced the dates for the International Nature Journaling Week she created, I could hardly wait!  This was my first year attending it, and it left my naturalist soul humming.

First of all, Bethan made it so that the week was information-dense without being overwhelming; 2 workshops a day was the perfect amount to leave us satiated and yet still hungry for the next day.  Second, having themes on each day allowed us to sink more deeply into those themes – words, pictures, numbers, “I notice”, “I wonder”, “it reminds me of”, and mindset – and process them more thoroughly.  Moving at this pace allows us to integrate each piece more fully into our nature journaling practices.

Within all the richness of topics and techniques, two workshops stood out the most to me: Emilie Lygren’s “Words that Connect, Words that Shine” and Marley Peifer’s “Unlock the Power of Curiosity in Your Nature Journal”.

Yvea's questions
All the questions!

Words, Words, Words

Why those two?  Words have long been my “bread-and-butter”.  Nature journaling itself is only a few years new for me, but I have been playing with and exploring words since I was 3 years old.  For many years, words were my only friends.  And yet in spite of my deep connection to words, there is still room for me to grow.

Emilie’s workshop helped me rediscover my poetry roots – this time with a nature journal bent.  It turns out that the core nature journaling prompt, INIWIRMO, is actually perfect for starting a poem!  “I notice” can help us to look closer and truly experience the details of our subject. “I wonder” helps us want to know more, and that same sense of wonder is why we fall in love with our subject and with nature.  “It reminds me of” brings in the power of memory and, with it, connection.  Of course these would be the perfect recipe for poetry!

Once you’ve made those observations and insights about your subject, you can combine them or reorder them to create a poem:

Yvea's sundew poem
My poem about a Drosera plant

If words are my “bread-and-butter,” questions are my “juice”.  Like Fiona Gillogly, I can fill whole pages with questions, and doing so only increases my energy level.  So when Marley offered new ways to examine and expand our questions, well, it felt a little like being offered nature candy.  Playing with questions makes our thinking more flexible and stretches our brains beyond their previous boundaries.  By doing that at every level and at every part of the nature journaling experience, to quote Amaya Shreeve, there can be “no end to the wonder.”

Marley's question techniques
Marley’s 10 techniques for expanding your questions

What Now?

Now that International Nature Journaling Week is done, it feels strange to go back to “Reality”, where we  as a community don’t see each other twice per day or talk deeply about these topics.  It would be easy for me to lose my motivation in light of the “post-adrenaline let down” feeling… But instead, I am reviewing my notes, adding things I thought of afterward, and looking forward to Marley’s next video – which is all about diving deeper into questions.  I am keeping my brain and all the teachings from the past week active.  Keeping that growth mindset.

For more information on “bread-and-butter”, “juice”, growth edge, and growth mindset, check out Marley’s class “Unlock Your Potential”, found here.