The Best Books I Didn’t Read in 2013

By | November 14, 2013

We love telling you about a great book when we find one. Both of us writing on the site read quite a bit. What we never get around to sharing are the books we meant to read, or the ones we never quite finished even though they were quite good. To remedy this contrived shortcoming, I offer this list of the books that I wanted to read in 2013.

Nature booksFirst up, Henry David Thoreau. Earlier this year I started The Maine Woods. Those only familiar with Walden will find this an interesting departure. This book is not a social experiment, but a journal of his journeys into Maine. Cape Cod is a little different, as he is combining several trips to the Cape into one volume. Both of these are wonderful to read, and I look forward to getting past the first couple chapters.

Have you heard of Sigurd F. Olson? If not, you need to read his stuff. This guy was a powerhouse in the environmental movement. The Singing Wilderness was his first book, published in 1956, and I feel somewhat ashamed to have not read this yet. Olson was especially known for establishing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I am still trying to track down a copy of his most well-known book, Reflections from the North Country.

Talking with the president of a local land conservancy about some books I picked up, I mentioned this one. She grew very excited. Reading the Landscape of America by May Theilgaard Watts was the book she read in college that set her on the path to a career in conservation. I’ve heard similar stories from a handful of people, and now that I am a few chapters into it, I can see why. The book is brilliant. With a keen eye to the interconnectedness of various ecological landscapes, Watts describes an America that is in some ways no longer the one we would see today—even thought the book was written in 1975.

For those of us in more conservative Christian communities, there’s a lot of misinformation circulating about evolution and the age of the earth. Two professors from Calvin College address the latter question in The Bible, Rocks, and Time. This book is a lesson in biblical hermeneutics, history of the geological study, and detailed scientific survey. I ripped right through the first two sections, but the last third of the book stopped me short. If I had some science background maybe I could have gone all the way (geologists will love it). In this book they tear apart the “5,000-year-old earth” theories posited by well-meaning young earth creationists. They begin with the Bible and respectfully offer a different reading of the scriptures that considers the texts in their historical and cultural contexts. They then go on to dispute the young-earth science. If you like this book, you will want to follow it up with The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John Walton.

The final book I wanted to read was A Natural Sense of Wonder by Rick Van Noy. This is a book about one man’s journey spending time with his kids outside. What’s not to love about that!

Of course, this list is limited by the audience of this site. Were I to list all the books I wanted to read this year, it would include Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie, John James Audubon: The Making of an American by Richard Rhodes, and Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford (to name just three from the two-foot-high stack of books on my nightstand).

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