Books For The Season: The Natural World

By Elizabeth Kelly

When the weather warms and fresh air beckons it is easy to appreciate the beauty of the world as it blooms. Natural wonders can be found all around, including on the bookshelf. The following pages bring to life the tiniest of specimens and furthest of stars to be enjoyed any time of year.

The Living Forest: A Visual Journey into the Heart of the Woods, written by Joan Maloof with photography by John Llewellyn, is a remarkable collection of nature images. The oversized book explores forests from the ground up with the intention of educating and inspiring readers to take care of these fragile ecosystems. Maloof writes, “It is our wish that increased understanding will provide motivation for allowing the forest to continue unimpeded on its wild trajectory.” Each page explodes with the vivid colors of the flora and fauna that inhabit untouched woodland environments.

Armchair astronomers will swoon over Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World compiled by Phaidon publishing. The large, glossy pages showcase astronomical prints, paintings, drawings, and photography in a collection that is somehow eccentric and perfectly aligned all at once. Universe covers all aspects of the night sky, from illuminated manuscripts of celestial study to stunning, two-page spreads of nebula astrophotography with colors that explode off of the page. It is a must-see for anyone who has ever glanced up at the sky and wondered what was beyond.

Author Peter Wohlleben explores the social interaction of plants in The Hidden Life of Trees. Forests may look like quiet, passive landscapes but Wohlleben’s investigation reveals an active community of underground interaction between trees and the surrounding earth. According to new scientific studies, trees are able to slowly transmit messages through electrical impulses in their root systems with the help of fungi in the soil. This system has been given the playful moniker of the “wood wide web.” Some trees can detect when they are being damaged by predators and send out a bitter signal into their leaves to prevent further assault. The Hidden Life of Trees is the first in a series of three natural history books by Wohlleben.

Elizabeth Kelley is a reference librarian at the Nantucket Atheneum.