BOOK REVIEW: How to Read the Wilderness by the Nature Study Guild

How to Read the Wilderness: An Illustrated Guide to the Natural Wonders of North AmericaHow to Read the Wilderness: An Illustrated Guide to the Natural Wonders of North America by Nature Study Guild
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

Release Date: November 22, 2022

This illustrated guide is designed to help readers learn some of the most prolific trees, plants, animals, birds, coastal life forms, and night sky constellations of North America. For plant [and in some cases animal] identification, the book uses a handy flowchart method that asks questions, sending the reader to an appropriate marker depending upon the answer. For wildlife identification, it uses descriptions of not only the animal, but skeletal remains, scat, and tracks. It also gives alternate names and asterisms for constellations.

The pros of this book include: 1.) it focuses on the most common elements and doesn’t get bogged down trying to be all-inclusive; 2.) it uses a flow charts, diagrams, and drawings successfully to do much of the heavy lifting.

The downsides of the book are: 1.) it seems be much more Western US-centric, and often treats everything East of the Rockies as a single zone (not to mention minimal discussion of Canada or Mexico – so maybe it should be thought of more as a US guide;) 2.) in trying to be text-minimal, it occasionally states things in a way that lacks clarity.

If you want to get a basic understanding of the elements of nature for the United States, this book is worth investigating. It’s young reader friendly, but not exclusively so.


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DAILY PHOTO: Good Fences…

Taken in November of 2021 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

DAILY PHOTO: A Clearing, w/ Evergreen & Sky

Taken near Galax, VA in November of 2021

DAILY PHOTO: Bare Tree on a Cemetery Hill

Taken in Westview Cemetery in the Autumn of 2021

BOOK REVIEW: A Transcendental Journey by Stephen Evans

A Transcendental JourneyA Transcendental Journey by Stephen Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

Release date [for 25th Anniversary ed.]: September 10, 2022

Get Speechify to make any book an audiobook

A Transcendental Journey intersperses a quirky travelogue of a rambling road-trip through America with a book report on selected essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. On a positive note, the book offers genuinely funny lines within a generally amusing wandering discussion of events, and there’s something authentic about the voice – you may find yourself hearing the words in the voice of someone you know (or a character) who is idiosyncratic and nerdy in a way that is not uncommon in America. I did. In addition to the funny lines, there are statements that feel profound and are definitely thought-provoking.

Some of the offbeat elements go a bit too far, reaching the point of distraction. For some reason, the author decided to note not only each time he drank a Coca-Cola, but the size of the beverage. At first, it’s just a bit of weirdness that seems to contribute to the aforementioned authentic voice, but eventually one is made sad by the idea that this guy is giving himself diabetes and involving you, as reader, in the process. I can’t say that the philosophy bit is particularly well integrated into the travelogue, and the author often seems like an Enlightenment guy more than a Transcendentalist. (Transcendentalism being an offshoot of Romanticism, a philosophy meant to counteract the perceived cold, hard rationality of Enlightenment thinking and take a more mystical / spiritual [though not necessarily religious] view of the world.) That said, I can’t fault an inability to keep these schools of thought in boxes, as my own philosophy and worldview are fairly ala carte. My point is just that someone who picked up the book expecting to have a clearer view of what distinguishes Transcendentalism from other philosophies might come away confused.

If you enjoy travelogues, particularly of the United States, you’ll find this book a fun read. If you’re familiar with the works of Emerson, I wouldn’t expect any deep philosophical insight, but there are some fine quotes and discussions to remind you of Emerson’s great ideas and beautiful language. (And there are certainly many varied insights to ponder.)

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DAILY PHOTO: Turtle on the Forest Floor

Taken in May of 2012 in Yellow River Park [Stone Mountain, GA]