Fave Books; For Nature-Lovers, Travel-Lovers, and Nature-Travelers

Right about now is when many of us think of books. (ok, many of us think of books all the time…but…let me continue…) We think of books to gift to others. We think of books to suggest that others gift to us. We think of books to simply gift to ourselves.

For me, the best books inspire and inform. I love books that show me something I didn’t know and allow me to see something familiar from a new perspective –and maybe even lead me to actually DO something new or different, no matter how small.

Here are two of my new favorites (and a classic as well);

cover upside


California’s Botanical Landscapes; A Pictorial View of the State’s Vegetation (by Barbour, Evens, Keeler-Wolf and Sawyer)

This new publication, from the California Native Plant Society, was meant to “…incite an initial foray….  and invigorate a deeper interest in—the beauty and complexity of our state’s vegetated landscapes.” According to the authors (highly regarded scientists in their fields), this book was created with the hope that people would  “…come away delighted and captivated y the diversity of California vegetation”.


book page with map


This book is an excellent overview of California’s unique and complex ecosystems. It is organized geographically, so that you can read about your own part of the state or be inspired to visit and understand other areas and ecosystems, while noticing and gaining understanding of the transitions as you pass from one type of landscape to another.

soda lake carizzo

A personal photo with native Fiddleneck and a view of Soda Lake in central California. (Albright-Souza)


The authors explain California landscapes using the concept of “Ecoregions”, to define specific, naturally-occurring plant combinations (alliances, communities and associations) and the visible patterns that they create.  This is a beautifully executed project that seeks to create a common language and classification for on-going study, and appreciation of, California’s landscapes.

—– The level of detail is excellent for an interested novice and utilizes spectacular photos to pull the reader in.

Use it to armchair travel and gain a deeper appreciation for the patterns and complexity found throughout our state. Use it to better understand the plant communities where you live —Or, use it as an actual travel guide and go on the road to experience the diversity of California for yourself.


tidy tip meadow

A field of Tidy Tips and Goldfields from a spring road trip. Not bad, right? (Albright-Souza)


The authors give inspirational credit to an earlier CNPS book; California’s Wild Gardens; A Living Legacy, edited by Phyllis Faber, which I also recommend. Originally published in 1997 and re-issued in 2005, it is out of print now, but well worth tracking down a copy.  Written to highlight the most unique of California’s ecosystems, to truly appreciate the rarity, from a world perspective, of some of our special landscapes. I HAVE actually used this beautiful book as a travel guide, for years, in road trips throughout the state as I slowly work my way through the 100 featured places.


wildflower books

Planning a road trip; field guides, old-school maps, inspiration and a hot beverage.(Albright-Souza)


On a world-wide scale, I am enjoying the book; Atlas Obscura –An Explorer’s Guide To The World’s Hidden Wonders (Foer, Thuras & Morton). The authors describe the book as “Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust. Atlas Obscura celebrates over 600 of the most curious and unusual destinations around the globe.” A fun blend of natural wonders, human-made curiosities and combinations of the two. The authors. ..”revel in the unexpected, the overlooked, the bizarre, and the mysterious.”


obscura cover tilt


The book is arranged geographically, so that you can visit places depending on where you are going. If you know you are going to Australia, for instance, you can plan to visit the lushly landscaped Umpherston Sinkhole in Mount Gambier, South Australia. Or, if you find yourself in say, South Dakota, you can be sure and catch the underground Thunderhead Falls, while you are…you know…in the neighborhood.

If you have a particular interest, the Atlas Obscura has a “Special Index” with sites listed by category. So if you find that you are interested specifically in Self-Built Castles or Very-Big Things, then you can find a targeted list of those items, so that you don’t miss any, no matter where in the world they might be.


obscura inside


I am very intrigued by the range of places the authors chose to include. I’ve been  wanting to visit the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, in Scotland, for years. But now I’m also excited to visit a work in progress; Cattedrale Vegetale, the cathedral being grown out of trees in Lombardy, the next time I’m Italy.  Also, I’m chagrined to find out that when I drove through Tijuana last year, I didn’t know to look for the 5 story residence shaped like the builders ex-girlfriend. Even closer to home, I can’t believe that I still haven’t visited the Forestiere Underground Gardens, any of the times I’ve found myself in Fresno…so far.

So much to do. –But as the authors of California’s Botanical Landscapes say;  “The more we travel, the more we can wonder”.


car with dodecatheon

coastal highway

carizzo road trip

Categories: Native Plants, Places to See


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