In its fifth year, the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize celebrates the best books about nature, the outdoors and UK travel.
If you are looking to get away from it all, switch off your phone and get back to nature, this shortlist is a welcome list of recommended reads for you to consider this summer.
Here are the seven shortlisted books:
The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell (Tinder Press)
The experience of being in nature alone is here set within the context of a series of walks that Neil Ansell takes into the most remote parts of Britain, the rough bounds in the Scottish Highlands.
He illustrates the impact of being alone as part of nature, rather than outside it. As a counterpoint, Neil Ansell also writes of the changes in the landscape, and how his hearing loss affects his relationship with nature as the calls of the birds he knows so well become silent to him.
Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler (Hodder & Stoughton)
Leaving her garden to the mercy of the slugs, the Guardian’s award-winning writer Alys Fowler set out in an inflatable kayak to explore Birmingham’s canal network, full of little-used waterways where huge pike skulk and kingfishers dart.
Her book is about noticing the wild everywhere and what it means to see beauty where you least expect it. What happens when someone who has learned to observe her external world in such detail decides to examine her internal world with the same care?
Beautifully written, honest and very moving, Hidden Nature is also the story of Alys Fowler’s emotional journey and her coming out as a gay woman: above all, this book is about losing and finding, exploring familiar places and discovering unknown horizons.
Outskirts by John Grindrod (Sceptre)
Growing up on ‘the last road in London’ on an estate at the edge of the woods, John Grindrod had a childhood that mirrored these tensions. His family, too, seemed caught between two worlds: his wheelchair-bound mother and soft hearted father had moved from the inner city and had trouble adjusting. His warring brothers struggled too: there was the sporty one who loved the outdoors, and the agoraphobic who hated it. And then there was John, an unremarkable boy on the edge of it all discovering something magical.
In the green belts John discovers strange hidden places, from nuclear bunkers to buried landfill sites, and along the way meets planners, protestors, foresters and residents whose passions for and against the green belt tell a fascinating tale of Britain today.
The first book to tell the story of Britain’s green belts, Outskirts is at once a fascinating social history, a stirring evocation of the natural world, and a poignant tale of growing up in a place, and within a family, like no other.
The Dun Cow Rib by John Lister-Kaye (Canongate)
John Lister-Kaye has spent a lifetime exploring, protecting and celebrating the British landscape and its wildlife.
Lister-Kaye’s joyous childhood holidays – spent scrambling through hedges and ditches after birds and small beasts, keeping pigeons in the loft and tracking foxes around the edge of the garden – were the perfect apprenticeship for his two lifelong passions: exploring the wonders of nature, and writing about them.
Warm, wise and full of wonder, The Dun Cow Rib is a captivating coming of age tale by one of the founding fathers of nature writing.
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton)
From bestselling Landmarks author Robert Macfarlane and acclaimed artist & author Jackie Morris. All over the country, there are words disappearing from children’s lives. These are the words of the natural world — Dandelion, Otter, Bramble and Acorn, all gone. The rich landscape of wild imagination and wild play is rapidly fading from our children’s minds.
The Lost Words stands against the disappearance of wild childhood. It is a joyful celebration of nature words and the natural world they invoke. With acrostic spell-poems by award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane and hand-painted illustration by Jackie Morris, this enchanting book captures the irreplaceable magic of language and nature for all ages.
The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson (William Collins, HarperCollins)
The full story of seabirds from one of the greatest nature writers. The book looks at the pattern of their lives, their habitats, the threats they face and the passions they inspire.
Seabirds are master navigators, thriving in the most demanding environment on earth. In this masterly book, drawing on all the most recent research, Adam Nicolson follows them to the coasts and islands of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, and the Americas. Beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer, The Seabird’s Cry is a celebration of the wonders of the only creatures at home in the air, on land and on the sea. It also carries a warning: the number of seabirds has dropped by two-thirds since 1950. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of a seabird colony will this century become little but a memory.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Michael Joseph)
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.
The winner will be announced on 2nd August at an event in the National Trust Arena at the BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace.