10 Best Authors Like Wendell Berry for Fans of Books About Nature and Society

Discover our guide with authors like Wendell Berry for fans of literary novels that draw on themes of nature, society, and the land.

The author and essayist Wendell Berry doesn’t just write widely about farming, the natural world, and humanity’s inherent connection to the land: he practices what he preaches. A passionate environmental activist and a working farmer, Berry is the embodiment of many of the themes that can be found in his novels. His fiction, such as A Place on Earth and the collection of short stories, That Distant Land, has met with enduring critical and popular acclaim.

Best Authors Like Wendell Berry Ranked

1. Barbara Kingsolver, 1955 –

Barbara Kingsolver
A picture of Barbara Kingsolver at the National Book Festival in 2019

Like Wendell Berry, the critically-acclaimed novelist Barbara Kingsolver is a well-respected poet and essayist. Also, like Berry, Kingsolver is committed to exploring, in her books, the interactions between individuals and their environment and communities. The Poisonwood Bible, published in 1998 and a New York Times bestseller, tells the story of an evangelical Baptist, his wife, and daughters undertaking a Christian mission in Africa. 

The novel is now widely regarded as a seminal work of post-colonial literature. Kingsolver has received many accolades for her work, including the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. She was named in 2018 by the Library of Virginia as one of the Virginia Women in History. You might also be interested in these articles about the beauty of nature.

“It is true I do not speak as well as I can think. But that is true of most people, as nearly as I can tell.”

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

2. Anne Lamott, 1954 –

Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott speaking in 2013 at the Rainbow World Fund’s World Tree of Hope event in San Francisco

The American novelist Anne Lamott writes rich, multi-faceted books that fans of Wendell Berry will appreciate and draw from her own experiences. Lamott tackles single motherhood, depression, Christianity, and alcoholism. Her first novel, Hard Laughter, was written for her father, Kenneth Lamott, also an author, following his cancer diagnosis. Bittersweet and surprisingly humorous, the novel follows Jennifer, a writer, and cleaner, and what happens when her father is diagnosed with a brain tumor. 

Lamott was presented with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985, and 2010 saw her induction into the California Hall of Fame. Documentary maker Freida Lee Mock filmed Bird by Bird with Annie: a Film Portrait of Writer Anne Lamott, released in 1999 to widespread popular acclaim.

“…Among the other estimable things: good music, good hard laughter, good sex, good industry, and good books.”

Anne Lamott, Hard Laughter

3. Gary Snyder, 1930 –

Gary Snyder
A picture of Gary Snyder speaking in 2007 at Columbia University

Gary Snyder, like Wendell Berry, is an environmental activist, and his concern with the natural rhythms of the landscape and rural communities is reflected in his work. He has received multiple accolades for his poetry and essays, including the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry – he’s been called ‘the poet laureate of Deep Ecology.’ 

If you’re new to this author, try Mountains and Rivers Without End, an epic poem that Snyder began in 1956 and finally published in 1996. The work explores and fuses prehistory, mythology, and geology, draws on Asian artistic traditions, Buddhist philosophy, and Native American storytelling, and celebrates the elements of the Earth.

“Each time you go that road, it gets more straight.”

Gary Snyder, Mountains and Rivers Without End

4. Anne Tyler, 1941 – Present

Open, erudite language and well-developed characters are hallmarks of Wendell Berry’s books, and the same is true when it comes to the novels of Anne Tyler. She has published twenty-four novels, including Dinner, The Homesick Restaurant, and The Accidental Husband. Breathing Lessons, published in 1988, won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The story takes place over a single day yet encompasses a lifetime of its protagonists’ regrets, triumphs, and dreams. 

Tyler lives in the Roland Park neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, where she sets most of her books. There’s even an Anne Tyler Tour in the area for tourists keen to experience the world of their favorite characters. The author has spoken about her writing routine, which sees her begin work in the early morning and continue until around 2 pm: taking the first step into her writing room can, she says, be the most daunting part of the process.

“Smells could bring a person back clearer than pictures ever could.”

Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons

5. David James Duncan, Active 1952 –

Like Wendell Berry, Duncan has a deep concern for conserving the environment, and he’s written several pieces to argue about the importance of protecting Montana’s Blackfoot River. The American novelist and essayist David James Duncan are best known for his 1983 novel The River Why and The Brothers K, published in 1992. Both titles were bestsellers and won multiple awards, including a Best Books Award from the American Library Association and a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. 

The River Why was made into a film of the same name in 2008, starring John Hurt and Amber Heard. However, a subsequent legal dispute resulted in Duncan’s name being removed from the movie and the film rights reverting to the author. The Brothers K tells the story, over several decades, of the Chance family. Both moving and humorous, most readers will be able to relate to at least one of the characters profoundly as the tale wends through the seismic shifts of the sixties and beyond. 

“And like many a Christian before them, they completely forgot that the only sword-shaped weapon Jesus ever actually used was the one He died on.”

David James Duncan, The Brothers K

6. Tom Wolfe, 1930 – 2018

Tom Wolfe
A picture of Tom Wolfe taken in Germany, 1988

Tom Wolfe was a critically-acclaimed author and journalist who deployed a writing style incorporating journalistic techniques. Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, appeared in 1988 and became a critical and commercial success. A Man in Full, Wolfe’s second novel, took more than eleven years to complete and was finally published in 1998. It stayed at the number one spot in the New York Times bestseller list for ten weeks. 

Those who love the depth and wisdom of Wendell Berry’s books will relish Wolfe’s novels, which are equally concerned with making a powerful connection with their reader. The author has left a tangible linguistic legacy. He’s been credited with bringing phrases such as ‘radical chic,’ ‘good ol’ boy,’ and ‘the Me Decade’ into popular usage and for popularizing the use of the present tense in profile pieces run by magazines, Before Wolfe, such pieces were solely written in the past tense. 

“One of the few freedoms that we have as human beings that cannot be taken away from us is the freedom to assent to what is true and to deny what is false. Nothing you can give me is worth surrendering that freedom for.”

Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full

7. Marilynne Robinson, 1943 –

Marilynne Robinson
A picture of Marilynne Robinson speaking at the Covenant Fine Arts Center at Calvin College, 2012

In 2016, Time magazine included Marilynne Robinson on their 100 Most Influential People list. She also won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 and the National Humanities Medal in 2012. Like Wendell Berry, Robinson’s most well-known books, Housekeeping and Gilead, focus on rural life and faith within small, agricultural communities. She’s also a prolific essayist, and her works have spanned a wide range of diverse topics, from nuclear pollution to John Calvin. 

Robinson’s non-fiction works include Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution and Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self. Gilead is a great place to start if you need to become more familiar with Robinson’s work. As well as being a New York Times and Amazon bestseller, it’s also an Oprah’s Book Club pick and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. The novel has sold over one million copies to date.

“To be useful was the best thing the old men ever hoped for themselves, and to be aimless was their worst fear.”

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

8. Geraldine Brooks, 1955 –

Geraldine Brooks
A picture of Geraldine Brooks speaking at the 2022 National Book Festival

American-Australian author Geraldine Brooks began her writing career as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, covering crises in the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East. Her first book, Nine Parts of Desire, appeared in 1994: this work of non-fiction became an international bestseller. It was largely based on Brooks’ experiences in the Middle East and her encounters with the Muslim women of the region. 

Foreign Correspondence followed in 1997 and won the Nita Kibble Literary Award. Year of Wonders, published in 2001, was Brooks’ first novel and quickly achieved a spot on the international bestseller list. The story is set in 1666 and follows a group of villagers in a small Derbyshire village in England that’s struck with the dreaded bubonic plague. The village decides to quarantine itself to prevent the disease from spreading further.

“And so, as generally happens, those who have most give least, and those with less somehow make shrift to share.”

Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders

9. Richard Russo, 1949 –

Richard Russo
A picture of Richard Russo at the American Festival in France, 2008

Richard Russo’s first novel, Mohawk, was published in 1986; like most of his books, it’s semi-autobiographical. Russo’s novel Nobody’s Fool was adapted into a movie by director Robert Benton, starring John Newman. 

Empire Falls appeared in 2001 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year. The novel explores its protagonist’s relationship with the American Dream and how far this experience is a typical one. It’s a heartbreaking yet frequently hilarious read that resonates widely with readers. The novel was adapted into a two-part mini-series aired by HBO in 2005.

“After all, what was the whole wide world but a place for people to yearn for their heart’s impossible desires, for those desires to become entrenched in defiance of logic, plausibility, and even the passage of time, as eternal as polished marble.”

Richard Russo, Empire Falls

10. Ivan Doig, 1939 – 2015

Ivan Doig
Ivan Doig is standing at the base of the Teton mountain range in Wyoming

Ivan Doig shared Wendell Berry’s concern for the conservation of nature. Most of his fiction and non-fiction books are set in his native Montana and celebrate the landscape and people of the region. Regional history and personal memories fuse in Doig’s novels. The McCaskill trilogy tells the story of the state of Montana and its inhabitants from 1889 to 1989. 

Before becoming a full-time writer, Doig was a freelance journalist for various newspapers, magazines, and the United States Forest Service. His first novel, The Sea Runners, appeared in 1982 and is based on a real-life incident in 1853. An epic tale of survival, the novel will have readers gripped as they follow four escapees of a Russian-Alaskan work camp who must make a difficult journey along the Pacific Northwest coast.

“Upon the high seas is the wrong way of saying it; a horizon of ocean makes shallow the place of an onlooker.”

Ivan Doig, The Sea Runners

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  • Melanie Smith is a freelance content and creative writer from Gloucestershire, UK, where she lives with her daughter, long-suffering partner, and cat, The Magical Mr. Bobo. Her blog posts and articles feature regularly in magazines and websites around the world.