Land Lines - finding the UK’s favourite nature book

Graham Huggan

Professor Graham Huggan is to lead a national project which will explore our nation's love of nature writing and discover which books have made the greatest impression.

The two-year AHRC-funded project, Land Lines, is the first major study of its kind. Spanning from Gilbert White's 1789 work The Natural History of Selborne to Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk in 2014, it will look at how nature writing in the UK has changed over the last 200 years and how this reflects our changing world and connection with nature.

The research will be undertaken by the Universities of Leeds, St Andrews and Sussex, with Professor Huggan (Professor of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures) leading. A major element of the project is an open survey to find the nation's favourite nature book, to which many prominent figures have submitted their own nominations, including Chris Packham, Cerys Matthews, Gillian Burke, Julia Donaldson, John Lewis Stempel, Miranda Krestinkoff, Virginia McKenna, Michael Morpurgo, Fiona Reynolds and Alan Titchmarsh.

There will also be public exhibitions and workshops across the country looking at what nature writing is, why people read it, how it influences the way we think about nature, and what its role might be in these ecologically troubled times. The project will conclude with an international conference and the first definitive book on modern British nature writing. You can also follow the project's progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Mike Collins, AHRC Head of Communications, said of the project, "In the last decade books about nature have flown off the shelves, and now have a prominent place in bookshops. It seems that nature writing is very much speaking to the time we live in, with the power of words helping us to rekindle a love of nature, and find comfort in a rapidly changing world."

"Curiosity-driven research such as the Land Lines project helps us to understand our place in the world. And writers play a key role in navigating us through the challenges of our age – with environmental change being one of the biggest."