Nature Books, Part 5: Assorted

Good day –

The time has come. This is the last post about some of my favorite nature books. And there is no theme; there is a little bit of everything.

1 – The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating – by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Delightful, contemplative, and scientific – this short read will leave you thinking about snails for a long time.


2 – Never Cry Wolf: The Amazing True Story of Life Among Arctic Wolves – by Farley Mowat

You can’t go wrong with anything written by Farley Mowat. I enjoyed this book both for the content and the author’s writing style. It’s campy at times and that is amusing to me. You’ll have more compassion for wolves by the time you finish.

3 – Our Living Ancestors: The History and Ecology of Old-growth Forests in Wisconsin (And Where to Find Them) – by John Bates

This book is a great resource if you’re interested in old-growth forests (now and in the past) and the ecosystems they create for other living things. The first half of the book describes how Wisconsin got to this point – only about 1% of the remaining forest has never been logged – and details areas of importance. I learned so much, such as 1) Niagara Escarpment white cedar trees in Door County are up to approximately 600 years old (and possibly older), 2) Trout lilies only grow in colonies that are centuries old, and 3) Nearly 700 State Natural Areas (SNA) protect over 75 natural communities. The second half of the book details – with maps and pictures as well – the 50 best sites in Wisconsin for old-growth trees. Fantastic.

4 – Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic – by Jennifer Niven

I enjoy reading true stories of man/woman vs. the environment, and this book did not disappoint. Ada and four men spend a year on an island in the Arctic. They all undergo growth through multiple challenges, especially Ada. There’s plenty of drama, too.

5 – How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals – by Sy Montgomery, Rebecca Green

This book is a collection of 10 or so essays describing the author’s experiences with specific animals – dogs, a pig, and even an octopus. They each taught her something. It’s sweet!

Abandoned mallard duck egg (I think) in our backyard

6 – Three Among the Wolves: A Couple and Their Dog Live a Year with Wolves in the Wild – by Helen Thayer

This is a detailed glimpse into the daily lives of three packs of wolves; two in the winter and one in the spring/summer.

7 – Meditations of John Muir – by Chris Highland, John Muir

I read this while visiting Yosemite National Park. Muir’s choice of words and phrases in each meditation are playful and deliver a punch.

Could this be Orange peel fungus (Aleuria aurantia)?

8 – No Man’s River – by Farley Mowat

After reading this book I felt incredibly grateful for a heated home, warm clothes, and food that I don’t have to hunt or fish for. Farley goes on a scientific expedition with a partner and then ends up having his own adventure. It was hard to put this book down.

Not nature – but I liked the shapes and design

9 – The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees – by Stephanie Kaza

If you’ve ever gasped at the beauty of a tree, or a stand of trees, or a forest, this book will take you to places deeper and richer than you’d think you’d ever go. Here is just one passage: “The voice of a forest is an elusive thing. It sings in the sweet warbles of purple finches and Swainson’s thrushes. It rustles in the leaves dancing in the afternoon sunlight. It buzzes in the slim sounds of crickets and mosquitoes. It creaks in the sway of tree trunks rubbing against each other. I wonder when a tree gains its voice.”

Think this is a juvenile Barred owl – it was squawking as I bicycled past it

10 – Black Star, Bright Dawn – by Scott O’Dell

This is YA fiction and written well. Bright Dawn races in the Iditarod. It is not as good as Island of Blue Dolphins but a page-turner nonetheless. 

Any good nature books I haven’t covered? I’m always on the lookout for new books to read.

Looking at Madeline Island from the larger lighthouse catwalk on Michigan Island (Wisconsin)

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth”
– Henry David Thoreau


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Nature Books, Part 4: Western United States

Greetings nature lovers –

This fourth post about some of my favorite nature books involves the theme of the Western United States. The West has so much to offer: desert, mountains, plains, rainforests, glaciers, and some of the oldest and largest trees on the planet.

I’d like to hear from you about your favorite books about the West! Please comment below.



Artist: Sandra Harpole (cabinets at Blue Lake Resort – Minocqua, Wisconsin)

1 – Desert Solitaire – by Edward Abbey

Abbey was a ranger at Arches National Park in Utah in the late 1950s. He experiences nature fully and poetically writes about it. He ventures into environmentalism and also his morality.

Dad in Utah – 1946

2 – Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country – by Pam Houston

The author connects with nature and the wilderness in a way that is intense and passionate. This collection of essays reveals her history and heart while experiencing all that life offers on a 120-acre Colorado Rockies homestead. 

3 – Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout – by Philip Connors

In 2002, the author spent about 6 months in a 7′ x 7′ fire lookout tower in remote New Mexico. His job was to watch for fires and sound the alarm if he saw smoke. He contemplates the landscape, wildlife, and solitude.

4 – Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living – by Karen Auvinen

The author describes the critical scenes of her childhood with care as well and how she has found her place on a Colorado mountainside. In fact, this wild woman thrives in the sometimes raw and challenging landscape – and I admired that.

5 – Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place – by Terry Tempest Williams

This is essentially a love letter to the author’s mother and to the birds of Utah’s Great Salt Lake and nearby bodies of water. It chronicles changes to health, emotions, water levels, and bird populations. 

6. Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside – by Edward Abbey

Yes, another Abbey. In this wise and lyrical book about landscapes of the desert and the mind, the author guides us beyond the wall of the city and asphalt belting of superhighways to special pockets of wilderness that stretch from the interior of Alaska to the drylands of Mexico.


7 – The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed – by John Vaillant

This recounts the history of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, the logging industry, and the Haida First Nation people. A sacred Sitka spruce, 165 feet tall and covered with golden needles, is sacrificed in protest to clear-cutting.

8 – Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories – by Sherman Alexie

Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. With each of the 31 stories in this book, he reflects on the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not related to nature per se however he is such a strong and colorful writer that I must include it. There are stories about the reservation, war dances, wind turbines, and more.

The next and last in this series of blog posts on my favorite nature books includes a group of miscellaneous topics: wolves, trees, John Muir, snails, and more!

Be well,


Mom in Glacier National Park – 1951

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Nature Books, Part 3: Water

This third post about some of my favorite nature books involves the theme of Water. Water can be a source of adventure, peacefulness, or inspiration. It is a form of transportation. By living near a lake, river, or ocean, its presence may be woven into everyday life. Life can be abundant in water, on water, and surrounding it. Water is the most plentiful compound on Earth.

What books have you read that prominently include water? Here are mine:

1 – Pacific Lady: The First Woman to Sail Solo across the World’s Largest Ocean – by Sharon Sites Adams, Karen Coates

In both 1965 and 1969, Sharon Sites Adams sailed alone in the Pacific Ocean – first from California to Hawaii and then from Japan to California. I can’t even imagine! I admire her for these achievements. This book contains simple and satisfying accounts of those journeys and her life during those years.

2 – The Everglades: River of Grass – by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Robert Fink

First published in 1947, this is THE source of information about the Florida Everglades. Wildlife, Native American history, explorers, geology, ecological and developmental threats, and more are covered in a moving way. The Everglades is “one thick enormous curving river of grass….It reaches one hundred miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, fifty, sixty, even seventy miles wide.”


3 – Island of the Blue Dolphins – by Scott O’Dell

This award-winning pre-teen fiction book tells the story of Karana, a girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. She learned to survive and also to thrive.

4 – The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore – by Robert Finch

I wanted to learn what it’s like and what it means to walk Cape Cod’s shoreline and this book provided that insight. I also gained some historical and cultural knowledge.

5 – Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea – by Steven Callahan

In 1982, after his boat capsized in the Atlantic Ocean, the author drifted in his inflatable raft for 76 days. The writing is fast-paced, technical, spiritual, and thought-provoking.

6 – The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod – by Henry Beston, Robert Finch

Poetic and charming. It will make you want to go to Cape Cod. Here’s something from the book that gives you a flavor of the author’s writing: “Touch the earth, love the earth, honour the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places.”


7 – Woodswoman I: Living Alone in the Adirondack Wilderness – by Anne LaBastille

This is the true story of a courageous woman living out in the wild. I am both impressed and envious!

8 – Spirited Waters: Soloing South Through the Inside Passage – by Jennifer Hahn

I read this book with interest as the author was a childhood friend. Her account of this voyage was a delight – a satisfying mix of adventure, nature, fear, history, introspection, art, and humor.

The next favorite-nature-books post will be about the western United States.

“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty.
The objective is an environment of decency, quality, and mutual respect
for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”

– Gaylord Nelson, the Founder of Earth Day


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Nature Books, Part 2: Hiking


It’s time for more reviews of Nature books I’ve read. The theme of the first post is Birds and the theme of this post is Hiking. Hiking/walking in nature can involve all of the senses, from inhaling sweet blossoms of Linden trees to nibbling on a minty wintergreen leaf to hearing the bugling sounds of sandhill cranes to seeing a feisty squirrel chasing off an intruder to feeling the well-worn stones at a lake’s edge.

I invite you to add a comment listing your favorite Nature books!

1 – Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail – by Melanie Radzicki McManus

From the Introduction: “In thirty-six thrilling days, Melanie Radzicki McManus hiked 1,100 miles around Wisconsin, landing her in the elite group of Ice Age Trail thru-hikers known as the Thousand-Milers.” This book was more fulfilling as the pages advanced. The sidebar chapters or portions of chapters on the history of the Trail or other’s experiences regarding the Trail made it more satisfying.


2 – Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. The Impossible Task. The Incredible Journey – by Ed Stafford

This is a gripping adventure story of a feat no one had accomplished to-date, walking the entire length of the River Amazon. It is chock-full of challenges.

3 – Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail – by Ben Montgomery

After raising 11 children in a marriage with an abusive husband, 67-year old Grandma Gatewood walked the Appalachian Trail and then went on to do even more walking. Wow.

4 – No Picnic on Mount Kenya: A Daring Escape, A Perilous Climb – by Felice Benuzzi

This is a unique true story of three POWs who climb Mount Kenya and then return to the POW camp. It is adventurous, heart-warming and has bits of dry humor. Plus there are poetic-like passages such as this one: “Always, and more especially on mountains, have I watched daybreak with deep awe. It is an age-old miracle which repeats itself again and again, every day the same and every day different. It is the hour of Genesis.”

5 – Walking on the Land – by Farley Mowat

I enjoy this author’s storytelling abilities. Here, he walks the Arctic and describes the Inuit people of the Hudson Bay area and their struggles and hardships.

6 – Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan

The author and his dog Atticus M. Finch set out to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s four-thousand-foot peaks twice in one winter. This book taught me about love and healing.

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”  ~Henry David Thoreau

The theme of the next book blog post will be Water.

Until next time,


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Nature Books, Part 1: Birds


The crocus are blooming! These have such lovely hues of purple, don’t you agree?


I like to read. And I document the books I read on (I also get great ideas for future reads from friends there.) I went to the website the other day, thinking I’d list my favorite Nature books in a blog post. I started compiling them.

Whoa…..too many for one post! So, here’s the first post, and all the books are about birds (or a bird).

Note that many, if not all of these are non-fiction, my preferred reading material, because I think the truth is many times stranger and more interesting than fiction!

To obtain any of these books, utilize the library or purchase at,,, or the author’s website.

1 – Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay – by Julie Zickefoose

This is a terrific account by a talented writer/artist/naturalist who raised a young, starving blue jay one summer until release into the wild. I learned that not all blue jays look alike and that they are incredibly smart!

2 – What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World – by Jon Young

From the Summary: “Birds are the sentries—and our key to understanding the world beyond our front door.” This book made me understand many things about birds and other creatures, even though I’ve been a birdwatcher for years. The author explains the use of a “sit-spot”, a place in nature you go regularly to sit in silence and watch animal behavior.

Mallards: female (left) and male (right)

3Mozart’s Starling – by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

This book alternates between the author raising a baby European starling and Mozart’s life. Did you know that Mozart had a pet European starling that may have influenced his composing?

Chipping sparrow

4 – The Gift of Birds: True Encounters with Avian Spirits – by Larry Habegger

This is a collection of 28 essays that describe how birds have affected different people, mainly in a spiritual manner.


5 – Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl – by Stacey O’Brien

A woman raises a barn owl that has no hope of surviving in the wild. The process is fascinating and exhausting. The telepathic human/animal connection is briefly introduced, which intrigued me.

White-breasted nuthatch

6 – Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World – by Noah Strycker

In 2015, the author devoted a mostly sleepless year to observing and counting as many birds in the world as possible. He surpassed his goal of 5,000 to reach 6,042 species. Birdwatchers should delight in this diary-style account.

Left to right: Tufted titmouse, Northern cardinal, Downy woodpecker

7 – The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds – by Julie Zickefoose

Excellent! Each story is thoughtful, well-written, and full of interesting facts and insights into the life of birds. There are a number of accounts of raising baby birds. The author’s illustrations are beautiful as well. This book would be a lovely gift for a bird-lover.

Wilson’s warbler

8 – One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives – by Bernd Heinrich

Most of this book is engaging however there are some areas I thought were less-so. The author interrupts multiple birds going about their lives; e.g. peering into nests while the adult is sitting on eggs, going through nests to count eggs, etc. I understand this is likely how scientific research on birds is done, however it seemed invasive to me.

Black-capped chickadee

9 – The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human – by Noah Strycker

If you are delighted by birds, this book is for you. It explains why Turkey vultures are attracted to fresh road kill, how European starlings flock, and more.

Red-bellied woodpecker

So there you have it. The next post about nature books will involve hiking/walking.

It’s Spring and warming up! Yesterday morning I found a tick attached to me, ugh! I took a walk with a friend the day before, next to the railroad tracks. 

Tree swallow


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