Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nature Study Resources

I recently read a discussion about Amateur Naturalist: A Practical Guide to the Natural World. The book came highly recommended so I was thrilled to find it on the shelf of my favorite used book store last weekend. I am not disappointed; this book is a great nature study reference.

Just the last section alone, At Home, is great to have.  It gives lots of details about the tools and techniques for collecting, inspecting, and preserving plants, insects, and animals, as well as keeping a good nature journal.  As you can see by the cover, a loupe is recommended.

Most of the book contains extensive descriptions of the flora and fauna of various environment.  While the Handbook of Nature Study is great for those of us living in the Northeast where it was written, Amateur Naturalist contains sections on sixteen different habitats like grasslands, deserts, mountains, and oceans.  It also crosses that bridge from nature to science with directions for microscopes, dissections, and anatomical displays.  This is an invaluable resource. (Caution: a new book from National Geographic has the same name but is not the same book.  Be sure to look for Durrell as the author.)

While I was looking through the Nature section, I came across two other stunning out-of-print books for intermediate to advanced nature studies.  The first is TRAVELS, a collection of journal entries from the Father of Classification, Carl Linneus, during his travels through his native Sweden.  It is edited by David Black with some nice illustrations by Stephen Lee.  It is 108 pages. (I find it interesting that Amazon and Library Thing list this book under David Black Linnaeus Carl, Ed.)

I also found another intriguing book, Nature Through the Seasons.  It was written by Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down and also has beautiful illustrations by David A. Goddard along with separate science text written by Max Hooper.  Literary writing, lovely illustrations, extensive scientific information...seems like the perfect mix for a Living Book.  I can't wait to read all 108 pages of it (interesting coincidence), particularly the section about winter since we are always looking for novel ways to study nature in the snow.  The loupe alone promises to add another dimension!

By the way, in that same section I also found a 1927 ex-library hardcover of CURIOSITIES OF SCIENCE. Edited, annotated & translated by Percy F. Bicknell by Jean Henri Fabre.  It was a very good trip!


  1. Thank you for submitting this post for the next CM Blog Carnival.


  2. How I wish we could find a few of these books ... Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ooo, that looks like a very interesting book! I'm also very interested to see you comment about the Handbook to Nature Study:" great for those of us living in the Northeast" As it is such an expensive buy for me I've always wondered if it would be relevant for us here in South Africa. What would you think? Any opinion-no pressure if you're not sure :-) Thanks for a lovely post.

  4. Did you know you can download the Handbook of Nature Study for free? In fact, maybe I'll put something in the sidebar. You can then decide for yourself how relevant it is to your area.

    Handbook of Nature Study

  5. Hi Kris,

    I had a look at The Amateur Naturalist by Nick Baker (2004), which had a foreword written by Gerald Durrell's wife Lee Durrell. It was a wonderful read and I suppose a more up to date version of Durrell's book. Love it so much I bought it:)

  6. Based on the reviews, Baker's book is probably better to use with the kids. Durell's book is pretty hard-core naturalism, as opposed to fun kid-geared projects, like setting up a workroom, dissection instruments, preservation methods, very detailed look at plant parts (including microscopic structures, and more.

    I bet the two would make great compliments to each other!