Idolize is a bit of a strong word. However, right now I "Idolize"Eric R. Eaton, and I read all of his books. I have also read Arthur V. Evans’s books Beetles of Eastern North America and its Western counterpart, the “triumphant follow-up” Beetles of western North America. He is a really great author. He’s another example of an author I idolize. But maybe these 2 don’t count as “natural history writers”?
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac. E.O. Wilson, Naturalist. I especially liked the graphic novel adaptation of this book.
Romantic poets read in high school and college, particularly Mary Shelley’s descriptions of the French Alps in Frankenstein inspired our appreciation for wild places. Earlier in life, Shel Siverstein’s The Giving Tree and Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax anthropomorphized trees and led us to a more personal relationship with plants than we might have otherwise developed.
More recently, William Cronon helped us temper our fetishization of “sublime place and wide open country” to also appreciate, protect, and preserve our local patches. Yes, Yellowstone is a marvel, but its perpetuation can also be an excuse for ceaseless land development elsewhere.
Joni Mitchell: “They took all the trees, and put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them.” This affected us, still does. (Counting Crows version also appreciated)
When I was a kid I was really into Tom Brown’s nature survivalist stuff, I own and read every single one of his books. As an adult I’m a little more skeptical of some of his claims about things, but I did certainly learn a lot and get inspiration from it at the time.
I also obsessively read and re-read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, if we’re counting fiction. I wanted my own pet hawk so I could teach it to hunt for me.
Bernd Heinrich is the first and only nature writer I would say I have idolized. I picked up the Geese at Beaver Bog at a remainder book sale about 15 years ago and it amazed me. I have since read everything of his that I can find and I even have a DVD with a short documentary film about him. He is the embodiment of a naturalist-scientist and his stories, observations, and research are all fascinating. In particular his work on how various animals survive Winter in northern Maine is great.
I can’t think of any i idolized. I remember in middle school i was supposed to choose ‘my hero’ and struggled with this concept because i didn’t have one. I chose John Muir because i had to do the project but even then i felt he was somewhat problematic too. I like Berndt Heinrich but didn’t know about him till later. I’ve been to his cabin even and did a winter ecology class with him. Which was really neat. And cold. The person who got me into nature at a young age was either me (ive always been obsessed with plants and weather since i was like two) or else my dad who took me all these neat places on explores in nature. But he isn’t a nature writer.
OMG i was very into Tom Brown in 6th grade or so. I agree there are all kinds of questions around him, both in terms of appropriation and some of his claims, but also some of the things he describes, if perhaps exaggerated, still really resounded with me. I know i am breaking my own rule here but my take is he is neurodivergent, probably autistic, and with some very intense synesthesia. Won’t comment on spiritual stuff either way since this is the iNaturalist forum.
The first nature writer that I really loved was probably Henry David Thoreau. Later, I couldn’t read enough John Muir. Both of these writers, I feel, really succeeded in capturing a fascination with nature that I felt as well and could not put in words. I still love them and can’t imagine either of them being surpassed in pure passion for nature and their ability to capture that with their prose.
The first who come to mind is Gerald Durrell and to a lesser degree Bengt Berg and Ernest Thompson Seton, followed later by Konrad Lorenz. I only discovered Bernd Heinrich maybe 20 years ago. But my all-time heroine is (of course) Jane Goodall.
Adding a children’s book: Frosty: A Raccoon to Remember. I couldn’t remember the title, but I could recall the cover image. A quick image search, and I am amazed that the cover is exactly how I remembered it. Anyway, it was a story about an orphaned raccoon raised by a park ranger, I think. I also had a children’s book on identifying butterflies, but I have no idea what it was. I do remember going out in the morning with my butterfly book and net to catch and release butterflies.
oh that reminded me of Ranger Rick magazine which i remember liking as a kid, though of course an anthropomorphic raccoon doesn’t really count as a nature writer. I remember there was a Wise Old Owl who would answer questions kids sent in and i always wanted to send in “Are owls actually unusually intelligent birds?” so i could watch the owl say ‘no, we are not that smart, a raven should have this job instead’ but i never did it.
I fully agree with Aldo Leopold, but I can’t believe I don’t see William Bartram and John Muir on this list yet! (Oh wait, just looked back and saw John Muir). As an Okefenokee Swamp fanatic, I also have to say Francis Harper
As has been said, idolized is a strong word. It was experience as a kid that brought me to this. Some names - Herbert S. Zimm. I don’t know if he wrote or edited the Golden Field Guides, but I loved the bird field guide. Later on, Donald Lafontaine, the supreme Noctuid taxonomist, was a person I aspired to be.
There are numerous compilations that sparked my interest as a child. A special shout out to Red Rose Tea for their card series, including dinosaurs! Very influential for me, personally.
Charles Darwin. I got to visit his home in Downe, Kent, about 2 or 3 times a year while I was a child and while I was growing up, and his house and garden were set up as if he still lived there, so it all had special resonance for me. When I was very young I didn’t really understand who he was, or why he was so famous, but as soon as I found out (at about age 12) what the theory of evolution by natural selection actually said, that was for sure the Rosetta Stone that made sense of all of nature that I had seen, including all the fossils I had found.
I read Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf in fifth grade and found it inspiring. Nonetheless, thanks Mom and Dad for those weeks long camping trips in the Sierra and the road trip throughout the west to satisfy my geology jones!