Books for the well-read naturalist
Durham County: A History of Durham County, Jean Anderson (2011) Offers a sense of historical depth of the county, detailed yet readable.
Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a whole new way of seeing the world around you, Clare Walker Leslie & Charles Roth (2000)
Notetaking Apps – A useful summary of some of the best note taking apps. I’ve happily used GoodNotes for many years, but there are a lot of great tools out there.
Paperlike – If you prefer taking notes with a tablet and stylus, Paperlike makes the experience feel more like writing on paper. It also serves as a tough screen protector for your device.
Write in the Rain Notebooks – An essential tool for capturing field notes. These books, in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes, are made of waterproof paper — they can withstand a downpour, being dropped in a puddle, or a visit through your washing machine.
MODULE 1 – HABITATS
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer (2015). Kimmerer tells us, “Science and traditional knowledge may ask different questions and speak different languages, but they may converge when both truly listen to the plants.” Masterful storytelling opened the door for me to a new way of knowing.
Edible Wild Plants of the Carolinas: A forager’s companion guide, Lytton John Musselman & Peter Schafran (2021)
Field Guide to the Piedmont, Michael A. Godfrey (1997)
Forest Plants of the Southeast and their Wildlife Uses, James Miller & Karl Miller (2005)
Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, Robin Wall Kimmerer (2003)
Native Trees of the Southeast: An identification guide, Katherine Kirkman, Claud Brown, Donald Leopold (2007)
Peterson Field Guides – Eastern Forests, John Kricher and Gordon Morrison (1988)
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World, Peter Wohlleben (2016). While I may not always be comfortable with his language, Wohlleben introduced me to the complex relationships of a forest.
The Journey of Trees: A Story About Forests, People, and the Future, Zach St. George (2020). Forests aren’t static, they change, and move, over time. St. George takes along for the ride.
A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, J. Reese Voshell, Jr. (2002)
A Golden Guide – Pond Life, George K. Reid, Ph.D. (1987)
Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay, William W. Warner, John Barth (1994)
Between Ocean and Bay, Jane Scott (1991) ISBN 0-87033-412-3
National Audubon Society Nature Guides – Southeast, National Audubon Society (1999)
Peterson Field Guides – Atlantic Seashore, Kenneth L. Gosner (1978)
The Big Thirst: The Marvels, Mysteries & Madness Shaping the New Era of Water, Charles Fishman (2010)
The Earth Moved: On the remarkable achievements of earthworms, Amy Stewart (2004). Stewart introduces us to one of the smaller, but most powerful earth movers on our planet.
A Soil Owner’s Manual: How to Restore and Maintain Soil Health, Jon Stika (2016)
A World Without Soil: The Past, Present, and Precarious Future of the Earth Beneath Our Feet, Jo Handelsman (2021)
Chasing the Red Queen: The Evolutionary Race Between Agriculture Pests and Poison, Andy Dyer (2014)
Check your dirt: Website from NC Cooperative Extension takes you through a series of questions to help determine possible risks present in your soil https://gardening.ces.ncsu.edu/2022/12/check-your-dirt-nc/?src=rs
Dirt to Soil: One Farm’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture, Gabe Brown (2018)
Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, David R. Montgomery (2017)
Kiss the Ground: How the food you eat can reverse climate change, heal your body, and ultimately save our world, Josh Tickell (2017). Made into an enjoyable movie (presented by Woody Harrelson). If you only read one book on soil, this may be the most important one for environmental advocates.
Microbia: A journey into the unseen world around you, Eugenia Bone (2018). There’s so much life in the soil, this book introduced me to a world I had ignored.
Sixty Harvests Left, Phillip Lymbery (2022)
Teaming with Fungi: The organic grower’s guide to mycorrhizae, Jeff Lowenfels (2017). The author explains how to work with your soil’s mycorrhizal fungi instead of dumping chemicals on the ground.
MODULE 2 – FOOD WEBS
The Sibley Guide to Trees, David Allen Sibley (2009)
Botany in a Day: The patterns of plant identification, Thomas Elpel (1996). This simple text helps you navigate the plant families of North America. A good choice if you only want to buy one botany book.
Botanical Latin, William T Stearn (2004). The Latin of botany is an arcane form, confirming to ancient rules and morphing through use. If Stearn’s “Dictionary of Plant Names” ignites your curiosity, then Botanical Latin will help you navigate this terrain.
Botany for Gardeners, Third Edition, Brian Capon (2010). This 250-page text is concise, well organized, and nicely illustrated. It gives gardeners a richer understanding of how to care for their plants by presenting the basics of how plants function in accessible language. My copy is much highlighted and dog eared.
Native Plants of the Southeast: A comprehensive guide to the best 460 species for the garden, Larry Mellichamp (2014). A solid reference book for native plant gardeners.
Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb (1977). I tuck my Newcomb’s guide in my pack on hikes.
Peterson Field Guides – A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and Northcentral United States and Southcentral Canada, George A. Petrides (1973)
Peterson Field Guides – Eastern Trees, George A. Petrides (1988)
Peterson Field Guides – Wildflowers: Northeastern/Northcentral North America, Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny (1968)
Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary, James G. Harris and Melinda Woolf Harris (2001). A collection of illustrated terms, this text is handy for plant identification and deciphering descriptions.
RHS Latin for Gardeners, Lorraine Harrison (2012) Botanical names tell a little story, translating the words helps unlock the tale. Well organized and nicely illustrated, this text is a charming addition to a gardeners library.
Saving the Wild South: The Fight for Native Plants on the Brink of Extinction, Georgann Eubanks (2021)
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners, William T. Stearn (1992). Decoding botanical names can yield charming stories about your subject. Stearn’s text helps you sleuth out meaning. A nice addition to a horticultural library, Stearn’s classic text is often considered the definitive expert, the only text you need.
Stokes Nature Guides – A Guide to Enjoying Wildflowers, Donald and Lillian Stokes (1986)
The Cabaret of Plants: Forty thousand years of plant life and the human imagination, Richard Mabey (2015). Delightfully written, exploring the romance between people and plants.
The Naming of Names: The search for order in the world of plants, Anna Pavord (2005). Have you ever wondered how we came to use the binomial naming convention to describe all the organisms in the world? Fierce battles were fought over hundreds of years to arrive at our current system. I now have a greater appreciation for how we describe what we know having journeyed along the path Pavord lays out.
The Triumph of Seeds: How grains, nuts, kernels, pulses & pips conjured the plant kingdom and shaped human history, Thor Hanson (2015). If a seed is a baby in a box with a lunch, Hanson introduces us to the story behind the box.
Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification, Revised (Updated Golden Guides), C. Frank Brockman, (2001)
Weeds: In defense of nature’s most unloved plants, Richard Mabel (2012). Mabey’s humor and sly approach endears his subject to even the most hardened weed-pulling gardener. I now look at these unwelcome plants with new appreciation.
Wildflowers of the Atlantic Southeast, Laura Cotterman, Damon Waitt & Alan Weakley (2019)
Wild Flowers of North Carolina, Willam Justice, Bell & Lindsey (2005) Arranged in a helpful manner, this text is a good companion for identification hikes.
Attracting Native Pollinators. Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies. The Xerces Society Guide, Eric Mader & Matthew Shepherd (2011)
Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World, Sam Droege and Laurence Packer (2015)
Bees, Wasps, and Ants. The Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Gardens, Eric Grissell (2010)
Butterflies through Binoculars – The East, Jeffrey Glassberg (1999)
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees, Thor Hanson (2018)
Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History, David Wagner (2005)
Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly, Sue Halpern (2001)
Good Garden Bugs: Everything Your Need to Know About Beneficial Predatory Insects, Mary Gardiner (2015)
Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman (2007)
Kaufman Focus Guides – Butterflies of North America, Jim P. Brock & Kenn Kaufman (2003)
Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them, Laurence Packer (2010)
Making Nature Less Predictable: ‘Biological Strip Malls’ Have Taken Over the Planet, Ashley Braun (2022)
Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants, Heather Holm (2014)
Stokes Nature Guides – A Guide to Observing Insect Lives, Lillian Stokes (1984)
The Bees in Your Backyard. A Guide to North America’s Bees Joseph Wilson (2015)
The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening, Kim Eierman (2020)
The Sting of the Wild, Justin Schmidt (2018)
Tracks and Signs of Insects and other Invertebrates: A Guide to North American Species, Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney (2010)
Bird Brother: A Falconer’s Journey and the Healing Power of Wildlife, Rodney Stotts (2022)
Birds of the Carolinas, Eloise Potter, Parnell, Teulings, and Davis (2006)
Peterson Field Guides – Eastern Birds, Roger Tory Peterson (1980)
North on the Wing: Travels with the Songbird Migration of Spring, Bruce M. Beehler (2018)
The Genius of Birds, Jennifer Ackerman (2016)
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, J. Drew Lanham (2017)
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, David Allen Sibley (2003)
Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life, George Monbiot (2017)
Mammals of the Eastern United States, John O. Whitaker, Jr., and William J. Hamilton, Jr. (1998)
Mammals of North America, Roland W. Kays and Don E. Wilson (2002)
Peterson Field Guides – Mammals, Fiona Reid (2006)
Peterson Field Guides – A Field Guide to Animal Tracks, Olaus J. Murie (1974)
Stokes Nature Guides – A Guide To Animal Tracking and Behavior, Donald and Lillian Stokes (1986)
The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild, Lyanda Lynn Haupt (2013)
Your Inner Fish (2014) Delightful three-part video documentary exploring our evolutionary path. Get your popcorn.
Stokes Nature Guides – A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles, Thomas F. Tyning, 1990,
Peterson Field Guides – A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America, Roger Conant and Joseph T. Collins (1998)
MODULE 3 – IMPACT
Humans & the Environment
A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There, Aldo Leopold (1949). A classic, beautifully written, and keenly observed. Leopold watches his Wisconsin county change – if only we could return to his 1940s and correct the course.
Brining Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife and Native Plants, Douglas Tallamy (2007). Tallamy helps me see how the choices I make about my garden really do matter.
Flower Confidential – The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, Amy Stewart (2008). Those pretty posies in the vase have a story, likely spanning thousands of miles and several countries.
Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, E.O. Wilson (2016). Pulitzer prizing wining book presents a compelling conservation case. A must-read for environmental advocates.
In Kiltumper: A Year in an Irish Garden, Niall Williams and Christine Breen (2021) Green energy is good, right? Have you ever considered what it’s like when it comes to your backyard? Williams and Breen weave a wonderful tail of gardening and adapting.
Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard, Douglas Tallamy (2020). Here’s how you can participate in perhaps the most important conservation effort in our country.
New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden, Kelly Norris (2021). Practical ideas for creating inviting spaces in your landscape.
Nightwalking by John Lewis-Stemphel (2022). Beautifully written by a gifted story teller.
On a Farther Shore: the Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, William Souder (2012). Carson changed our world, but her path wasn’t easy. Reading this made me see the challenges she faced and how amazing her contribution was.
Planting in a Post-Wild World, Thomas Rainer & Claudia West (2015). The authors argue that nature can flourish in urban and suburban settings by blending cultivated and wild plants. This book describes how to create layered spaces that reflect local environments and can thrive in a built world.
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (1964). Beautifully written, galvanized public awareness, spurred action regarding chemical use. Essential reading for informed activist.
The Great New Wilderness Debate, Edited J. Baird Callicot and Michael Nelson (1998). An expansive collection of writers from John Muir to Gary Snyder exploring our role and relationship to nature. Helpful to understanding how we got to where we are today.
The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World, Andrea Wulf (2015) One of my favorite authors introduces us to the German naturalist who helped changed the way we view the world.
The Living Landscape: Designing for beauty in biodiversity in the home garden, Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy (2014). Inspiration, research, and practical guidance combined in a beautiful book.
Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm, Isabella Tree (2018). Beautifully written journey of converting depleted land to something beautiful. A new favorite author for me.
Invasive Species and Things that Don’t Belong
The Food Explorer: The true adventures of the globe-trotting botanist who transformed what America eats, Daniel Stone (2018) Why do we enjoy Meyer lemons here, who paid the price for them gracing our table, and what is the broader cost of them in this country? The fascinating stories of the food on our plate, I experience the grocery store in a whole new way since reading this book.
Climate & Weather
Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, Michael R. Bloomberg, Carl Pope (2017)
Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, Elizabeth Kolbert (2006/2015)
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, Jeff Goodell (2017)
Benefits of Nature, Health, and Activism
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, Carolyn Finney (2014)
Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, Elizabeth Royte (2008)
Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution, Marcus Eriksen (2017)
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, Florence Williams (2017)
There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years, Mike Berners-Lee (Feb. 2019)
Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, Richard Louv (2016)
Wild Hope: On the Front Lines of Conservation Success, Andrew Balmford (2014)
How to Catch a Mole, Marc Hamer (2022). Hamer may be Aldo Leopold’s successor – his lyric prose transports us to the Welsh hills as plies his trade as a mole catcher.
Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane (2015). While set in the British countryside, Macfarlane introduces the reader to the richness of language for the love of a place.
On Trails, Robert Moor (2016). Beautifully written scientific travelogue exploring the creatures who roam the planet. I was sad when it ended.
Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver (2000)
Encounters with the Archdruid, John McPhee (1971)