the very newest book: The Book of Nature
The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text (Broadleaf Books, March 2023)
here’s the little something i wrote about The Book of Nature on the day i first shared a peek of the magical cover…
a thrilling bit of news, The Book of Nature named among the Top Ten Most Anticipated Books of Spring ’23 by Englewood Review of Books. be still my heart….
here’s the first official review of Book of Nature, this one from Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association:
The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text
By Barbara Mahany
Mar. 2023. 191p. Broadleaf, $27.99 (9781506473512). 200
Writing with a nurse’s foundation, a scientist’s eye, a theologian’s mind, and a poet’s soul, journalist Mahany (Stillness of Winter, 2020) contemplates God’s presence as revealed in nature, His “first sacred text.” Tracing the Judeo-Christian belief that scripture succeeds and augments nature by directing humanity to knowledge of the divine, Mahany looks to nature itself, marveling at its intricacies and blending scientific facts with literary descriptions that all point unquestionably to a grand designer worthy of worship. She incorporates literary writing by a host of essayists and poets (Annie Dillard, Henry David Thoreau, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman) and Christian and Jewish religious writers as well as Islamic, Greek, Chinese, Celtic, and Indigenous traditions. She implores readers to continue reading the book and not to allow the noise of modern life to obscure its message. Supplemental material includes an annotated list of recommended reading and an extensive bibliography. Mahany’s lyrical, thoughtful, most recent work beautifully complements her shelf of awe-inspired books about nature and will appeal to fans of Shauna Niequist and Anne Lamott.
and here, you can listen in on a conversation with the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology’s podcast, Spotlights, in which i talk about The Book of Nature with the Forum’s wonderful Sam Mickey, who is also adjunct professor in the Theology and Religious Studies department at the University of San Francisco, where his area of specialization is philosophical and religious perspectives on ecological issues.
here’s how my publisher, Broadleaf Books, is describing The Book of Nature:
We live inside a nautilus of prayer—if only we open our senses and perceive what is infused all around.
Throughout millennia and across the monotheistic religions, the natural was often revered as a sacred text. By the Middle Ages, this text was given a name, “The Book of Nature,” the first, best entry point for encounter with the divine. The very act of “reading” the world, of focusing our attention on each twinkling star and unfurling blossom, humbles us and draws us into sacred encounter.
As we grapple to make sense of today’s tumultuous world, one where nature is at once a damaged and damaging source of disaster, as well as a place of refuge and retreat, we are called again to examine how generously it awaits our attention and devotion, standing ready to be read by all.
Weaving together the astonishments of science; the profound wisdom and literary gems of thinkers, poets, and observers who have come before us; and her own spiritual practice and gentle observation, Barbara Mahany reintroduces us to The Book of Nature, an experiential framework of the divine. God’s first revelation came to us through an ongoing creation, one that—through stillness and attentiveness to the rumblings of the heavens, the seasonal eruptions of earth, the invisible pull of migration, of tide, and of celestial shiftings—draws us into sacred encounter. We needn’t look farther for the divine.
Some heart-melting kindnesses from early reviewers of The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text
“Regardless of where one’s spirituality (or lack of it) may lie, Barbara Mahany’s The Book of Nature is a deeply rich celebration of the ageless overlap between religion and the many faces of the natural world—the ‘Book of Nature’ to which mystics, monks, and others have turned for insight into the sacred. Best of all, this thought-provoking exploration is wrapped in Mahany’s luscious and luminous writing, which makes every page a delight.”
—Scott Weidensaul, author of A World on the Wing
“Attention is among the deepest forms of integrity. In The Book of Nature, Barbara Mahany pays attention. She doesn’t look through nature; she looks at nature and, there, sees the mysteries that make and unmake us. In an age of environmental threat and neglect, Barbara Mahany’s book is a theological, poetic, and devoted plea for attention to our most fundamental constitution: matter—and everything that comes from it, including us.”
—Pádraig Ó Tuama, host of Poetry Unbound from On Being Studios
“The Book of Nature is an invitation to step into the newness of each day: sunrise, garden, forest, waters, nightfall. These pages reflect both awe and heartbreak, a pause when our world feels on fire and the climate crisis calls us to collective lament, communion, and action.”
—Mallory McDuff, author of Love Your Mother: 50 States, 50 Stories, and 50 Women United for Climate Justice
“Following in and deepening the footsteps of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, Barbara Mahany’s The Book of Nature invites you to engage with nature as the body of God: to know that all life is the happening of a nondual Aliveness called by many names. Calling to a humanity drunk on transcendence and desperate to escape from Nature and our responsibility to Her, The Book of Nature reveals the sobering immanence of God as the Source and Substance of all reality.”
—Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Judaism Without Tribalism
“Lovely and smart reflections—the perfect book to slip into a rucksack on a day you’re planning a wander through the larger world!”
—Bill McKibben, author The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon
at my publisher’s request, here are a few places where you can pre-order a copy:
“If Slowing Time was a field guide to the depths of your holiest hours, The Book of Nature is a field guide to the depths of your holiest places.”