Of the hundreds of thousands of books published each year, only some engage seriously with the natural world—and only a handful succeed in deepening our relationship with nature in a lasting, artistic, and personally transformative way.
We’ve been doing our best to honor these books, and to bring them to you, our readers. Since 2007, the Orion Book Award has been given annually to a book that addresses the human relationship with the natural world in a fresh, thought provoking, and engaging manner. This year’s Award, which will go to a book published in 2012, will be announced in early April.
While the drums roll, spend some time with the six previous winners of the Orion Book Award—each of which stands as a declaration of our interdependence with the breathing, animate Earth.
2012: The View from Lazy Point, by Carl Safina
“A record, of sorts, of a year spent in intense participation with what Safina comes to call the real “real” world—the one that darts, breathes, and wheels above and around us, while we’re busy finding a parking spot. An excellent naturalist and tireless observer, Safina tells of worlds within worlds—the migratory history of a warbler on a backyard branch; a beach, lit by the moon, crawling with horseshoe crabs—all within a six-something-mile radius of home.” – Orion staff
2011: Insectopedia, by Hugh Raffles
“Looking at insects, Raffles is led to consider beauty, evolution, language, race, sexuality, environmental destruction, death, and, of course, life, in all its mind-blowing complexity. Skittering back and forth across the animal-human divide, this book is a study of insects that is really a study of us.” – Ginger Strand, 2011 Selection Committee chair
2010: Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing, by Charles Bowden
“Bowden’s writing is not only stunning, but the risks that he is willing to take are sometimes breathtaking. It’s journalism of a really compelling kind.” – Ted Genoways, 2010 Selection Committee chair
2009: Trespass, by Amy Irvine
“In her elegiac memoir of dissent, Irvine unveils the interconnectivity of life; the fact that everything matters: every cow and every coyote, every blade of invasive cheat grass, every human being, every dam, every hole drilled into the desert, every betrayal. For Irvine—passionate, imaginative, furious and visionary—language is a ladder out of the silencing cave of despair.” – Donna Seaman, 2009 Selection Committee chair
2008: The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diane Ackerman
“A few years ago, ‘nature’ writers were asking themselves: How can a book be at the same time a work of art, an act of conscientious objection to the destruction of the world, and an affirmation of hope and human decency? The Zookeeper’s Wife answers this question.” – Kathleen Dean Moore, 2008 Selection Committee chair
2007: Wild, by Jay Griffiths
“In this stunningly rich work of literary nonfiction, Jay Griffiths traces her efforts to rediscover in the mind, in culture, and in the natural world the generative possibilities of the wild. Brilliant, irrepressible, randy, and learned, this risk-taking book guides readers on a wild ride of the imagination. The world feels different—richer and stranger—after one reads these words.” – Scott Slovic, 2007 Selection Committee chair
Learn more about the Orion Book Award, and meet this year’s Selection Committee, here.