Thursday, March 3, 2016

Happy National Reading Month!

Quite often students ask me the question "How do you know so much?"  I let them in on the secret - I read a lot.  I read all of the time.  Every year I keep track of the number of books that I read, including the number of pages in each book.  In 2015, I read 68 books totaling more than 22,000 pages - this doesn't count magazine, newspapers, web journals, etc.  My goal every year is to read at least one book a week over the course of the year - I usually meet that goal.

Many of the books that I read are about science and nature.  I thought I would take the opportunity provided by National Reading Month to recommend a few of my favorites from the past few years.

Swampwalker's Journal: A Wetlands Year by David M. Carroll (ISBN 0-618-12737-2)

It is no big secret that I love wetlands (just type the word wetlands into the search box to the right) and I love this book about wetlands.  In fact, this is one of my all time favorite books.  It was originally published in 1999.  I think that I first read it in 2001 or 2002 and have re-read it multiple times since then.  The author takes you on a year-long journey to explore the wetlands of the northeastern United States.  Even better, the text is interspersed with the author's illustrations of many of the plant and animal species encountered during his wanderings.  Every time I read this book, I get inspired to go outside and explore - this book was part of the inspiration of my 2014 Wildflower Big Year.  It has been several years since I last read this and it's on my list to read again this spring.

Hunting From Home:  A Year Afield in the Blue Ridge Mountains by Christopher Camuto
(ISBN 0-393-04915-9)

This book is about hunting and fishing, but more importantly it is about close observation of nature and living a life close to nature.  Hunting from Home was originally published in 2004 and I read a library copy soon after its publication.  I have been searching bookstores for a copy ever since.  This is such a good book that I wanted to own a copy.  I finally broke down and bought a copy on the internet this winter.  This book contains my all time favorite passage about hunting (and life).

         One November the hunter will not be in the woods and neither the deer not the woods nor

     the wind will know or mark the difference his absence makes.  If you hunt, and if you have taken 
     your modest share of game---not as trophies but as food for your table--- then you will 
     understand the beauty in that unmarked difference in the woods.  Folks who are on their way to
     heaven or some other imagined paradise where the trus cost of living does not have to be paid 
     won't understand or accept this.  But I am not trying to get to heaven.  I am trying to get to earth.

Hunting from Home is the next book on my list to re-read.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in both great nature writing and great writing about hunting.

A Sting in the Tale:  My Adventures with Bumblebees (ISBN 978-1-250-07097-5) and A Buzz in the Meadow:  The Natural History of a French Farm (ISBN 978-1-250-06588-9) by Dave Goulson

This pair of books by British biologist Dave Goulson were the best natural history books that I read in 2015.  I read A Sting in the Tale and immediately bought A Buzz in the Meadow.  Both of these books deal with the lives of insects.  Although they are written from a European perspective, the message about insect conservation work equally well for an American audience - especially given the severe decline of many North American bee species.  I highly recommend these books to anyone interested in learning more about insects, their natural history, and the impact that we have on them.

The Salamander Room by Ann Mazer (ISBN 0-679-86187-4)

Not every book on my list can be for adults.  I love The Salamander Room.  It is about a small boy that finds a salamander and wants to take him home as a pet.  The book is basically a conversation about habitats between the small boy and his mother who has concerns about whether the boy's room would be the best place for the salamander.  It is great introduction to studying the living requirements and habitats of any species.  The story is accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher that turn the boy's bedroom into a woodland paradise fit for any salamander.

Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman (ISBN 978-0-618-13547-9)

The final book on my list is sort of a companion to Swampwalker's JournalSong of the Waterboatman is a wonderful book of poetry written about wetland habitats and their resident plants and animals.  Each poem is paired with a colorful woodcut illustration by artist Becky Prange.  Additionally, each poem is accompanied by a short natural history paragraph highlighting the subject of the poem.   While this book was written for children, the poetry and illustrations are equally enjoyable for adults.  It deserves a place on everyone's natural history bookshelf.

I could easily add another dozen books (and more) to this list, but I am going to hold myself back.  If you would like any specific recommendations please feel free to contact me.

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