Conserve Wildlife Blog

Book Club: Spring Reading List

April 6th, 2023

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

Emmy’s Recommendations

Spring is in the air! With the days getting warmer and longer, now is the perfect time to pick a sunny spot outside and read a book. Here are some of my all time favorites that I hope will inspire you to get out in nature. Happy reading! 

In honor of Earth Day, which is just a couple weeks away, I’d like to recommend the beautifully written Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. As a botanist, university professor, and member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer intertwines her scientific knowledge of plants with an indigenous worldview, culminating in a powerful collection of reflections and teachings about our relationship with nature. Science is often considered an objective field (a scientist observes an object), but Kimmerer offers a more holistic perspective where the objects (in this case, plants) can be teachers, offering wisdom instead of just scientific knowledge. Her stories share a central theme of reciprocity and a reminder that we are responsible to protect the natural world in exchange for its many gifts. In a time when humans have become so disconnected with nature, Braiding Sweetgrass is an important and inspiring book I think everyone could benefit from.  

One of my graduate school professors assigned The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf as reading material for our Conservation Biology class. Up until that point, I had never heard of Alexander von Humboldt, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are so many things named after him! Humboldt County, Humboldt squid, Humboldt Current…the list goes on. Although Humboldt was a widely famous naturalist and geographer during his lifetime, he remains largely forgotten today. If you aren’t familiar with Alexander von Humboldt, I highly recommend this engaging biography about his life and contributions to science. You’ll follow Humboldt throughout his many explorations and learn how his writings shaped ecology as we know it today. You may be surprised to learn how much his work inspired well known historical figures including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Jefferson, and John Muir! I still think about this biography regularly, and those who know me know I’m a bit passionate about Humboldt – I even named a piping plover chick after him! If you also enjoy the biography, definitely check out the companion illustrated book, The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt featuring beautiful original artwork by Lillian Melcher interlaced with Humboldt’s original notes and drawings from his journeys in the Americas.

And now a field guide recommendation. Since spring migration is upon us, a bird field guide seems appropriate. I know many birders are die hard fans of Sibley guides. Don’t get me wrong, I also love his illustrations and keep a portable copy of his guide on my phone. That said, The Crossley ID Guide by Richard Crossley is one of my all-time favorite reference resources for birds. Instead of illustrations, this guide features photographs (taken by the author!) depicting each species in various plumages and behaviors. Crossley even layers the photographs on backgrounds depicting the birds’ natural habitats so that the reader can learn what the birds may look like in different behaviors and from various distances (see the American oystercatcher plate above). It’s a very approachable field guide that can be helpful to any birder regardless of skill level.     

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