A Sand County Almanac: and sketches here and there (1949) by Aldo Leopold
A Sand County Almanac is a nonfiction book written by the American ecologist and environmentalist Aldo Leopold, and is rightly considered a classic by modern conservationist and environmentalist movements. Aldo Leopold was a leading conservationist himself and a co-founder of the “Wilderness Society”, an organisation devoted to the expansion and protection of wilderness areas. This is a captivatingly written account of the changing seasons and times and the flora and fauna of North America by a man who was clearly a keen observer and lover of nature. Although this was written many decades ago the same environmental concerns apply, and little seems to have changed since then regarding many people’s general ignorance and selfish attitudes. Aldo Leopold clearly had an impressive and intricate knowledge of the species and ecosystems around him, which he describes with real artist flair. The book also contains sketches drawn by Aldo Leopold himself that deal simply with the trees, flowering plants and animals he clearly enjoyed interacting with. This book really provides a good foundation towards an appreciation of environmental issues today despite its age. For the sheer beauty and sensitivity of his writing this book is a must on any nature lover’s book shelf.
Collins Bird Guide (2010) by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney, Dan Zetterstrom, Peter J. Grant
If I had to choose one bird identification book that I couldn’t be without it would have to be the Collins Bird Guide. This book focuses on British and European species and has become my indispensable companion while bird watching. In fact, I’ll admit I am doubly sad, I own two copies, one that I keep in pristine condition on the book case and the other that I take out and about. The book provides all the information needed to identify any British and European species at any time of the year, covering size, habitat, range, identification. The range of bird species is staggeringly huge yet they are all laid out in an order which makes the book fairly easy to navigate and not feel daunting. Accompanying every species entry is a distribution map and stunning illustrations showing the species in all their major plumages e.g. male, female, immature, each species even has a description of its song or call. The book boasts excellent illustrations, succinct text and handy maps, all presented on the same page. If I had any criticism it would be that the maps are quite small so seeing a bird species distribution accurately can be quite tricky but they are probably clear enough for general use if you just look very closely. A really fantastic and beautiful book!
THE BEHAVIOR GUIDE TO AFRICAN MAMMALS (1992) by Richard Despard Estes
This book concentrates on the behaviour of African mammal species, including hoofed mammals, carnivores and primates. In fact only two large and medium-sized African species are not included. It breaks down the 91 animal species documented into their tribes and families, including a useful summary of their behaviours as a whole at the beginning of each chapter. Although written in a fairly scientific style, its depth and attention to detail is truly astonishing. The only major drawback of the book to report is the lack of photos. However the illustrations, provided by Daniel Otte, are of a high standard and to be honest obtaining and portraying enough photos to display all the behaviours described would be nigh on impossible. It also includes a short foreword by one of my favourite authors, Edward O. Wilson, who is worth a read in anyone’s book!