I read Gilbert White's book yearly to remind myself why I became a scientist: that child-like sense of wonder about the workings of nature. In my case, it began with my father teaching me to fish for rainbow trout in an Idaho stream. I had to learn about the ballet of fast-moving water, the quirky habits of trout, and the intricate life stories of dozens of water insects.This summer, I've read three superb books of recent British nature writing: Robert Macfarlane's "The Wild Places", Tim Robinson's "The Stones of Aran", and the most recent issue of the magazine Granta. All of them explore, in various ways, the meaning of the word "wild" against a landscape thickly layered with the tracings of thousands of years of human activity. And all attempt to place man and his history back into our too-often simplistic vision of nature.