It’s a beautiful day here in the Northeast US, and it also happens to be National Walking Day! We’ve put together a list of 20 books that will inspire your next nature walk, no matter where in the world you find yourself. From the small-town south, to the African wilds, check out these books all about the beauty of nature (then get outside and find some nature in your neighborhood!).
The United States
People love dogs, and dogs love people. Walking a dog is one of the most visible and mutually beneficial manifestations of that bond. It is a ritual steeped in affection and obligation. It doesn’t have a day off. It doesn’t pay the bills or clean the dishes or do the laundry. Still, people and dogs alike gain the benefits of exercise, socialization, shared experiences and observations. Another benefit, often overlooked, is the pleasure of mutually indulging a trait that ordinary dogs share with extraordinary people: curiosity. This book is, in many ways, an ode to curiosity.
Walking Magpie is about a dog and what a dog sees. It is also a work of serious photography by a well-known and pioneering landscape artist: Chuck Forsman, who, for more than forty years, has been a keen observer of the interface between landscape and culture as expressed through his paintings and photographic art. As a result, Forsman often goes to places that might not be on everyone’s radar screen.
In this book, Forsman took a camera with him during his walks with Magpie, the family dog. Often, these walks are in the neighborhood and surrounding hills where Forsman lives: near the Flatirons in Boulder. But Magpie joins Forsman on other adventures, from Alaska and the Northwest Territories of Canada to Florida, Ohio, and New York City. The intent is to turn these experiences into art. With each picture we sense mystery rather than clarity, questions about place rather than answers. We hardly can know what a dog knows, but with this book we can appreciate better what a dog sees and senses and experiences, helping the human and canine imagination to meld, at least a little.
There is no more beautiful or alluring coast in the world than the West Coast of North America: a 5,000-mile-long region that extends from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to Canada’s British Columbia, south to Washington, Oregon, and California, and then to Baja California in Mexico. No photographer until David Freese has explored the various and wondrous landscapes along the Pacific Ocean in such depth, making this the first book to look comprehensively at what makes the natural beauty of this particular coast so memorable.
Behind the scenery, of course, lie the geologic forces that have created the West Coast landscapes that we now admire, explore, and praise. The engaging and informative text by renowned author Simon Winchester grounds us in understanding the deep relationship between geology and scenery. And Naomi Rosenblum, the esteemed photographic historian, writer, curator, and art critic, firmly establishes David Freese’s place among the great landscape photographers of the past and present. In every photograph, his unique vision of nature and of place comes shining through.
West Coast: Bering to Baja is a major publishing enterprise that will appeal to book-lovers of photography, nature, and those who dream about visiting and touring North America’s West Coast. For here we see the vital connection between art and science merge in ways previously unseen for this special region of the world.
The East Coast of North America is a wondrous, intriguing, yet threatened coastline. It zigs and zags for more than 5,500 miles and assumes a multifaceted, jigsaw shape from the Arctic Circle and Greenland across the Canadian Maritimes, then southward into Maine, Cape Cod, New York Harbor, the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, along the Outer Banks to Charleston Harbor and on to Cape Canaveral. It ends at the Dry Tortugas on the western tip of the Florida Keys near the Tropic of Cancer. In this companion book to “West Coast: Bering to Baja”, David Freese has once again captured a vast coastal region—one that presently faces a major peril from the rising sea brought about by global climate change and higher temperatures on land and in the ocean.
There are wonderful surprises here. The remote regions of Greenland, northern Quebec, Labrador, and Newfoundland offer breathtaking beauty that many people would not normally associate with the East Coast. As seen from the air, there are estuaries, fjords, cities, rivers, bays, wildlife refuges, parks, beaches, and islands that create stunning abstract shapes which also reveal their fragility in the face of the increasing sea-level.
Simon Winchester, always the master storyteller, provides the informative and captivating tale about the geological underpinnings and climatic history of the Atlantic seaboard, including an ominous view of what lies ahead. Jenna Butler, an award-winning Canadian author, gives a noteworthy commentary on Freese’s photographs, as she places the images in context with the expansive North American environment and explains the effects and risks of global warming to the populations of Canada and the United States.
“East Coast: Arctic to Tropic” is the perfect complement to “West Coast: Bering to Baja”, in which Freese explored the creation and dangers associated with the North American portion of the Pacific’s Ring of Fire. Together, the books provide a unique photographic and historical record of these two remarkably diverse Atlantic and Pacific Coasts at the very start of a true land-and-sea change brought about by human use of fossil fuels. In “East Coast: Arctic to Tropic”, an extraordinary sequence of photographs tells the Atlantic tale and reveals an ocean that lies in wait.
A Year in Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park is Nature’s gem in Washington, DC. Twice the size of famed Central Park in New York City, Rock Creek Park is the wild, wooded heart of the nation’s capital, offering refuge and a keen sense of place for millions of residents and visitors each year.
Rock Creek Valley serves as the spine of the national park. Its history is long and storied, from native Indian tribes who fished the creek, hunted the woods, and quarried the rock outcroppings, to Euro-Americans’ claims on the land as mill sites, to deforestation near Fort DeRussyduring the American Civil War, to its ecological preservation and designation as a federal park in 1890, the same year Yosemite in California became a national park.
Melanie Choukas-Bradley, a renowned naturalist, writer, and teacher in the DC area, spent a full year in the national park recording her observations. She walked and skied its trails several times a week and in all weather conditions, observing and recording natural events in such engaging prose and insight that we feel right at home when she explores the park’s many “environmental moments.” As Choukas-Bradley writes:
“Rock Creek Park’s legendary ‘wildness’ has inspired not only American Presidents such as John Quincy Adams, who heralded Rock Creek as ‘this romantic glen,’ and Teddy Roosevelt, who led hikes and rock-scrambles there, but also other devotees such as Edward O. Wilson, the world-renowned scientist who, as a boy, fondly studied in the park’s environs.”
But this is more than a nature book, for Choukas-Bradley makes enlightened connections between the natural cycles of life within the park and her life as both a naturalist and writer and a wife and mother. Woven into her wanderings is an exuberance for the restorative powers of Nature and a yearning for better stewardship of our earthly home. Within these pages, Choukas-Bradley leads us on a personal discovery of the wonders of Rock Creek Park. Enhanced by the beautiful photographs of Susan Austin Roth, we are given the gift of an incredible and unforgettable journey.
Washington in Spring
In this intimate and history-laden nature journal of the nation’s capital at its most glorious time of the year, Robert K. Musil pays homage to the noted nature writers who have explored an Washington before him.
From the moment Captain John Smith and his men pulled their barge aground at Little Falls on the Potomac and hiked to the Great Falls, the ever-changing beauty and bounty of Washington in spring has captured the imagination of writers who have also been moved to preserve it. White-bearded John Burroughs, friend of Walt Whitman, attended President Lincoln’s Second Inauguration and then hiked off looking for birds and butterflies. Burroughs wrote that the areas surrounding Rock Creek should become a national park. Musil follows a similar path and that of later writers like Florence Merriam Bailey, through Rock Creek Park and finds Red-tailed Hawks, woodland flowers, and the mysterious appearance at his feet of a Pileated Woodpecker that introduces a young couple to the glories of nature in the capital.
Amidst the constant encroachment of urban sprawl and growing signs of climate change, find surprising signs of nature’s resilience and restorative powers from a bustling brood of Hooded Mergansers beneath construction at Huntley Meadows to a face-to-face encounter with a Barred Owl on the C&O Canal whose deep, black eyes commune with the creature whose eyes are magnified by binoculars.
A life-long birder and leading environmental proponent grown weary of the grind and gridlock of Washington, Musil finds relief, renewal, even resurgence in seeking out, carefully observing and feeling the beauty of Washington in spring.
Jack Parsons has been investigating the incredible landscapes, amazing light, and diverse cultures of the American Southwest for more than thirty-five years, in turn becoming a master of photographic art. He has been the photographer for fifteen acclaimed books, including the seminal 1993 publication of Santa Fe Style, which helped to chronicle and establish a regional aesthetic for New Mexico’s architecture that is now recognized worldwide.
In his commitment to capturing and comprehending the land and life of New Mexico, Parsons has made more than 400,000 photographs of every type of landscape and culture in the ‘Land of Enchantment,’ as New Mexico is called. Dark Beauty features 100 of his rarely seen or published photographs of New Mexico, taken from the time of his arrival in the summer of 1969 right up to the present day.
From captivating images of small towns, fiestas, and everyday life, to spectacular views of mountains, rivers, and plains, from enduring glimpses of old adobe houses, Pueblo villages, and religious structures, to refreshingly new views of murals, Main Streets, and iconography, Parsons presents a personal, elegiac narrative of his ‘home place.’ Seen as a whole, the photographs in Dark Beauty reveal a deep understanding and reverence for New Mexico’s complex and rich history, unique multiculturalism, and unparalleled beauty. With Jack Parsons as our guide, we gain a true sense and appreciation of New Mexico’s lure as a uniquely American place.
Small Town South
Since 1983 David Wharton has photographed the twelve states that define the American South, focusing his attention on rural and small-town culture, vernacular architecture and landscape, the role of religion in Southern life, and the relationship between Southerners, their natural surroundings, and the communities they have built. Small Town South is the result of Wharton’s travels through a region that extends from Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas in the west to Virginia and the Carolinas in the east, from Kentucky and Tennessee in the north to Florida in the south, with Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia forming the region’s center in between.
No other photographer has devoted so much time and attention to recording this distinctive American place. The 115 duotone photographs which serve as the book’s core, combined with the author’s insightful text, convey an overall sense of what the small Southern town has become and looks like during the early twenty-first century. Wharton organizes his study into thematic portfolios that address themes such as the intersection of tradition and modernity, local commemorations of the past, the omnipresence of the church in town life, the difficulties of making a living in the New World economy, the look of Main Street, the display of public murals and memorials, and the iconographic unfolding of community values.
Many have likened Wharton’s photographic eye and approach to the work of other photographic masters of the South, including Walker Evans, Eudora Welty, William Christenberry, Shelby Lee Adams, Alex Harris, Rob Amberg, and Martha A. Strawn. And, just as we turn to those artists to help us understand and reckon with Southern history and culture, we now can look to David Wharton as another pioneer photographer of the Southern small town in all its simplicity and complexity.
The United Kingdom
Historic Walks in Sherwood Forest
Among the great trees of this ancient woodland are said to have roamed the folk hero Robin Hood and his band of loyal supporters. Where he is reputed to have trod, walker Brian Conduit follows, creating gentle meanders through the history of the area. The walks have easy to follow directions, maps, and plenty of background information. Suitable for walkers of all ages.
“Compiled by Brian Conduit, “Historic Walks in Sherwood Forest: In the Footsteps of Robin Hood” is an inherently fascinating, superbly illustrated, 160 page collection of do-it-yourself guided tours through the legendary Sherwood Forest. Enhanced with informed and informative commentaries on the histories and sights to be encountered, ” Historic Walks in Sherwood Forest: In the Footsteps of Robin Hood” is a highly recommended travel guide for anyone vacationing in England and wanting to get off the usual big city ‘beaten paths’ for tourists and enjoy a truly up close and treasured personal experience. Simply stated, ” Historic Walks in Sherwood Forest: In the Footsteps of Robin Hood” is a guaranteed memory maker!” -Midwest Book Review
Historic Walks in York
York is one of the UK’s favorite cities: a beautiful historical center that is both a destination in its own right and an excellent base for touring the delights of the surrounding region. As well as York itself, there are – to name but a few – Harrogate, Beverley, Ripon, Castle Howard, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, castles, abbeys and many picturesque villages, all just a short drive or bus ride away. Whether you fancy the grandeur of a stately home, castle or cathedral, the atmospheric site of a bloody battle, or a peaceful riverside amble, there really is something in this book for you. And while you enjoy the walk, stand to admire the views and relax in one of the many cafes en route, nuggets of historical information are provided to add interest and variety. The routes in Historic Walks in and around York are all short and manageable, ideal for all ages and abilities, with enough variety and interest to satisfy everyone. In short, this lovely book really is all you need to have a grand day out all year round.
Exploring the Nevis Range and Mamores, Scotland
Designed as the most comprehensive guide available for the hill walker exploring the Nevis and Mamore ranges in the Scottish Highlands around Fort William, this book describes in detail the best and most rewarding routes across the area, ranging from peaceful strolls through scenic glens to ascents of the principal Munros (peaks over 3000ft) and Munro Tops. All the walks have been tried and tested by the author, an experienced climber and outdoorsman as well as a professional geologist, and each is graded accorded to difficulty. Each route is described in detail and accompanied by a sketch map, an altitude profile and high-quality photographs to help the reader choose a route. There is also a wealth of valuable information about history, geology and mountain flora and fauna.
Curious Lancashire Walks
Graham’s lively writing style, combined with well-drawn attractive maps, guarantee a highly entertaining read, as well as providing a first-class collection of the best walks that Lancashire has to offer.
They will appeal to those who are seeking to tread the less travelled by-ways and who are not averse to their own company.
Curious Cumbrian Walks
Curious Cumbrian Walks ventures into and beyond these honeypots to reveal some of Lakeland’s lovely hidden gems, each with the added dimension of an intriguing tale, ghostly connection or fascinating snippet of history.
• Follow in the footsteps of Victorian revenue men as they fail to thwart sly moonshiner Lanty Slee.
• Discover the origins of the name of the River Mint while meandering along its banks near Kendal
• Shiver as the cold hand of Roger de Leyburne tickles your backbone as you walk on Cunswick Fell
• Stroll in the spirited company of the Cistercian monks of Cartmel Priory
• Cross an ancient Cumbrian bridge and read about the wise old woman who outwitted the Devil
Perfect for all ages and abilities, walkers will delight in this unique collection of easy Cumbrian rambles. Graham’s careful choice of routes, lively style and hand-drawn maps, combined with his eye for a good story, guarantee both an excellent day out and a highly entertaining read.
Kirstenbosch is a name that resonates round the world as the home of a uniquely rich flora in a setting of unsurpassed beauty, and in 2013 Kirstenbosch celebrates its 100th anniversary. This centenary publication tells the story of its establishment, its setbacks and triumphs, its benefactors and heroes. It outlines the Garden’s scientific eminence – as the repository of knowledge on our prized flora – and details the many attractions that make it a favorite destination for South Africans and visitors alike.
With a finely crafted text by acclaimed ecologist Brian Huntley, and lavishly illustrated with photographs and artworks that tell the history and reflect the beauty of the Garden, this will be a sought-after volume – a quality memento for visitors to Kirstenbosch and a keepsake for the many thousands of locals who flock there annually. Beautifully presented in a colorful dustjacket, this book will be a tasteful, all-occasions gift, and one to cherish.
Spirit of the Wind
The Namib Desert is a vast, arid expanse of constantly moving gravel plains and dunes. It covers more than 31,000 square miles stretching the whole of the western coast of Namibia, into Angola and South Africa. The winds blow relentlessly and thick fog frequently blankets the towering dunes along the coast. Although it supports a wide diversity of flora and fauna, it is a harsh environment for man and mammal.In the midst of this seemingly inhospitable region, near Garub, live the elusive wild horses that have fascinated people for almost a century.
And into this wilderness a young slip of a girl ventured, alone and armed with little more than a camera, a tent and a burning desire to follow the call of the wild.
As the weeks turned into months, Miona Janeke followed the herd from before sunrise until after dark: learning, understanding, photographing and becoming one with the free-spirited horses.
This book is the result of an intrepid pilgrimage to discover the essence of the mysterious herds of feral horses. The exquisite photographs of the horses and their surroundings show a deep, almost spiritual, connection between subject and photographer. They are testament to a rare talent and an indomitable personality.
101 Kruger Tales
It details hair-raising experiences from the Kruger Park’s roads, camps, picnic sites and walking trails, such as: An enraged elephant flips a car onto its roof; a lioness prises open a terrified couple’s car door; a fleeing impala leaps through an open car window; a hyaena snatches a baby from a tent; a tourist takes a bath in a croc-infested dam.
Bedside book, travel companion, dip-into – wherever you are, this exciting book will transport you directly into the bush.
Kruger National Park – Questions and Answers
Kruger National Park – Questions & Answers is a compilation of the questions most frequently asked by visitors to the Park, and their answers, given by a seasoned game park official. This new edition has been expanded, and reflects management decisions and changes that have occurred since the last edition appeared in 1992. It is packed with information on topics ranging from animals and their behavior, ecology and poaching, to accommodation, activities, history of place names, safety, and code of conduct.
The text is easy-to-read, combining leisure and education, making it a highly entertaining companion in the vehicle. Species sections are enlivened by simple illustrations, and two maps illustrate the ecozones and layout of the Park. This book is ideal for both guides and visitors to the Kruger National Park.
Lost Trails on the Lowveld
The continent of Africa has for a long time produced its share of bush stories, some carried down generations, others more recent. Readers interested in travelling, travel writing, history and natural history will enjoy this mid-20th century account. In this book, written in 1950, Bulpin writes about the hunters, wildlife, the Bushmen, mosquitoes, and the tsetse fly of the Lowveld. It was an area of extensive wilderness and home to a myriad of the animals, birds, plants and reptiles that have filled the imaginations of hunters, traders and authors alike for many a century in Africa. The characters and legends of the malaria-ridden Lowveld regions of the Transvaal come to life as Bulpin tells more stories about the personalities of the early days in the region.
The Magaliesberg mountains are more than two billion years old – one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet – and the book traces their creation and the changes in the landscape over this vast passage of time. The ancient geomorphology has given rise to a wide spectrum of different habitats and a consequent diversity of plant and animal life. The book’s extensive descriptions of the fauna and flora of the area inspire the reader to consider the impact that man has on his environment.
Each of the main plant and animal groups – trees, flowers, birds, mammals, reptiles and insects – has a chapter devoted to it with checklists of every species found in the area indicating both the scientific as well as common names.
The Magaliesberg by Vincent Carruthers was first published in 1990. A second edition was published in 2000 and reprinted in 2007. It has now been revised again for publication to coincide with the international proclamation of the Magaliesberg Biosphere. The book has been highly successful and is a valuable source of information about the Magaliesberg, its geology, biodiversity and human history.
• Why would a mongoose groom an impala?
• Why are elephants so interested in their dead?
• Which antelope eats small mammals?
Wild Ways brings to life the fascinating behavior of southern Africa’s mammals, not only what mammals do, but also the often-surprising reasons why. From the spectacular big game of national parks to the bats and rodents that live on farms and in cities, Wild ways covers all the mammal species that outdoor enthusiasts are likely to see.
Written in plain language for visitors to wildlife areas, hikers, hunters, farmers and nature lovers in general, this updated new-look guide brings together the latest research results from the African bush and is packed with new information in a reader-friendly format.
Signs of the Wild
This edition offers up-to-date information on identification through signs; provides new illustrations for a number of species; and features illustrations of skulls for all of the carnivores. It also offers an 8-page section of comparative spoor, updated with the most recent information available. It includes distribution maps and full-color photographs of each species.