Writers On Writing / Inga Simpson recommends her favourite nature reads


‘My ‘starter pack’ for those aspiring to write about the natural world would include…’

Award-winning writer and author Inga Simpson has made a list of her favourite pieces of writing about the natural world, ahead of her online course, Nature Writing, starting 2 September.


Walden; or, Life in the Woods by H.D. Thoreau (1854). So much nature writing references Thoreau, and Walden’s narrative of retreat remains central to the genre. This classic is newly-relevant in the age of COVID.

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson (1951). Better remembered for Silent Spring, Carson’s account of the life cycle of a shore bird blends science and poetry, showing the connectedness of all things.

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard (1982). A collection of beautifully written essays on wonder. And the best title ever.

“Landscape and Narrative” by Barry Lopez (Crossing Open Ground, 1979. A profound essay exploring authenticity and the intersection of inner and outer landscapes.

Craft for a Dry Lake (2000) and Position Doubtful (2016) by Kim Mahood for their clear-eyed perspective on Australia’s desert interior, shared history of place, and graceful precision.

The Blue Plateau: a landscape memoir (2009) by Mark Treddinnick for its deep imaginative engagement with place and beautiful sentences.

Annamaria Weldon’s “Threshold Country” (2011), a personal essay about the remarkable Lake Yalgorup landscape – and a best practice example of how to consult with traditional custodians.

Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucaschenko (2013), plot, character, language and Bundjalung country are inseparable in this nature-novel.

“Water” by Mununjali Yugambeh author Ellen van Neerven (Heat and Light, 2014) – a startling and speculative ecological novella.

For A Little While by Rick Bass (2016). A collection of environmental short stories from the master of the form. His places – Montana, Mississippi, Texas – are wild and mythic, his characters part of the landscape. And Bass really knows how to wield a comma.

Flames by Robbie Arnott (2018). Magical and yet so real, exploring our relationship with the natural world in powerful ways, it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel.

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Inga Simpson is the author of Understory: a life with trees, about her decade spent living inside a south east Queensland forest, which was shortlisted for the Adelaide Writers Week Award for Nonfiction. Her novel Where the Trees Were was shortlisted for an Indie Book Award, and longlisted for the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Australian Book Industry Awards, and the Green Carnation Prize. While Nest was shortlisted for the Courier Mail People’s Choice Award, the ALS Gold Medal, and longlisted for the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Stella Prize. Inga’s first novel, Mr Wigg, was published following her participation in the 2011 QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program.

Join Inga Simpson for her online course, Writing Nature, starting Wednesday 26 August. Enrol now>>

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