10 New(ish) Book Recommendations for Spring 2024

The birds coming are back! Drag a chair into a patch of sunlight or spread a blanket under a tree, because Orion is here with some environmentally-influenced recently published book recommendations just for you. We’ve got fiction, we’ve got memoirs, we’ve got poetry, essays, and unconventional field guides for all your reading moods.

North Woods

by Daniel Mason

Pultizer-Prize finalist Daniel Mason’s sweeping yet extremely local epic novel tracks the many incarnations of a single house in pastoral New England. We see how the land changes and how it remains through the eyes of Puritan runaways, a deserting soldier turn orchardist, a pair of spinster sisters, a con man, a true crime reporter, fine art painter, eccentric millionaire, bark-loving beetles, and even a stalking catamount. Part Poe, part Thoreau, full of buried secrets, obscure history, and an abiding love and appreciation for the natural world, this one is a true land opus. (Random House)


The Extinction of Irena Ray

by Jennifer Croft

A polyglot reverie for anyone who’s ever wondered about the labor of carrying a word across the border from one language to another, Jennifer Croft’s The Extinction of Irena Ray gathers a motley crew of eight translators from all corners of the world to bring forth the latest work of their author — a story about a “climate change artist” who “practices extinction” — only to find her missing. The translators venture forth into the woods, forming a search for bodies that turns, gradually, into a search for identity. “When we were together, we didn’t think of ourselves as individuals with histories,” the narrator recalls. “It was as though we were a single organism.” Beyond the nonsequiturs about linguistic theory, the novels-within-the-novel, the playful mystery box of a structure, the footnotes, is a lovely meditation on the mushroom inside us all — the shared ineffable spirit from which our words and flesh emerge, temporarily, to house our failed attempts at making meaning. (Bloomsbury)


Playing with Wildfire

by Laura Pritchett

When a wildfire creeps up on a mountain community, residents are forced to gather for safety. And what happens when you pull people out of isolation and throw them together in crisis? Tangled love, new friendship, the rethinking of old tropes, and even. . . hope? With sincerity, wisdom, and wit, Pritchett offers a rich cacophony of voices speaking through innovative and experimental mediums (Astrology charts! Obituaries! Grant applications! Crisis hotline transcripts!) Fire changes everything it touches, but with destruction, there is an opportunity for renewal. (Torrey House Press)



by Kaveh Akbar

Cyrus Shams is adrift. A young poet and the orphaned son of immigrant parents, he’s grappling with addiction, a growing obsession with martyrdom, and an inheritance of violence and loss. In other words, he’s spending a lot of time wandering around seeking meaning out of life. And art. In the deft hands of Kaveh Akbar, an accomplished poet himself, the result is a dazzling, wrenching debut novel—often hilarious, wise, large-hearted, and healing in its striving and salvation. (Knopf)


So Late in the Day

by Claire Keegan

Like much of Keegan’s work, So Late in the Day is a small but mighty masterclass in human vulnerability, tenderness (or the lack thereof), desire, domesticity, and rebellion, played out across pastoral Ireland. Eloquent and precise in every word choice, with every story she casts a spell that lingers. (Grove Press)



by Marie Vingtras, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman

In a sparsely populated corner of Alaska, a boy wanders off into the snow as a blizzard builds. As the wild weather whips, it threatens not only the present and future of the men and the woman who are searching for the boy, but also the lasting stability of their small community as the wind and snow rip open pasts and motives that may have been better off buried. Blizzard is an intense and fascinating novel that calls into question what it means to live in a place where the world around you is both friend and foe. (Harry N. Abrams)


Thunder Song: Essays

by Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe 

Spanning the miraculous to the mundane, and totally punk all the way through, LaPointe turns over the roles of art, music, tradition, and community in supporting young Indigenous people define their futures while claiming their heritage. Like any good mixtape, Thunder Song is bold, lyrical, compelling, and proud. Here is an Indigenous Queer woman telling us just who she is. (Counterpoint)


Birding to Change the World: A Memoir

by Trish O’Kane

Page by page, Trish O’Kane instructs and delights, teaching new ways to think about environmental activism, social justice, community, landscape, and the birds who revolutionized how she moves through just about every part of her life. This memoir is a brilliant and expansive guide to how to learn to be more human by learning to be more like birds. An instructive celebration of our wild wonderful world. (Ecco Press)



Leaning toward Light:
Poems for gardens & the hands that tend them

edited by Tess Taylor

A gorgeous book in both content and as an artful object, this collection of garden poems is a necessary addition to any cultivator’s library. Featuring contributions from old greats like Merwin, Whitman, Keats, Clifton, and Kunitz, to modern heroes Ada Limon, Jericho Brown, Victoria Chang, Ross Gay, and Naomi Shihab Nye. Here you will find, as Jane Hirshfield writes, This garden is no metaphor–/ more a task that swallows you into itself,/ earth using, as always, everything it can. (Storey Publishing)



How to Look at a Bird:
Open Your Eyes to the Joy of Watching and Knowing Birds

by Claire Walker Leslie 

Claire Walker Leslie knows the world is full of detailed bird nerd field guides, websites, and mobile apps ready to answer the most obscure avian questions in a flash. But this book is not concerned with keying out every LBJ or adding species to your life list. No, How to Look at a Bird is an invitation to gaze up and around and follow a childlike curiosity, and yes, simple delight, in really seeing our feathered friends. Call it an “introduction to hanging out with birds.” Leslie’s utterly charming journal-style sketch illustrations had us smiling from start to finish. (Storey Publishing)

See also these new books
we’ve recommended elsewhere recently:

Rick Bass’s With Every Great Breath, Christopher Cokinos’s Still As Bright, Erica Howsare’s The Age of Deer, Jessica J. Lee’s Dispersals, Tommy Orange’s Wandering Stars, Emily Raboteau’s Lessons for Survival, Isaac Yuen’s Utter, Earth.

This piece contains affiliate links for Bookshop.org, a retailer that supports local bookstores. As an affiliate of Bookshop, Orion earns a small commission when you click through and make a purchase there.

This is a collection of Orion Staff contributions.