Book Reviews, Non-fiction

Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes


We’re not just losing the wild world. We’re no longer noticing it. We’ve lost the habit of looking and seeing and listening and hearing. Now, in Rewild Yourself, Simon Barnes provides 23 wonderful tips to bring wild creatures into the middle of your own world. With a few new techniques, a little new equipment and, above all, a new way of thinking, birds hidden in the treetops will shed their cloak of anonymity and creatures of the darkness will enter the light of your consciousness.

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Now you don’t see it.

Now you do.

This book caught my eye because of its exquisite cover, and the title hooked onto something in my heart. The combination of the two guaranteed that I would pick it up and read it. I don’t usually read non-fiction, but Simon Barnes’ way of writing is very enjoyable and easy to follow, and gives you the feeling of being confided in; he is telling you his secrets, his magic spells. What did it for me were the quotes found at the start of each chapter, many of which were from The Chronicles of Narnia, which Barnes says influenced the writing of this book. The quotes are paired with lovely illustrations of various wildlife by Cindy Lee Wright, and the chapter titles all made me smile as much as the chapter content.

The spells that Barnes reveals to us are diverse and can be combined for different effects: the name of the magic tree that will attract butterflies right into your garden, the magic trousers that will allow you to venture out in any weather and enjoy yourself even in the midst of a downpour (spoiler: it’s waterproof trousers, and this was my favourite “spell”), where to look to unlock a whole new view of marine mammals and birds, how to sit still and be patient with nature, and how to regain your sense of listening to the nature around us. If we can open our ears to what we have long tuned out we can hear birds singing, “And what they sing is the song of life, the music of spheres, the sound that drives the earth around the sun.”

Barnes carries you through each spell with a series of anecdotes and encouragements not to be overwhelmed by the “wild” world. Don’t worry that you have to learn all fifty-nine species of butterfly generally found in Britain, but rather focus on five and you will already find you look at butterflies in a new way. Do you want to start using binoculars on your walks but are worried about getting the best of the best, or are embarrassed to use them in public? He will talk you through those too. By the time you finish this book you will have dusted off your binoculars (or bins, as Barnes calls them), looked up where to buy a canoe, added waterproof trousers to your birthday list (guilty), and you will have mentally walked through all your nearby public footpaths and nature reserves and thought of the best places for you to explore first. At least, I know I have.

For those who don’t like reading a lot at once, or don’t have the time to sit and focus on something for long periods, this is the perfect book. It is divided into short sections (each spell is a chapter) that are easy to read, and doesn’t even have to be read in order, if you are someone who likes to open a book at random (I can’t believe there are people who do this, but as long as people read I’m happy). It’s the kind of book you might keep on the coffee table, or bed-side table and pick up when you have a few minutes. It’s also the kind of book that you can go back and reread and still enjoy.

There is not too much else I can say without taking away from the experience of reading the book; like Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there is joy in turning each page of our spell book to see what comes next, and I would not rob anyone of that. I really think this book should be read by everyone, and my copy is available to borrow for any of my nearby friends. I must say, though, that the focus is on the nature of the British Isles, though Barnes does talk about some of his foreign excursions. If you don’t live in Britain, I still think this book is worth reading, though, because the call to make your heart and mind wilder is universal. You can adapt these spells for your own surroundings and see the world in a new way. In this time of turmoil, when our earth is changing and will never be the same, it is so important to reconnect with the world.

After all…

“We have been civilised – tame – for less than 1 per cent of our existence as a species.”



1 thought on “Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes”

  1. I know I would appreciate this book as much as you do, Ariana. Truly, Nature is truly magical and spell-binding 🙂 “And what they sing is the song of life, the music of spheres, the sound that drives the earth around the sun.” Just read that C S Lewis thought yesterday as I re-visit The Narnia Code by Michael Ward – reminding me of his lifelong passion for the Story in ‘the Heavens’, and how he wove his cosmic view into all the Narnia chronicles. A quote from the page I’m on … “has to do with Lewis’s Christian faith. As I mentioned in chapter 2, he thought that we come to know God more by looking along the the beam than by looking at the beam. We need to “breathe the atmosphere” of knowing God. We don’t get to know God simply by studying Him from the outside but by recognizing that He is already inside us, holding our lives together – indeed, holding the whole universe together.”


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