Love nature? Catch up with summer books
With apologies to “Prairie Home Companion’s” Garrison Keillor, it’s been a noisy week at Colorado National Monument, where all the bighorn sheep are good-looking, all the restrooms are strong, and all the lizards are above average.
Thunderstorms rolled in. Lightning struck. Rain fell so hard one afternoon that park visitors from Seattle thought they’d never left home. One park ranger was congratulated after admitting she’d done a rain dance the night before. Skies continued sprinkling for days. After baking through June, a cooler, wetter July made us happy as clams. (If clams actually lived in the desert, they probably wouldn’t be so happy.)
While rain quenches the thirst of plants and animals, people have a prime opportunity to catch up on summer reading. This short list of outdoorsy favorites mixes old classics you meant to read in college (but academics kept getting in the way) with a couple more recent titles fresh off the best-seller list.
If you love nature writing nearly as much as nature itself, why not crack open a book?
■ “Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout” by Philip Connors (2011).
The author, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, based this book on his experiences as a fire lookout in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. It won the National Outdoor Book Award.
Excerpt: “I’ve seen fires burn so hot they made their own weather. I’ve watched deer and elk frolic in the meadow below me and pine trees explode in a blue ball of smoke. If there’s a better job anywhere on the planet, I’d like to know what it is.”
■ “Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert” by Terry Tempest Williams (2001).
The Utah author is a conservationist and activist who has testified before Congress on behalf of women’s health and camped in remote regions of the world.
Excerpt: “The roar and roll of cobbles being churned by the current is strong. The river has muscle when flexed against stone carved stone, stones that appear as waves of rock, secret knowledge only through engagement. I am no longer content to sit, but stand and walk, walk to the river, enter the river, surrender my body to water now red, red is the Colorado, blood of my veins.”
■ “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold (1937).
The Wisconsin author was a forest ranger and ecologist who helped develop environmental ethics. He died of a heart attack in 1948 while fighting a wildfire.
Excerpt: “Soon after I bought the woods a decade ago, I realized that I had bought almost as many tree diseases as I had trees. My woodlot is riddled by all the ailments wood is heir to. I began to wish Noah, when he loaded up the Ark, had left the tree diseases behind. But it soon became clear that these same diseases made my woodlot a mighty fortress, unequaled in the whole county.”
■ “The Sea Around Us” by Rachel Carson (1951).
The author was a marine biologist whose most famous book, “Silent Spring,” is often credited with helping to trigger the environmental movement.
Excerpt: “There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide. No other force that affects the sea is so strong. Compared with the tide, the wind-created waves are surface movements felt, at most, no more than 100 fathoms below the surface. So, despite their impressive sweep, are the planetary currents, which seldom involve more than the upper several hundred fathoms.”
■ “Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” by Edward Abbey (1968).
The author, known as “Thoreau of the American West,” wrote this book about his adventures as a seasonal ranger in Arches National Monument (now a national park).
Excerpt: “I’m sitting on my doorstep early one morning, facing the sun as usual, drinking coffee, when I happen to look down and see almost between my bare feet, only a couple of inches to the rear of my heels, the very thing I had in mind. No mistaking the wedge-like head, that tip of horny segmented tail peeping out of the coils.”