Good Winter Reads (Books about nature and restoring the ecology of our local land )

 Winter is a wonderful time to read a few good books about nature and restoring the ecology of the land. I chose these books because they help us understand and appreciate our local wildlife, landscape, and ecosystems, which in turn helps us all to continuously improve our Conservation@Home goals and actions. The books are listed into subject/topic categories and I’ve included either a few thoughts or a short summary. Please share with us your recommendation for books that help us understand our local landscape and wildlife, OR your comments on the books listed below. I look forward to learning even more by reading books by Joel Greenburg, May Watts, and Steven Apfelbaum this winter. – Denise Sandoval

Natural History
Where the sky began: Land of the tallgrass prairie   Author: John Madson
Almost two-thirds of Illinois was once covered with prairie , and Du Page County, where I currently live, was over 80% prairie, according to research done using Land Survey records.  With less than 1% of original prairie left, it is one of the most endangered ecosystems in this world. John Madson tells how  beautiful and sometimes scary this new landscape was to those who settled and lived on the prairie.

Prairie Guides
Each time I visit a local or distant prairie,  my understanding and appreciation for this beautiful landscape grows.  Touring a prairie  helps me understand all the important work that has been done to save some of the original prairie remnants, and all the work that is needed to set aside additional land, and restore our endangered prairie landscape.

The North American Prairie, Authors: Stephan Jones & Ruth Carol Cushman

Prairie Directory of North America, Authors: Charlotte Adelman & Benard Schwartz
The authors are from the  Chicagoland area.

Nature & Nature Exploration
A Sand County Almanac Author : Aldo Leopold
A beautifully written book that should be read multiple times, as I plan to do.  Aldo Leopold, a local conservationist,  takes us on a journey through the seasons and defines a land ethic.  One of my favorite quotes  from the book is "What a thousand silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered, and perhaps not even asked". This quote makes me smile imagining what it was like, and sad knowing what we have lost.

Hunting for Frogs on Elston and Other tales from field and street Author: Jerry Sullivan
A collection of essays taken from his column "Field and Street" from the Chicago Reader, naturalist Jerry Sullivan shares wonderful stories and observations of our  natural history, plants and wildlife.

Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival  Author: Henry Heinrich
This book helped me better understand the difficulty and amazing techniques our wildlife use to survive our winters.  I will never take for granted a coyote, vole, squirrel, or bird on a cold winter day.  

Gardening/Landscaping with Nature and for the Environment
Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Own Backyards Author: Sara Stein
This was the book that turned the switch for me many years ago from landscaping mainly for physical appearance to landscaping for nature and the environment, which in my opinion, makes a garden even more beautiful.   Although the author lived on the east coast, her words of wisdom and discovery apply to all gardeners.  A must-read for all gardeners and landscape professionals who want to make a difference.  

Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain our Wildlife Author: Douglas Tallamy
Entomologist Doug Tallamy explains the importance of native plants in the protection and preservation of biodiversity, and in a sustainable, healthy ecosystem.  He also explains how the plant choices we make in our landscapes not only impact the future of nature but also of all human beings.  

Birdscaping in the Midwest  Author: Mariette Nowak
This is very helpful gardening book for those who want to attract and support birds.  Naturally many of the plants and practices given in this book also support other types of wildlife.   Some of the photos in this book are from local area yards.

Design Your Natural Midwest Garden  Author: Patricia Hill
Local Elgin based landscape designer Pat Hill gives suggestions and design plans for various native plant gardens from sunny to woodland, natural to traditional, dry to wet.  She also describes the behaviors and characteristics of many of the native plants she uses in the garden.

Creating Habitats and Homes for Illinois Wildlife Authors: Debbie Newman, Richard Warner and Phil Mankin
This is also a great how-to book about supporting our local wildlife.  It gives advice and instructions on how to do this on agriculture land, larger landscapes,  or smaller  properties. It describes different types of habitats from prairie, savanna, woodland, to wetland, with beautiful wildlife photographs.

Land Restoration

The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook Authors Stephen Packard and Cornelia F. Mutel
Although this book was written several years ago and we have learned more about restoration along the way, this is still an excellent reference book that describes how to restore a prairie,  savanna, and woodland, on a small or larger piece of land.

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