The 2022 Wainwright Nature Writing Prize Longlist

Dear Readers, the 2022 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing has released its longlist, and much to my astonishment I have actually read three of them already. Go me! Much About Mothing, by James Lowen, was a lot of fun, and is probably my overall favourite of the ones that I’ve read so far. You can read my review here. The book is enough to make you dig out the moth trap, or at least go out after dark with a torch.

‘Otherlands’ by Thomas Halliday is an absolutely fascinating depiction of life on earth, starting from the near past and going right back to the dawn of animal life. There is so much to enjoy in this book, and I found myself learning lots. Two things that I did note, though: somehow going backwards in time felt counter-intuitive to me, I think I would have been able to put it together better if it had worked forwards. And secondly, because I read it on Kindle I found some of the maps difficult to read. I think it cries out for a deluxe edition with lots of illustrations of the lifeforms described, I found it a bit confusing remembering which lifeform was which sometimes. Do not, however, let that put you off! There is lots to savour and learn here.

And this is the third one that I’ve read – I love Adam Nicolson, he can really write, and the first few chapters of this book are so fascinating that I kept interrupting my poor long-suffering husband to give him a few facts about marine invertebrates while he was trying to read about German tanks or something equally entertaining.  For some reason the book didn’t keep my attention quite as much in the middle, but I seem to remember it picking up again at the end. I love that Nicolson actually built himself a rock pool, realised that the design wasn’t quite right and then built another one.

And now to the ones that I haven’t read yet and, as the shortlist is announced on 28th July, I might not get to before then.

‘Wild Green Wonders – A Life in Nature’ is a collection of essays by Patrick Barkham. I’ve always enjoyed his writing, but I wonder if I’ll have already read many of these pieces? If anyone has read it, let me know.

On the face of it, ’12 Birds to Save Your Life – Nature’s Lessons in Happiness’ by Charlie Corbett falls into that category of ‘nature as consolation after bereavement’ that Helen MacDonald encapsulated in ‘H is for Hawk’. Corbett was devastated after the death of his mother, but was briefly pulled out of his sorrow by the sound of a skylark. As one who has found much solace in the natural world after the loss of my parents, I think this book sounds intriguing, and I shall certainly give it a look.

‘On Gallows Down – Place, Protest and Belonging’ by Nicola Chester sounds like an intriguing read. I have always admired people who will fight for the natural places that they love, and this seems to cover everything from those who protect ancient trees to the battle for Greenham Common.

Nick Hayes’s previous work, ‘The Book of Trespass’, is on my reading pile at the moment – it was one of those books that I picked up, read for a few days and then realised that I wasn’t somehow in the mood. This book seems to be much more about engaging with nature and realising how much we are part of it, as a way to recognise not only our rights to access the land, but our responsibility to protect it.

‘Goshawk Summer – The Diary of an Extraordinary Season in the Forest’ by James Aldred sounds right up my street – I do love a diary, and this is specifically about Aldred following a family of goshawks in the New Forest during the strange summer of 2020. High up my list.

‘Shadowlands – A Journey Through Lost Britain’ by Matthew Green tells of neolithic settlements buried in sand, villages abandoned through plague, places inundated by sea water and requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence. This sounds like a fascinating exploration of what’s been lost, and what’s just below the surface.

‘The Heeding’ by Rob Cowen is a collection of poems, illustrated by Nick Hayes (who wrote ‘The Trespasser’s Companion’, above). It’s great to see a poetry collection here. I loved Cowen’s book ‘Common Ground’, and I look forward to reading his poems.

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while – I read Liptrot’s previous book, ‘The Outrun’, about her time on Orkney and battle with alcoholism, and this is about her time in Berlin and her search for love as a sober 30 year-old. Berlin is a hotspot for all sorts of interesting urban wildlife including raccoons and nightingales, and as a fan of the animals that live in alongside us in our cities, this seems very interesting.

And finally!

‘Time on Rock – A Climber’s Route into the Mountains’ by Anna Fleming is about the author’s transition from terrified beginner to confident lead climber. What is it about mountains that challenges us so? There is no environment that I like better, and although not a climber, I am very intrigued by this book.

So, there we have it, a feast of reading for the summer. As noted, the shortlist comes out next week, and the final prize (for this and the other two categories, Conservation and Writing for Children) will be awarded on 7th September. Let me know what you’ve read, what you fancy, and what you think should have been included that was missed.

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