The new season of spring shows has begun, and viewership is way up. But we’re not talking about screens. People are also tuning in to nature for quieter, real-life, high-stakes drama.
“Nature has been a point of solace for people over the course of the pandemic that they can tap into, either for the first time, or tap into it again,” says John Rowden, senior director of bird-friendly communities for the National Audubon Society.
Here are some books to up your knowledge of birds, bugs, plants and other life in this second pandemic spring.
Nature-themed books to lure us outdoors
'Birds of North America' and 'Trees of North America'
“Birds” was last updated in 1994, “Trees” in 1980, and there’s lots of new science and wowza photography to share.
The biggest change is the inclusion of conservation status, and both guides include range maps that show the impact of climate change for each species.
The bird guide covers more than 800 species.
The tree guide has more than 540.
National Audubon Society (Knopf)
'A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds' (W.W. Norton)
Scott Weidensaul, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his past work on birds, follows their arduous and lengthy global migrations.
In one breathtaking passage, he describes looking at a radar map over the northeastern U.S. and seeing “immense blobs of pale blue and green, the radar signature of millions of songbirds aloft in the clear night on their way south,” — unseen by us because of the darkness, he writes.
'Lessons from Plants' by Beronda L. Montgomery (Harvard University Press)
Beronda Montgomery, a biochemist at Michigan State University, aims “to increase plant awareness, mitigate potential biases against plants, and introduce you to the wisdom of plants.”
She looks at how plants experience the world, imagining what life looks like from their perspective.
'Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom' (Phaidon)
This heavy, glossy coffee-table book explores how flowers and floral motifs have been used over the ages in art, fashion and design.
There’s also a timeline of the history of flowers, and a rundown of the symbolism and significance accrued to some species over the centuries.
'The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Humming-birds' by Jon Dunn (Basic Books)
A natural history writer and photographer, Jon Dunn travels up and down the full range of these tiny birds, which now live only in the Americas, from near the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America.
He writes not only about how they live and are faring, but about their history as a subject of fascination and exploitation.
'Buzz Words: Poems About Insects' (Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf)
From a dew-drunk cicada that inspired a first-century poem in ancient Greece to Walt Whitman’s “noiseless, patient spider,” this anthology shows that watching bugs is as old as civilization.
At a time when many insects are at risk, including some of the most beneficial ones, this volume appreciates our eternal love-hate relationship with them.
'A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters' (Harper Collins)
Harvard geologist and natural history professor Andrew H. Knoll charts the planet’s history in accessible style, from its beginning as “a small planet accreted out of rocky debris circling a modest young star” through the development of minerals, geographical formations, atmosphere and life forms large and small.
'50 Things to Do at the Beach' (Princeton Architectural Press)
Kids at the beach can go deeper — literally and figuratively — into the sea with tips from environmental scientist and professional surfer Easkey Britton.
Part of the publisher’s “Explore More” series (previous titles include “50 Things to See in the Sky” and “50 Things to Do in the Wild”), this book explores our connection to the ocean and its health.
5 must-read titles by novelist Ernest Hemingway
‘The Sun Also Rises,’ 1926
Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, "The Sun Also Rises" is the love story of Jake Barnes, who suffered a tragic war wound, and the promiscuous Lady Brett Ashley, who has an affair with a much younger man, a matador.
It’s all set against bullfighting and the running of the bulls in Spain.
‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ 1940
‘A Farewell to Arms,’ 1929
In "A Farewell to Arms," American Frederic Henry falls in love with nurse Catherine Barkley while working as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I. After he is badly injured, they flee to Switzerland, where she dies in childbirth.
A brutal, unsentimental novel of pain, love and war.