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Top Picks for Summer Reading

Posted Thursday, July 9, 2020
— eNews

Our staff has some great environmental books to recommend, which you can find at your local library or independent bookstore. Between natural history, fiction, autobiography, and children’s picture books, these picks will enrich your sense of place and love for the natural world. Would you like to be part of a virtual book club on any of these titles? Please email Katrina Farmer, communications manager; if there is enough interest she'll host something later this summer.

Executive Director Ryan Owens' pick: The Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall

This was a favorite of my son, Henry, when he was younger, and it’s still one of my favorites. I love how the simple, rhythmic prose conveys the simple, rhythmic lifestyle of a 19th-century New England farm family. Though the work was undoubtedly hard, I often long for such a pared-down existence, focused only on the essentials of land, work, and seasons. Of course, the fact that Hall, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, is also a New Hampshire native is also a plus.

Land Protection Director Anne McBride's pick: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Delia Owens is a wildlife biologist, and "Where the Crawdads Sing" is her first novel. The main character, Kya, grows up in a marsh in North Carolina. From the book jacket’s copy: “Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder.” This is the best book I’ve read in years. I couldn’t put it down.

Stewardship Director Alex Metzger's pick: A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

I have been re-reading "A Sand County Almanac", and am definitely getting different things out of it now than when I read it as a young college student. The concept of considering future generations in management and stewardship of land was much more abstract back then. Now that I have a family, I have specific people in mind when I consider the example I'm making with my actions and the type of world I want to leave behind. Being 15 years wiser, I'm even more impressed with how Leopold demonstrates that an open, inquisitive mind is not just important for finding joy in the world around us, but is also a practical tool for good decision-making.

Stewardship Coordinator Richard Pendleton's pick: Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

As well as being a classic piece of American environmental literature, I am intrigued by Abbey’s frustration with over-engineered parks (paved roads, fancy facilities), his stories of the characters he meets, and his description of the river during his float down Glen Canyon before it was flooded. He is definitely opinionated! On the other hand, his description of differently abled people and Native Americans is very dated.

Development Director Lindsay Taflas' pick: The Overstory by Richard Powers

"The Overstory" is a beautifully written novel filled with endless imagery and interesting characters. It tells the story of a handful of people and their connection to nature, specifically trees, and how those people are different from the rest of humanity. Its deeply compelling narrative has themes of environmental action and appreciation, and a reminder that humans are not the greatest life form.

Communications Manager Katrina Farmer's pick: Seat in a Wild Place: Seasons on a Northern Pond by Erik Brown

The author shares his observations about the wildlife and phenological changes around a beaver pond here in southern in New Hampshire in this beautiful collection of journal-like entries. My grandmother gave me this book decades ago, and I still love reading it today. It’s easily accessible for any age, and is delightfully illustrated with scratchboard drawings.

Office Manager Nat Stout's pick: Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast by Michael Wojtech

My forager daughter and son-in-law recommended this book for a way to advance my knowledge of trees. This book is copiously illustrated and, if nothing else, helps the novice distinguish between various trees. Working with bark is an art form, of course, but the book gives great analysis on how to understand what’s going on with the way trees dress up. I’m still learning from it.