Great Nature Reads

December 19, 2014

Stuck inside on a rainy day? Felled by a winter cold? Or just feel like curling up with a cup of hot tea and a good book? We’ve got some great selections for you so you can enjoy nature indoors. Explore the peaks of Yosemite, the inland deserts of California, or bone up on your lizard ID skills — right from your easy chair! Here, some picks by the Bay Nature community and staff. Enjoy!

Natural History:

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston. “One of my very favorite books…. It’s a spellbinding story of how redwood researcher Steve Stillet discovered the canopies of our oldest, tallest redwood trees and who and what lives there. Anyone who reads this book will come away with a deeper understanding of redwood trees, their place in the ecosphere, their majesty. It’s one hell of a read.” — David Ogden

Up and Down California by William Brewer. “Written in the early 1860’s by the first State surveyor . . . a wonderful evocation of the sense of wonder we STILL get when exploring California.” — Joan Collignon

The Natural History of Big Sur by Henson and Usner. (Celia Bosworth)

Fauna and Family by Gerald Durrell “Anything by Durrell is good!” — Linda Parkinson


Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems (Trudy Totty)

Wild Justice
Wild Justice


Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder. (Monte Merrick)

Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce. (Kate Danaher)

From the Amazon review: “The authors make the case that animals exhibit a broad repertoire of moral behaviors, including fairness, empathy, trust, and reciprocity. Ultimately, they conclude that there is no moral gap between humans and other species.”

Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver. (Linda Parkinson)

Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-wild World by Emma Marris. “An interesting perspective on invasives and the culture of nature conservation in general.” — Amy Titus

Reptiles of the Northwest
Reptiles of the Northwest

Field Guides:

The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws (Celia Bosworth)

Reptiles of the Northwest by Alan St. John, Lone Pine Press. “Although a little bit out of our California region, I still use this book a lot for the great species descriptions, photos and fantastic stories. Lone Pine Press has many great field guides.” — Cindy Roessler

“My all go-to book is: Field Guide To Birds by Donald & Lillian Stokes (western div.) Great pics and very detailed descriptions! Highly recommend their books.” — Joseph Martin (seconded by Molly Boggs, who says, “Also highly recommend the Stokes bird guide. I’ve got all of them and it’s my old Stokes that I pick up first and is filled with flags and dog-eared pages. Great book for ident.”)

“For local Bay Area trail guides: The Bay Shoreline Guide for the SF Bay Trail and the Bay Area Ridge Trail Guide.” – Ronald Horii

The Golden Field Guides to North America

Books About Deserts:

“I love Mary Austin’s Land of Little Rain. I have read it many times and it remains as charming as the first time. I have an original edition with illustrations. I plan to do Baxter Pass this spring and climb Mt. Mary Austin in her honor. Her historic home is in Independence, CA if you are ever in the Eastern Sierra.” — Morgan Evans, EBRPD

“I’ve just read two excellent books about the California deserts: California Desert Miracle, by Frank Wheat (the effort to pass the Desert Protection Act of 1994, with all the ugly politics involved); and Death Valley in ’49, by William Lewis Manly, edited and annotated by Leroy and Jean Johnson, Heyday Books (first-hand account of Manly’s 1849 journey). And of course I’ll add a plug for my own book, Death Valley Photographer’s Guide.” – Dan Suzio


Mountains of Light
Mountains of Light

Staff Picks:

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (Eric)

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (Jenny)

Ohlone Way by Malcolm Margolin (Judith)

Mountains of Light by Mark Liebenow (Beth) – a seasoned Yosemite hiker guides the reader through the park’s wonders as he heals from a personal loss.


Edge of the Sea
Edge of the Sea

Walden by Henry David Thoreau (Louise Vance)

John Muir’s works

Rachel Carson’s works. “Spending the winter re-reading Rachel Carson’s books.” — Nancy Dollard

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (“Yes, it is more about self-growth than nature, but nature is important in it.” – Celia Bosworth)

Jane Goodall’s books (Celia Bosworth)

>> And don’t forget Heyday’s great new releases, including Wonderments of the East Bay, Secrets of the Oak Woodlands, and California Bees and Blooms!

Thanks again to everyone who shared their favorites with us! Happy reading.

About the Author

Beth Slatkin is Bay Nature's marketing and outreach director.