In autumn 2017 the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Land Lines research team (an AHRC funded project on the history of nature writing) ran a poll to find the UK’s favourite nature book.
Chris Packham’s book Fingers in the Sparkle Jar won the poll and the result was announced on BBC Winterwatch on BBC2 on Wednesday 31 January 2018.
In total, 7,300 votes were cast in the online poll featuring 10 shortlisted books. In second place was the classic Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson and in third was Common Ground by Rob Cowen.
Also on the final shortlist (in alphabetical order) were:
The Peregrine by JA Baker
Poems by John Clare
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Findings by Kathleen Jamie
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
‘The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
The Natural History of Selborne by Gilbert White
These were selected by a panel of experts from more than 270 titles nominated by the public. The campaign to find the UK’s favourite book about the natural world was used to help launch Land Lines, a two-year research project, funded by the AHRC.
Led by the Universities of Leeds, St Andrews and Sussex, the Land Lines project took a deep look at the history of modern nature writing from 1789, when Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne was first published, to the present day.
Dr Pippa Marland, Research Fellow on the Land Lines project based at the University of Leeds said: “The Land Lines team would like to congratulate Chris Packham wholeheartedly on his well-deserved win. Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is an outstanding book: raw and brave, and written with an astonishing vividness of perception and recall.
“With this memoir Chris has succeeded in attracting readers who would perhaps not usually pick up a ‘nature book’. Informative and heart-breaking in equal measure, and graced with a punk sensibility and wry sense of humour, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a work of great originality which pushes at the boundaries of the nature writing genre’.”
Public comments about Fingers in the Sparkle Jar included:
“It’s the most powerful, honest account I’ve ever read about how nature can shape a person and how interactions with wildlife can stay with someone for ever. It’s beautifully written and the messages and story stayed with me long after I turned the last page.”
“Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a truly beautiful, honest account of growing up with Asperger’s and in love with nature, when everyone around you wasn’t. It’s brutal and hard to read at times but ultimately brilliant. And very well written! I couldn’t put it down.”