Nature writing often draws heavily on scientific information and facts about the natural world; at the same time, it is frequently written in the first person and incorporates personal observations of and philosophical reflections upon nature.
In This Incomparable Land: A Book of American Nature Writing, Thomas Jefferson Lyon suggests that nature writing encompasses a spectrum of different types of works, ranging from those that place primary emphasis on natural history facts (such as field guides) to those in which philosophical interpretations predominate. Some of the subcategories he identifies include natural history essays, rambles, essays of solitude or escape, and travel and adventure writing.
Modern nature writing traces its roots to the works of natural history that were popular in the second half of the 18th century and throughout the 19th, including works by Gilbert White, William Bartram, John James Audubon, Charles Darwin, Richard Jefferies, and other explorers, collectors, and naturalists. Henry David Thoreau is often considered the father of modern American nature writing. Other canonical figures in the genre include Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Burroughs, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, M. Krishnan, and Edward Abbey (although he rejected the term for himself).
- Lyon, Thomas Jefferson (2001). This Incomparable Land. Milkweed Editions.
- Gosse, Edmund (1903). ""Gilbert White"". English Literature: From Milton to Johnson. London: William Heinemann. pp. 375–378.
- Gosse, Edmund (1906). ""CHARLES DARWIN"". English Literature: From the Age of Johnson to the Age of Tennyson. New York: Macmillan Co. pp. 298–302.
- Finch, Robert, and John Elder, eds. The Norton Book of Nature Writing. New York: Norton, 1990; Nature writing: the tradition in English. edited by Robert Finch and John Elder. New York: W.W. Norton, c2002.
- Keith, W. J., The Rural Tradition: William Cobbett, Gilbert White, and Other Non-Fiction Writers of the English Countryside. Hassocks, Sussex: Harvester, 1975. This book has a useful bibliography.
- Lyon, Thomas J., ed. This Incomparable Land: A Book of American Nature Writing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
- Lillard, Richard G. (April 1973). "The Nature Book in Action". The English Journal (National Council of Teachers of English) 62 (4): 537–48. doi:10.2307/813109. JSTOR 813109.
- Mabey, Richard, The Oxford Book of Nature Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
- Stewart, Frank, A Natural History of Nature Writing. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1994.
- Trimble, Stephen, "Words From the Land: Encounters with Natural History Writing". Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1995 (revised edition). ISBN 978-0874172645.
- William Bartram's early Southern travels
- Audubon's Birds of America at the U. of Pittsburgh
- Audubon, John James (1843). Birds of America. vol. 6. New York: J. J. Audubon.