Awesome Field Guide: John Muir Laws
I love books. I always have. I love to be surrounded by them. Books have always offered me a warm loving home. When I was growing up, I saved my money to buy books, even though I practically lived at the library. There is something about owning a book, being able to return to it, to hold it.
As a naturalist, as an outdoor adventurer and as a writer, I especially love field guides–I even have a whole collection of Petersen Guides, and most of the Audubon ones. As an avid birder for over 20 years, I have a beautiful collection of bird books. Many of these I purchased but I am also grateful to have inherited the library of travelers, educators, and naturalists Blanche and Herb Elkins who owned and operated a film strip company in the 60s and 70s.
So when I spied a new field guide to the Sierra Nevada, I told the Big Monkey, “We’re going to buy this field guide” in a tone of voice that said no questions or comments (like, don’t you think you have enough books already??)
Before I have much of a chance to look at it, the Big Monkey was fully engrossed in it, sitting at the picnic table in a Sierra Nevada campsite and checking it out with the boy beside him.
“How did you know this was going to be such a great book?” he asked.
Well I told him
Sign #1: Flipping through it, I noticed the pictures were well drawn, vivid, engaging.
Sign #2: It was well organized and thorough–color coded, by family, from fungi to trees and shrubs to flowers to moths to beetles to fish to snakes to mammals to birds to tracks– and it even includes star charts!
Sign #3: It’s published by Heydey Books, a small non-profit in Berkeley which puts out strong often California centric books.
Sign #4: It’s also produced by California Academy of Sciences.
Sign #5: The author, John Muir Laws, is a research associate there, studied scientific illustration at my alma mater, Uncle Charlie’s Summer Camp, and has appropriate degrees from UC Bezerkley and Missoula.
Sign #6: He acknowledges David Lukas, an unusually observant naturalist and talented writer I met many years ago at Squaw Valley writers camp.
Sign #7: It surprises readers with interesting bits of info about the species on the page like mimicry and stink bug defense, and environmental challenges all species on this planet face.
When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, we carried Storer and Usinger’s Guide the whole way; that was our bible, plus we had the National Geographic guide to birds, and Audubon wildflowers. When I do the PCT again in a few years with the now small boy, this will likely be the guide we will take. In the meantime, it will travel with us in our VW campervan!