14 Best Nature Books According to Minnesota's Largest Independent Bookstore

By: Mary Magers

September 03, 2019

Category: Nature Notes

This Friday is National Read a Book Day. To help you prepare, we asked the experts at Minneapolis independent bookstore Magers & Quinn to share some favorite books about the natural world. Mary Magers happily obliged. From pollinators to weather to winter survival and more, read on to find your next page-turner.

  1. Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Elizabeth Rush
    Sea levels are already on the rise, with impacts for all of us. Rising guides readers through some of the communities in the U.S., both human and non-human, where the effects of rising seas have been most dramatic. Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award and published by local press, Milkweed Editions.
  2. The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature, Tammi Hartung
    In Minnesota, we wait a long time for our short growing season each year. So when critters decide to share our hard-earned bounties, we see them as the enemy, intentionally thumbing their little noses at us. But as we are starting to realize, there are benefits for all when we work with nature and not against it. The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener is a handbook on how to make beneficial wildlife part of your food-garden ecosystem ⁠— and it is as pleasant to look at as it is to read. 
  3. Pollinators of Native Plants and Bees, Heather Holm
    We are so fortunate to have Holm’s indispensable comprehensive guides on our pollinators, loaded with her terrific photos. Pollinators of Native Plants illustrates the specific relationships between native pollinators, beneficial insects, and native plants. Bees illustrates the bees that live in north-central and eastern United States and southern Canada.
  4. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
    The classic Silent Spring ⁠— credited with an awakening of public environmental consciousness ⁠— is as relevant, informative and timely as it was when it was first published in 1962. Biologist Rachel Carson was one of the foremost science writers in America, respected for her scientific knowledge and ability to synthesize it for a public audience. She died 18 months after the publication of the book.
  5. Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, and Future, Lauren Redniss
    Thunder & Lightning is a dazzling fusion of storytelling, visual art and reportage that grapples with weather in all its dimensions: its danger and its beauty, why it happens and what it means.
  6. Mozart’s Starling, Lyanda Lynn Haupt
    This book explores the unlikely and remarkable bond between one of history’s most beloved composers and one of Earth’s most common birds. Combining elements of natural history, biography and memoir, it awakens an awareness of our place in the world.
  7. The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species, Carlos Magdalena
    In this botanical adventure, Magdalena shares his travels around the globe and his work in the lab at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (home of the largest botanical collection in the world) on his quest to preserve as much flora as he can.
  8. Nature at Our Doorstep: Observing Plants, Birds, Mammals and Other Natural Phenomena Throughout the Year, Matt Schuth
    Learn to be an armchair expert on the natural world of our region with this handy guide, divided into seasons. It includes vignettes on a range of species, from the gray squirrel to the tamarack. A similarly fun book is A Field Guide to Your Own Back Yard, by John Hanson Mitchell.
  9. The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells About Who We Are, Paul Bogard
    Bogard enlists farmers, biologists, ecologists and cartographers to explore, illustrate and understand the importance of something too many of us take for granted: soil. The chapters include “Paved and Hallowed,” “Farmed and Wild” and “Hell and Sacred,” which includes “Home” ⁠— as in Minnesota.
  10. Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival, Bernd Heinrich
    While we humans need to alter our surroundings to survive winters, the natural world has impressive adaptations that are illuminated in Winter World. As Heinrich points out, our fragility in the cold makes these adaptations and the survival of the natural world all the more miraculous. He also has a Summer World.
  11. The Consolations of the Forest: Alone In A Cabin on the Siberian Taiga, Sylvain Tesson
    Tesson shares his writings from six months spent alone in a wooden cabin in Siberia. We learn about his deep appreciation for the harsh but beautiful land, the resilient people who populate it, and the bizarre and tragic history that has made Siberia a mythical place in our imagination.
  12. The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, John Vaillant
    Outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East, a man-eating tiger is on the prowl. The tiger isn’t just killing people, it’s murdering them, almost as if it has a vendetta. A team of trackers is dispatched to hunt down the tiger before it strikes again. This is a riveting work of non-fiction and was a reminder for this reader of the importance of reverence for our fellow beings.
  13. A Natural History of North American Trees, Donald Culross Peattie
    Published in the 1950s, the book provides eloquent and entertaining accounts of American trees along with a picture of life in America from its earliest days to the middle of the last century.
  14. Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, Douglas W. Tallamy (Coming February 2020)
    In Nature’s Best Hope, University of Delaware Professor Tallamy outlines a home-based approach to conservation with practical ways to turn backyards into conservation corridors and wildlife habitats, maximizing biodiversity in our cities and towns.

About the Author

A person's legs stick out in the aisle at a bookstore.

Mary Magers is a bookseller at Magers & Quinn Booksellers and a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener, Minnesota Tree Care Adviser, and Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture student at the University of Minnesota. It is all she can do to restrain herself from collecting all of the great natural history and gardening books that come through the store.

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