I always have my nose stuck in a book, but summer really lends itself to carefree reading. Camping, hammocks, beach days, wherever you go, the too-hot afternoons and the long hours of daylight make reading one of the best summer pastimes. I have not read all of these books personally, but many of them were featured at a Chesapeake Collective art project at last year’s Chesapeake Watershed Forum.

The Chesapeake Collective is a creative initiative at the annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum and beyond. It is the foundation for the type of social movement it will take to meet our collective restoration goals. The Collective encourages the use of shared spaces for uplifting unique voices and cultivating thoughtful conversations. The 2023 project titled ‘Books We Love’ built a shared library for conference attendees to further elevate environmental inspiration across text and time. Visit the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s website, allianceforthebay.org, and search “Chesapeake Collective” to learn more about this exciting initiative.

Then, hit up your local library and lose yourself in a book this summer.

A whiteboard with book recommendations tape to it

The “Books We Love” activity at the 2023 Chesapeake Watershed Forum, as part of The Chesapeake Collective initiative.


Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Non-fiction, Indigenous American philosophy, 2013

A highly recommended book from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay staff. It was even a staff book club pick in 2023! Since its publication, Braiding Sweetgrass has exploded on all the top lists of environmental books that you should read, and for good reason. Kimmerer’s book provides extensive knowledge and perspective on ecology and ethnobotany that has been overlooked, downplayed, or blatantly disregarded in the Western mainstream environmental field. It also addresses the spiritual aspect of our connection to living things.


A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Memoir, Humor, Travelog, 1998

Bryson is, first and foremost, a comedic writer – not an expert hiker. If you read this book looking for advice to travel the Appalachian Trail (AT), you won’t find it. About 75% of thru-hiking attempts on the AT are unsuccessful, and Bryson falls squarely in that majority. However, I appreciated the realistic way he described his attempt; I have no delusions of ever being a successful AT hiker. I like reading about other folks’ experiences while surrounded by the nature in my own backyard.


The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Science fiction, Climate fiction, 2015

Water in the Western United States is a complicated business. In these more arid landscapes, the Colorado River now often fails to reach its outfall at the Pacific, and Denver pulls its water across the continental divide. Wars have been fought over access to water. The Water Knife takes that concept into the near future, where climate change refugees struggle to be able to cross state borders, and assassin-terrorists called Water Knives work for organizations in an attempt to sabotage and secure that all-flowing source of life.


Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Lour

Nonfiction, 2005

When it received the Audubon medal in 2008, Last Child in the Woods was lauded for “sounding the alarm about the health and societal costs of children’s isolation from the natural world.” Nearly 20 years have passed since the book was first published, and one could argue that many childrens’ disconnection to nature has only gotten worse. However, and increasing thanks to this book, so has awareness and the effort to get kids outside again.

A hand writes a book recommendation on the whiteboard

A Forum participant adds their book suggestion to the display, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Lour.


Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay by William Warner

Nonfiction, 1976

If all you know about blue crab is how delicious they are, then this might be the book for you. Awarded the Pulitzer for nonfiction the year after it was published, Beautiful Swimmers runs the gamut of the iconic critter, talking about the life stages, descriptions of how to pick a crab, and illustrations of equipment used for harvesting. It also goes into the history and traditions of the folks who work the crab boats.


Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift

Nonfiction, 2018

This is the quintessential book about the modern Chesapeake Bay, its unique culture, and all the challenges it faces. Tangier, VA, is a town of only a few hundred residents located 12 miles offshore in the Chesapeake. The island is rapidly shrinking, both in population and actual land. Despite being a stronghold of the blue crab industry, Tangier is the proverbial canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change impacts. Residents of the island have ties to the nature of the land in ways most Americans cannot fathom. The book asks a good question: what is our measuring stick for determining when to save a community?

A person placing a sticker on a book recommendation to indicate agreement

Another Forum attendee adds a star to a book suggestion, indicating another vote as a great read.

This is far from an exhaustive list of recommendations. So find something that works for you and spend some time this summer exploring the natural world from the comfort of a good chair.