Featured favorites: Books on nature


Recommended by Bunch of Grapes

“What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World” by Jon Young – Young, a naturalist, teacher, and tracker, teaches us how to learn the language of birds. First of all, be quiet and still, listen and watch. Next, become aware of your surrounding and the nature it contains. Did you think that all the sounds were the same? What are the birds doing? How are they reacting to other sound? Young believes that by understanding nature, we can have a better understanding of ourselves. A passionate manual for both amateur and professional birders.

“The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival” by John Vaillant – In 1997 a man-eating tiger is terrorizing the people of far east Siberia. The people of this remote village have been abandoned by the government after the fall of the Soviet Union. The tiger, like the people of this area, is injured and starving. When the tiger attacks and eats one of the villagers, the people seek to hunt down and kill it. In this starkly remote area, it is a clash between the noble tiger and desperate humans. Both a thriller and a cautionary tale.

“Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise” by David Rothenberg – Rothenberg, jazz musician and professor of philosophy and music, believes that insects, with their endless mathematical noise-making, were the original inspiration for human music. Both primitive and modern-day composers have drawn inspiration from these tiny singers. He goes on to explain how, when, and why they serenade us through our everyday lives.

“Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind” by Richard Fortey – Fortey, retired senior paleontologist at London’s Museum of Natural History, has been called half poet and half naturalist. He brings us the fascinating story of not fossils, as he has in the past, but of living creatures who have incredibly survived into the present. These tenacious creatures, like horseshoe crabs, who still create a frenzy along the beaches in their mass-mating as they did 450 million years ago, give us a glimpse into our evolutionary past.

“What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses” by Daniel Chamovitz – If you smell a rose, can the rose smell you? When you notice the color of a plant, does it notice the color of you shirt? Not exactly. A plant can, however, process your smell and discern the change in light sources. Chamovitz, director of the Manna Center of Plant Sciences at Tel Aviv University, brings us this engaging story about plant perception. Unlike animals, plants cannot move to find food, shelter, or a mate. They are literally rooted in one spot. They have developed complex sensory and regulatory systems that have allowed them to survive in ever-changing conditions. The author gives us often whimsical observations about plants that give the reader something to think about.

Recommended by Book Den East

“The Child’s Botany” – Published in Boston in 1836, this is a window on early 19th-century natural science, intended to educate children. With five engraved plates of illustrations. A charming small collectible. ($75)

“The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin” in 2 volumes (1896) – A seminal work giving us the Darwinian theory of evolution by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life. ($250)

Less well-known, but essential for any disciple of Darwin is “The Variation Of Animals And Plants Under Domestication,” in 2 volumes (1896), with illustrations, covering a great range of the plants and animals he studied. ($125)

Audubon’s Birds Of America” (1981) in baby elephant folio format, is the perfect choice for any bird lover with a large, strong coffee table. Notes by Roger Tory and Virginia Marie Peterson. ($200)

Recommended by Edgartown Books

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed – After the death of her mother and a failed marriage, Strayed decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Southern Calif. to Washington. She challenges herself to do it along, despite the fact she has no experience. Her account is hilariously funny and also quite amazing.

“New England Gardener’s Handbook” by Jacqueline Heriteau and Holly Hunter Stonehill – A must-have for New England gardeners. Each entry is beautifully photographed and planting and tending are concisely described. It deals with everything, from annuals to vegetables to trees and groundcover.

“Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard” by Annette LeBlanc Cate – This book disproves the notion that bird-watching is too boring or difficult to be enjoyable, and illustrates how it’s not only easy to explore the bird word, but also fun. From a beginner’s guide to classification, to the reason why you don’t need binoculars, this book provides young bird-watchers with the information and inspiration to zoom in on our winged friends.

“The Illustrated Guide to Ducks and Geese and Other Domestic Fowl” by Celia Lewis – Essential for anyone considering buying domestic fowl, whether as pets or for commercial purposes. It discusses species and breeding options as well as the logistics of raising and caring for a healthy flock. Lovely watercolor paintings capture the beauty and simplicity of 60 domestic breeds.