“Wise Trees” by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel (Abrams, 192 pgs., $40)
Like their beauty in the photography book, these revered trees have stories that are equally deep. The authors traveled to 59 sites across five continents for their book, and give each tree a singular presence. Many are symbols of hope (9/ 11 and Oklahoma City survivor trees) or spiritual meccas, while others have historic significance. Did you know the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., originated as a gift from Japan, an overture of goodwill when relations were frayed in the early 20th century? A reader won’t be able to view an ancient tree — wherever it stands — the same way again. “It’s enough to admire them, to try to understand their lives and to cultivate, so to speak, a deciduous philosophy,” writes Verlyn Klinkenborg in introducing the wisdom within.
“The Naturalist’s Notebook” by Nathaniel T. Wheelright and Bernd Heinrich (Storey Publishing, 208 pgs., $19.95)
This is a nature field tool for sure. The authors devote more than half of the book for use as a five-year calendar-journal — but there are many tools here. With delicate illustrations of flora and fauna by one of the authors and thoughtful and concise discussion on the “art” of nature journaling, the novice or experienced naturalist gets a lot of guidance. Heinrich writes that it’s more vital than ever in our frenetic world to “leave room in our lives for genuine, direct and contemplative connection with nature.” Heinrich and Wheelright help answer how. (Storey Publishing has a promotion to give away signed copies. Details here.)
“Pocket Bike Maintenance” by Mel Allwood (Carlton Books, 192 pgs., $16.95)
The motivation to come up with this handy book was born of city life. Allwood acknowledges the virtues of rolling (the fitness, doing good for the environment), but it’s the freedom to move in the city that gets him on two wheels. “I’m an impatient traveler. Bikes are the quickest way to get around and mean you’re traveling under your own steam.” If you’re going to ride, you need to be ready for roadside emergencies. Allwood’s tidy book, with some step-by-step illustrations in places, is worth the investment. The book is rangy, from the simplest of fixes and basics about tools, to deep dives into, say, building a wheel. But that is by design: Allwood hopes the curious reader-cyclist will commit to the simple principles of bike maintenance, thereby giving him or her confidence to take on bigger jobs.
“Walks of a Lifetime: Extraordinary Hikes From Around the World” by Robert and Martha Manning (Rowman & Littlefield, 245 pgs., $34.95)
This book is wanderlust in big, bold letters, coursing through 30 trails around the world (17 in the United States). The husband-wife writing team sets the tone up front that this is a guide about long-distance or multiday walks, not hikes, for fear of scaring off readers. Try as the Mannings might, nothing about this book says saunter. But no matter. The Mannings’ goal is to inspire walking as “a celebration of life” and a means to see the world’s beauty. Their walks, additionally, are an education in natural and cultural history whether their hoofing in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness in Arizona or traversing the jewel of Britain’s trail system, the Pennine Way along the backbone of northern England. The Mannings emphasize that these are “extraordinary hikes for ordinary people,” but their sense of adventure and curiosity give them away.
“Classic Campfire Stories: Forty Spooky Tales” by William W. Forgey (Falcon Guides, 374 pgs., $16.95)
The author, aka Doc Forgey, created many of the entries around campfires while leading Boy Scout troops in North Carolina and Indiana. He clearly enjoyed it. There is a fun nod, too, to Mark Twain, who Forgey excerpts from an essay called “How to Tell a Story.” Twain emphasizes the power of the pause — “the pause in front of the snapper at the end.”
There lies the power of storytelling at its finest. Of course, ghost stories go with campfires like campfires go with Minnesota, and “The Minnesota Maggot of Death” ghost story punctuates the book. In it, a creature from beyond the grave haunts a local baker. Where? Wherever you want it to be. That’s part of the fun.
(This is part of the Big List here)