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!

The Nature Journal Club: Pencil Miles and Chill with Yvea

The Pencil Miles and Chill gatherings have become a mainstay of the nature journal club during 2020. Yvea Moore will tell the origin story of the gathering in this conversation. We will also learn the main benefits of nature journaling community, tips for nature journaling beginners, and more!

What are “Pencil Miles”?

In the first place let’s define Pencil Miles. In essence, it is a phrase that emphasizes quantity over quality. Does that sound backwards? As a matter of fact, focusing on quantity over quality is one of the most powerful things you can do for any practice. In nature journaling and art for example, too much focus on the quality of your picture or page can lead to many bad habits. In contrast, If you focus on drawing a lot instead of making perfect drawings you will end up making better drawings. The expression “Pencil Miles” has become a neat way to summarize this concept for members of the nature journaling community. For other examples of the nature journal club’s specific lingo check out this post. Here is an example of a page from Yvea’s journal showing her putting in some serious miles. an example of copious pencil miles in the nature journal of Yvea who is an important member of the nature journal club

Origins of the Pencil Miles and Chill Meetup

The first seed of this community gathering was planted by Akshay and Gargi during the beginning of the pandemic. Gargi created a google doc where the nature journaling community could self-organize virtual meetings. Individuals could offer to host their own online gatherings using different platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, etc. Community members offered classes about different nature journaling subjects. Interestingly, some of the most popular were just free-from meetings where everyone could work on their own nature journal ideas and homework.

Activity on the spreadsheet began to lose steam around the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, Yvea had an idea during one of Brian Higginbotham’s Great Valley Nature Journal Club sessions. Brian asked people to write down their intentions for July. Yvea’s intention was finishing some of her nature journal pages. She decided to offer a space where others could do the same and could support and encourage each other. This evolved into her offering a weekly meetup for people to hang out and work on their nature journal pages. Pencil Miles and Chill was born.

What is Pencil Miles and Chill all About?

The Pencil Miles and Chill meetup only has one rule: be kind to each other. For the most part it is just a consistent time and (virtual)place for people to be together and work on nature journaling. There does not have to be a focus or a topic, instead everyone can work on their own project. Conversation is natural and sharing is encouraged but people can also just focus on their own work. For the most part it is like a virtual study hall for nature journalers. One last point about this group is the amazing inclusiveness and feeling of support that it offers. This is something that people in the nature journal club love about what Yvea is offering.

Top Benefits of Pencil Miles and Chill
  1. Providing community: One of the main benefits that people get from Pencil Miles and Chill and the Nature Journal Club Facebook in general is a sense of community. This was especially helpful during the isolating times of quarantine.
  2. Conversation: One specific aspect of community that people benefit from is conversation. Talking is fun and also allows for the sharing of ideas. This can keep us motivated as we nature journal.
  3. Providing consistency: Having 2 times a week that you know you will be nature journaling helps make it a habit.
  4. Technical support: When you are struggling with a specific issue you can bring it up and get ideas from other nature journalers.
  5. A place to relax: There are so many structured online classes for nature journaling that people sometimes get overwhelmed. Pencil Miles in contrast felt like a place you could relax into your own rhythm.
  6. The coveted book list: If I told you then it wouldn’t be coveted anymore. You will have to join Pencil Miles to find out 🙂 You can find out about the next Friday or Saturday session here.
Some of Yvea’s Tips for Nature Journaling Beginners
  1. Go easy on yourself.
  2. Take a break if you need to.
  3. How to not get intimidated by your journal or full page. Don’t worry about not filling a full page every time.
  4. Try a smaller sketchbook if you need to.
  5. Draw on lined paper. It makes you not worry about having precious paper.
  6. Find the things that motivate you. Find your “juice.” For more about “juice” and other mindset tips Yvea recommends looking at this mindset video I made.

Check out this pile of Yvea’s nature journals!A pile of nature journals belonging to Yvea Moore who started the pencil miles and chill nature journal club

Do you need help choosing art and nature supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Are you new to nature journaling? If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps