My life is full. I don’t need anything this holiday except a few good snowstorms to get the Beaver Brook North reservation and Arlington’s Great Meadows ready for cross-country skiing. However, there are a few things I wish more people would buy for their friends who love the outdoors.
Top on my list is Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, a compelling, easy-to-read book about how home gardeners can make a difference in this planet’s ecology in their own back yards. If you like songbirds, you need to make sure they have enough bugs to eat—and bugs need native plants to survive. Challenging yet empowering, Bringing Nature Home should be on every gardener’s bookshelf.
Once you’ve read Bringing Nature Home, you’ll want to get Carolyn Summers’ Designing Gardens With Flora Of The American East. Native plants don’t have to look “wild” or sparse; Summers shows you how to get the look you want— cottage garden, Japanese retreat, formal elegance—while using native plants.
If you’re more concerned about feeding humans than insects, Eliot Coleman’s The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouse shows you what you should have done back in August to have your salad today. Ah well, there’s always next year. For truly long-term planners, A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil is either a fascinating thought experiment or a prescient view of how Americans would grow food if oil and petroleum-based fertilizers disappeared.
For Boston fans
I’ve heard good things about Michael Rawson’s Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston, a history of how Boston acquired public water, filled in mudflats to make land, created parks, and built suburbs on farmland (which replaced oak-chestnut-hickory forests). Stephen Puleo’s A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850-1900 details just the history of Boston in the late 19th century when the Back Bay was being filled in. I’m waiting for the book that describes a single day of land-building, tree planting, and pipe-laying in 1873, but I’m not too hopeful.
I’m partial to books that tell you that expensive equipment is pointless. The classic hiking guide The Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins has detailed instructions on how to prepare for short and long walks, and (at least in previous editions) fond reminiscing about hiking in the nude. “Got to give’m air” has become a watchword in my house for, ahem, watching.
Similarly, Christopher MacDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen will assure you that one of the biggest risk factors for running injury is… wearing running shoes. The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons run all day long on home-made sandals. Here in Boston, you might want to wear socks. Smartwool Expedition Trekking Socks ought to do.