Like so many others, I was completely blown away by that video that went viral a few years ago about the return of the wolves to Yellowstone and the remarkable impact they had on the entire park, from the deer population, to the habits of the beavers, to changes in erosion, to ultimately the very paths that the streams and rivers took. (If there was a book companion to that story it was American Wolf, which won our Award for Best Nonfiction in 2017.) I’m not a huge nonfiction listener, but I have found that the close examination of the profoundly complex and impactful activities of a single species (be it plant, animal, or another one of the kingdoms) can be as mind-bending as my favorite works of science fiction. I’m especially intrigued by those stories that don’t focus on the interplay between man and beast, but instead illustrate how often times beast couldn’t care less about man. Below I’ve shared a few of the books that I feel exult and honor a natural species or system, highlighting how it defeats and rises above the brutality of nature, and the influence of humanity. —Emily, Audible Editor
    • Earth Moved

    • On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms
    • By: Amy Stewart
    • Narrated by: Heather Henderson
    • Length: 6 hrs and 2 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 917
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 828
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 821

    They destroy plant diseases. They break down toxins. They plough the earth....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • I bow down to our benevolent worm overlords

    • By Kirstin on 04-17-14
    • On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms
    • By: Amy Stewart
    • Narrated by: Heather Henderson
    • Length: 6 hrs and 2 mins
    • Release date: 04-17-12
    • 4 out of 5 stars 917 ratings
    • Earthworms
    • I can’t seem to plant a single tomato or weed a tiny corner of a tinier flower patch without turning up more than three earthworms, so the sheer volume of these little suckers has long astounded me. To be so prevalent they must have a purpose, and as author Amy Stewart (fun fact, her two writing beats are horticulture and historical thrillers) reveals, they are indeed very busy and totally (literally) blind to our fascination with them. Earth worms are not only the greatest composters and soil ploughers around, they may also hold the key to some much-needed leaps in environmental science.
    • Mycophilia

    • Revelations From the Weird World of Mushrooms
    • By: Eugenia Bone
    • Narrated by: Aimee Jolson
    • Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 228
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 212
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 210

    In Mycophilia, accomplished food writer and cookbook author Eugenia Bone examines the role of fungi as exotic delicacy, curative, poison, and hallucinogen....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • Lots of interesting stories

    • By D. Pelletier on 01-21-17
    • Revelations From the Weird World of Mushrooms
    • By: Eugenia Bone
    • Narrated by: Aimee Jolson
    • Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
    • Release date: 11-04-14
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 228 ratings
    • Mushrooms
    • Is there anything freakier than a mushroom? They have the potential to feed you, poison you, trip you out, or cure you, and yet to the untrained eye they remain a mystery, each looking wrong in its own unique way. They sprout up with a disturbing suddenness, and they might one day cause a zombie apocalypse. But when I learned from a former publishing partner that he planned to take up mushroom foraging in his retirement, my curiosity was piqued, and Mycophilia proved to be the perfect narrative exploration of this unknown fungal landscape.
    • Anthill

    • By: E. O. Wilson
    • Narrated by: Kevin T. Collins
    • Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 148
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 84
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 82

    Inspirational and magical, here is the story of a boy who grows up determined to save the world from its most savage ecological predator: Man himself....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • You just have to love ants

    • By Kathryn on 10-27-10
    • By: E. O. Wilson
    • Narrated by: Kevin T. Collins
    • Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
    • Release date: 08-17-10
    • 4 out of 5 stars 148 ratings
    • Ants
    • Wow did I love my ant farm as a kid: I could watch those busy little guys for hours on end. But I hadn’t really thought much about them as an adult until a pre-publication portion of Anthill was published in The New Yorker in 2010 when I was newly pregnant with my first child. I read the piece—so intricate and beautiful in its description of the minute, determined, and cooperative movements of the small creatures—and I felt a wave of nausea take over me. And it didn’t leave me for three months. I had to wait with the rest of the world to finish the book, and it was obviously for the best given my morning sickness, but I’ve never forgotten how enthralling I found E.O. Wilson’s prose. It completely captured my imagination and now that my daughter is nearly eight years old I’m looking forward to getting her her own ant farm for her upcoming birthday. **Bonus ant recommendation: Mort(e) is what might happen if a superior race of vengeful hyperintelligent ants plotted to take down mankind. It’s way better and smarter than it sounds!
    • The Triumph of Seeds

    • How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History
    • By: Thor Hanson
    • Narrated by: Marc Vietor
    • Length: 7 hrs and 30 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 983
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 894
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 900

    We live in a world of seeds. From our morning toast to the cotton in our clothes, they are quite literally the stuff and staff of life, supporting diets, economies, and civilizations around the globe....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Delightfully simplistic!

    • By Adrian on 03-30-16
    • How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History
    • By: Thor Hanson
    • Narrated by: Marc Vietor
    • Length: 7 hrs and 30 mins
    • Release date: 08-04-15
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 983 ratings
    • Seeds
    • All summer I’ve been committing what feels like mass “maple-cide”, pulling up the shoots of little wannabe maple trees from my yard. I always have a tiny pang of guilt mixed with fascination when I examine the seed still clearly prevalent in the brand new root structure. “Sorry buddy, you weren’t destined to make it”, I think. But then birds have been doing lots of unbidden but successful seeding for me—I’m now growing both unplanned petunias and tomatoes in my front yard next to my boxwoods. This book tapped into my ongoing fascination with the beginning of all green growing things, showing how seeds ultimately do triumph.
    • The Hidden Life of Trees

    • What They Feel, How They Communicate - Discoveries from a Secret World
    • By: Peter Wohlleben
    • Narrated by: Mike Grady
    • Length: 7 hrs and 33 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,341
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,074
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,062

    How do trees live? Do they feel pain or have awareness of their surroundings? Research is now suggesting trees are capable of much more than we have ever known....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • As I suspected all along...

    • By Janning on 12-26-16
    • What They Feel, How They Communicate - Discoveries from a Secret World
    • By: Peter Wohlleben
    • Narrated by: Mike Grady
    • Length: 7 hrs and 33 mins
    • Release date: 09-13-16
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 2,341 ratings
    • Trees
    • I first got interested in the idea that trees can communicate with each other when I picked up Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree, which paints a beautiful, but clearly fictional, portrait of a world of talking trees, and of one in particular who tries to protect a bullied child. (Actually I’m lying—I totally developed a secret hieroglyphic language with my family Christmas tree one year, but that’s a longer story). But author Peter Wohlleben honors the childish—or perhaps innate—feeling that so many have that trees are special among plants, and that there does seem to be a language belonging to them, and he reveals the science behind those fanciful (or not so fanciful) notions.
    • Soul of An Octopus

    • A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
    • By: Sy Montgomery
    • Narrated by: Sy Montgomery
    • Length: 9 hrs and 10 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 1,457
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 1,342
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 1,343

    The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Eight legs and so much more!

    • By Kirstin on 07-02-15
    • A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
    • By: Sy Montgomery
    • Narrated by: Sy Montgomery
    • Length: 9 hrs and 10 mins
    • Release date: 05-12-15
    • 4 out of 5 stars 1,457 ratings
    • Octopuses
    • It’s important to note that the plural of “octopus” is “octopuses”, not “octopi” as many erroneously assume, giving it the Latin treatment when “octopus” is actually a Greek word. And the reason you’ll want to know that is because there are two books on octopuses you’re going to want to pick up. Start with Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery’s touching memoir about her friendship with one of the creatures that sent her on a fascinating journey to understand the deep intelligence found within. And then pick up Other Minds for a closer scientific account of the development of consciousness within an octopus, and what it means for the brains of humans and other animals.
    • Spineless

    • The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone
    • By: Juli Berwald
    • Narrated by: Juli Berwald
    • Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 74
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 70
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 70

    A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea's imperiled ecosystems....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • The closest thing to a jellyfish textbook

    • By Anonymous User on 06-28-18
    • The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone
    • By: Juli Berwald
    • Narrated by: Juli Berwald
    • Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins
    • Release date: 11-07-17
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 74 ratings
    • Jellyfish
    • In my family growing up, jellyfish held more lore than sharks. This was because (true or not—it’s still unclear) my mother knew a kid who knew a kid who knew a kid who died after picking up a Portuguese man o’ war on the beach and holding it to his chest. When I first saw one of these (surprisingly large) creatures washed up on the shore of our beach in NC, the primal fear was INTENSE. That something so dangerous doesn’t have a brain or bones somehow made it worse. But despite my discomfort with any one individual jellyfish, author Juli Berwald proves they are most fascinating when looked at en masse. Jellyfish serve as bellwethers—and if we know how to read their signs and signals they can tell us a lot about what’s happening to our oceans, our ecosystems, and our world as a whole.
    • Beaks, Bones and Bird Songs

    • How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their Behavior
    • By: Roger Lederer
    • Narrated by: Charles Constant
    • Length: 7 hrs and 22 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 24
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 21
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 21

    When we see a bird flying from branch to branch happily chirping, it is easy to imagine they lead a simple life of freedom, flight, and feathers....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Fascinating facts about birds!

    • By Fernanda Duque on 07-03-17
    • How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their Behavior
    • By: Roger Lederer
    • Narrated by: Charles Constant
    • Length: 7 hrs and 22 mins
    • Release date: 05-30-17
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 24 ratings
    • Birds
    • Author Roger Lederer correctly notes early on in this book that birds hold an immense nostalgic and romantic cultural symbolism for us land-bound folk. But I learned early on as a child when I spent 4 months nursing back to health a dove who had been wounded (shot, to be more precise, by my dove-hunting and poor-aiming father) that hell hath no fury like a caged wild bird. Symbols of peace? Um, no. So I loved this little book for its revealing look at the harsh realities birds face and the fierceness they must summon to survive on high.
    • Coyote America

    • A Natural and Supernatural History
    • By: Dan Flores
    • Narrated by: Elijah Alexander
    • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,356
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,231
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,232

    An illuminating biography of this extraordinary animal, Coyote America isn't just the story of an animal's survival - it is one of the great epics of our time....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Very Enjoyable Book, Subject Matter, and Reader

    • By John Townsend on 03-17-17
    • A Natural and Supernatural History
    • By: Dan Flores
    • Narrated by: Elijah Alexander
    • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
    • Release date: 10-04-16
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 1,356 ratings
    • Coyotes
    • I included this book in the list because it’s such a great example of man trying to master a species and just utterly failing. Where American Wolf dealt with our attempt to bring an animal from the brink of extinction, we never got that far with the coyote despite our best efforts. Like deer but with teeth, the coyote learned to survive despite all the obstacles we put in its way, and this narrative of how the wily animal outsmarted us at every turn is just so fascinating and entertaining at once.
    • This Is Your Brain on Parasites

    • How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society
    • By: Kathleen McAuliffe
    • Narrated by: Nicol Zanzarella
    • Length: 8 hrs and 20 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 782
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 711
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 712

    A riveting investigation of the myriad ways that parasites control how other creatures - including humans - think, feel, and act....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • A parasitologist view of the world

    • By Colin Mc on 10-25-16
    • How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society
    • By: Kathleen McAuliffe
    • Narrated by: Nicol Zanzarella
    • Length: 8 hrs and 20 mins
    • Release date: 06-07-16
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 782 ratings
    • Parasites
    • Ok, so it turns out there is something freakier than a mushroom, and it’s parasites. Author Kathleen McAuliffe blew my mind (pun!) with her depiction of the complicated forces at work within the bodies of all living things (for the purpose of this book her view of parasites is broad, drawing on all the little microorganisms that hold sway over the actions of larger creatures in one or another). While I’d gotten my head around basic Darwinist concepts somewhere back in grade school, the idea that small critters could be using me in their survival of the fittest, in their very proliferation, just seems bananas. Are parasites and other microorganisms the original AI? Technically, they're obviously missing the “A” part of “AI”, but they do seem to possess an underestimated intelligence that wields massive influence over the way complex multicellular creatures behave, reading to my science fiction-oriented imagination like a self-perpetuating glitch in the code.
    • The Bees

    • A Novel
    • By: Laline Paull
    • Narrated by: Orlagh Cassidy
    • Length: 10 hrs and 16 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 1,353
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,233
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 1,229

    Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive, where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • My Favorite Book of 2014

    • By Em on 12-07-14
    • A Novel
    • By: Laline Paull
    • Narrated by: Orlagh Cassidy
    • Length: 10 hrs and 16 mins
    • Release date: 05-06-14
    • 4 out of 5 stars 1,353 ratings
    • Bees
    • Oh how I love this book. This one stands out on the list because it’s a novel (the characters are the bees, and all the drama, tension, and romance happens among them in their fully fleshed out world), but I would argue it’s just as instructive as any of the nonfiction picks here. When I first listened to it, the microcosmic world lavishly described here—and almost erotically performed by Orlagh Cassidy—threw my own world into relief and made me feel, surprisingly, rather small. That this full experience of life—dramatic, messy, complicated, and harrowing—is happening all around us, and even just in my back yard, but on a tiny scale, is incredibly humbling. It also made me a better and more keen observer of nature. And now I’m just DYING to become a beekeeper one day.
    • The Revolutionary Genius of Plants

    • A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior
    • By: Stefano Mancuso
    • Narrated by: Gibson Frazier
    • Length: 4 hrs and 14 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 96
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 90
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 90

    Every minute of The Revolutionary Genius of Plants bubbles over with Stefano Mancuso’s infectious love for plants and for the eye-opening research that makes it more and more clear how remarkable our fellow inhabitants on this planet really are....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Brilliant facts and insights

    • By Elan Sun Star on 09-03-18
    • A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior
    • By: Stefano Mancuso
    • Narrated by: Gibson Frazier
    • Length: 4 hrs and 14 mins
    • Release date: 08-28-18
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 96 ratings
    • Plants Generally
    • I haven’t picked this one up yet, because it’s not out until next month, but it sounds like it’s totally in my natural wheelhouse. We think of plants as more or less static organisms, yet they demonstrate intelligence for sure: they lean toward the sun, some send out feelers searching for things to climb, and I’m convinced my orchids speak to each other as they all put up new shoots within weeks of each other—like they’re in competition, or maybe just in a club and want to hang out together. And, of course, I had that talking Christmas tree that one time. I don’t know if Stefano Mancuso will cover these topics here, but a girl can dream.