Fire, earth, sky, water. A crop of new spring titles have the elements for some informative reading, from putting readers at ground zero below supercells to challenging their survival instincts:
Camille Seaman, Princeton Architectural Press, 176 pp., $40
Equal parts terrifying and beautiful, gathering storm clouds force the reader to stop, look — and breathe — in a new book by photographer Camille Seaman. She caught a glimpse of her daughter watching “Storm Chasers” on television — and it was over. It’s easy to imagine you are the one alone on the roads in June in Minnesota and across the Plains states, supercells swirling, contorting and swallowing the sky, a witness to nature’s force. Seaman puts the reader squarely in her shoes. Some photos bear no description other than a timestamp of their month, year and state. With others, Seaman is spare with her words, describing the storm’s structure or impact. Still, words never get in the way, allowing her photos to gather power, page to page.
Excerpt: “I wasn’t prepared for just how overwhelming an experience chasing can be. It is visceral and multisensory: the smell of charged particles, the sweetness of grass, the scent of pavement just before it rains, the sight of wind blowing through cornfields. Not to mention the color of the clouds and the light of the sky and the lightning. It’s all so beautiful, so awesome, and so humbling at the same time.”
Daniel Hume, The Experiment, 192 pp., $19.95
Author Daniel Hume was fascinated by fire — making sparks, producing flame — during his youth in the English countryside. He tried his own versions of a bow drill, rubbing his hands raw, until, finally, he produced an ember. Adding some tinder from the bed of his Lionhead rabbit, he had success. “Finally, I had lit a fire — not only on the ground, but deep inside myself.” Now a bushcraft expert who leads an outdoor survival school in the United Kingdom, Hume takes readers step by step through fire-making (hand drills, striking flint and steel, fire plows, sun power!), and offers pointers on the volume of tinder around us. (Note to self: Bring a piece of old inner tube on a rainy camping weekend.) Hume is more of a friendly ranger in delivery than drill sergeant, and only too happy to fire-worship.
Excerpt: “Fire has no purpose, no aim, no ambition, no mercy; it simply exists and consumes anything that it can in an unbiased fashion. But it is not to be feared, only respected. Tending a fire and using it efficiently means understanding its traits and habits and using them to your advantage in order to achieve what you want.”
Rachel Levin, Ten Speed Press, 144 pp., $14.99
What, another outdoors survival book? But author Rachel Levin guides with experts’ advice, humor, and clever illustrations that complement that humor. A fox family anchored under your deck? Harass them with a radio playing overnight or, say, smelly sneakers in the path to their den. How about a coyote encounter? Keep calm, and “channel your inner frat guy,” writes Levin. Go big, bold and loud.
Excerpt: “It’s an increasingly wild world out there. Wildlife and humans have long been at odds, in ways big and small. But as we continue to build 4,000-square-foot homes where forests once stood and pile into cities (predator-free, all-you-can-eat buffets for the animals that follow), our lives are intersecting more and more.”
By Tony Lolli, with photography by Bruce Curtis, 240 pp., Sterling Publishing, $27.95
This celebration of fly fishing keeps a tight focus on what it calls “the soul of the sport”: the flies themselves and the art of making them. There are tips on how to tie an effective fly and where to fish hallowed locations, but the deep dive is on major fly patterns, such as the Atlantic salmon and steelhead flies, regarded as the most colorful. Some of the salmon fly names are as colorful as the photography: Peekaboo Purple, Dunc’s Delight, St. Lawrence. Warm-water flies have their day, too, including the Golden Stonefly Nymph, tied by Aaron Heusinkveld of St. Cloud, who was introduced to the sport through Project Healing Waters. The group is dedicated to helping disabled military men and women and veterans through the sport.
Excerpt: “More has been written about fly fishing than probably any other sport. What accounts for this abundance? Perhaps it is because fly fishing has been described as the contemplative sport. Perhaps this meditative effect goes deeper than our consciousness, and influences us even when we are not engaged in the act of fly fishing.”
Phyllis Root, with photography by Kelly Povo, 256 pp., University of Minnesota Press, $24.95
The title says it: This a guide book. But as the guides say, this is a record, too, of their 10 years of learning about and looking for Minnesota’s native wildflowers. The book is in two parts. The first is a lesson in the state’s biomes and a diversity that allows for native plants to prosper, as well as how to identify wildflowers. In part two, the guides’ “Year of Native Wildflowers” is organized by the 10 habitats they immersed themselves in from spring to fall, with tips for where the reader should look. For example, in a segment named High Summer on the Prairie, the authors have individual photos and descriptions of the prairie’s breadth, from black-eyed Susans to the tapered spires of Culver’s root, to the narrow-leaved purple coneflower, the only purple coneflower native to Minnesota.
Excerpt: “Plants don’t keep a calendar: they bloom when warmth and moisture and daylight coincide. We’ve seen pasqueflowers on the same hillside in early March and as late as the beginning of May. Each year, blooming time can be different from all previous years.”
Book events: 5 p.m. May 15, Sisters’ Sludge Coffee Cafe and Wine Bar, Minneapolis; 10:30 a.m. June 2, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska.