If you’ve got a few outdoor enthusiasts on you holiday gift list, a good book is always appreciated.
Here are some recent titles that I recommend.
– Shadow of the Alleghenies: the Wilderness Adventure of a Frontiersman and his Wolf Pup by Edwin D. Michael (2009, $22 ppd., Quarrier Press; order from Ed Michael, 374 Horseshoe Road, Morgantown, WV 26508) is a work of historical fiction that weaves a fascinating tale of human and natural history.
This is a tale of what the first frontiersmen faced as they blazed trails into new and unknown terrain. Travel with Angus McCallander as he explores the wilderness then known as western Virginia. Learn how a dug-out canoe might be better described as a burned-out canoe. And watch how a fearless Scotsman becomes one of the first Americans.
Michael is a retired professor of wildlife biology from West Virginia University with a passion for human history.
– Great Lakes Nature Guide by James McCormac and Krista Kagume (2009, $19.95, Lone Pine Publishing) is a great all-purpose guide appropriate for the eight Great Lakes states and beyond.
Though obviously not intended to be a comprehensive guide to all forms of life around the Great Lakes, this guide will enable casual nature lovers to recognize many of the common species they encounter. Keep it in the car, and you’ll always be ready to identify an unfamiliar wildflower, bird, or insect.
– Wild Ohio: the Best of Our Natural Heritage by Jim McCormac and Gary Meszaros (2009, $49.95, Kent State Univ. Press) is a superior coffee table book written by a master naturalist and illustrated by a master photographer.
– Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide and Birds of Western North America: A Photographic Guide are both by Paul Sterry and Brain Small (2009, Princeton University Press, each $18.95). Exceptional color photography sets these titles apart from the many other field guides in book stores.
The eastern guide has 1,118 images; the western guide has 1,341 images. And somehow the designer managed to increase the image size so that every species is clearly and vibrantly depicted. Many of the smaller species appear at almost life size. These two volumes are sure to gain favor with beginning and experienced birders alike.
– With The Sibley Guide to Trees (2009, Knopf, $39.95) David Allen Sibley has done it again. Applying the same skill and expertise that made his bird guides best sellers, Sibley has turned his attention to trees, the place where many birds are found.
More than 4,100 paintings illustrate the leaves, twigs, bark, flowers and fruits of more than 600 species of trees found in North America. As an example of the comprehensive nature of the text, pages 180 through 226 are devoted to the oaks. The Sibley Guide to Trees is quite simply a tour de force.
B is for Bufflehead by Steve Hutchcraft (2009, $19.95, www.bisforbufflehead.com) is a beautifully illustrated book for birders of all ages. For preschoolers, each letter of the alphabet is illustrated, as in “E” is for Eagle and “P” is for pelican. Young readers will enjoy mastering the extended captions.
And adults feast their eyes on the superb photographs provided by the author. This book will probably grace more coffee tables than library shelves.
- Chippy Chipmunk: Parties in the Garden by Kathy Miller (2009, $19.95, www.chippychipmunk.com) is another book for nature lovers of all ages. Intended as a picture book for children, Chippy Chipmunk features 82 photographs of chipmunks and other visitors to Miller’s backyard.
The brief text will hold the attention of even small children, and the photographs will captivate adults of all ages.
- Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators by William Stolzenburg (2009, Bloomsbury, $16) somehow escaped my attention last year when first published. The good news is that now a less expensive paperback edition is available.
This book is must reading for hunters and anyone who wants to understand how predators serve as “keystone species” in maintaining species diversity. From starfish to mountain lions to killer whales, Stolzenburg makes the case that apex predators are the glue that holds many complex animal communities together.