Book Reviews · Non-fiction

Review: Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

Evocative, raw and lyrical, this startling debut explores the natural world through the eyes of Dara McAnulty, an autistic teenager coping with the uprooting of home, school, and his mental health, while pursuing his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. Shifting from intense darkness to light, recalling his sensory encounters in the wild – with blackbirds, whooper swans, red kites, hen harriers, frogs, dandelions, Irish hares and more – McAnulty reveals worlds we have neglected to see, in a stunning world of nature writing that is a future classic.

I have had this book on my radar since it came out in hardback in 2020, but I tend to accumulate non-fiction without reading it even more than I do with my fiction, so I hadn’t made a move to pick it up yet. Then I started using BorrowBox and getting more into audiobooks, and I saw that this was one my library had access to. I downloaded it and within minutes of starting it I knew I had found something special.

Dara McAnulty, author and narrator of this book, has a writing voice unlike any other I have encountered; with sincerity, openness, and such immense knowledge of the natural world and his own inner self, he takes the reader through a year of his diary entries, tracing the seasons and his own evolutions as his life changes and he gets older. As an autistic child, life has not always been kind to him, but hearing him talk about his supportive family and the joys of their little world, as well as the solace he finds in nature, really made me think.

McAnulty was not afraid to talk about his feelings, and there are many times he talks of his hopelessness, especially as a teenager growing up in a world that is quite quickly declining due to our human activities. As a young climate change activist he feels it all even more keenly, but it was something I related to as well. I often feel despair when I think of the future of our planet, and it felt nice to get lost in someone else’s righteous anger for a while.

Overwhelmingly, though, this book is one full of hope, and full of ways that all of us can spend more time loving and appreciating the natural world around us. It’s a book for all ages and all walks of life, that will uplift and encourage while also providing food for thought on our circumstances and hopefully inspire all generations to start fighting for Mother Earth.

Book Info

Published: 21st May 2020 by Little Taller Books
Genre: nature writing, autobiography
Pages: 224
Format read: audio book
Content Warnings: bullying, depression

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