Friday, November 18, 2016

Nature Books for Gift Giving (Plus a Giveaway)

In this post, Jean Godawa has drawn up a great list of nature book recommendations 
for holiday gift giving.

As a student, I accumulated dozens of books about the natural world. Most have long outlived their usefulness and have been replaced by updated scientific discoveries and the collection of infinite knowledge available on the internet. There are, however, a few books with broken spines, muddy fingerprints and loose pages that are never far from reach at my desk. They continue to serve me twenty years later. Those are the books that I love. Those are the books that are worth the shelf space they occupy. I keep that in mind when looking for gifts for fellow nature lovers and try to select books that they too will find worthy of their own shelf space.

Wicked Plants, Wicked Bugs and The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart:
Did you know that cashews are from the same botanical family as poison ivy and poison oak? For people of any age who love macabre stories, bestselling author Amy Stewart has written some wonderful books on the intoxicating, destructive, dangerous or deadly properties of plants and insects. The books are well organized and easy to read, with plenty of useful information such as common names, habitats and origins. Her descriptions of historical encounters with some of nature's bizarre flora and fauna is both informative and entertaining. The author and illustrator recently released The Wicked Plants Coloring Book  with "40 botanical atrocities to color and keep"Any or all of these would make great gifts for nature lovers with just a hint of a dark side.

The Curious Nature Guide by Clare Walker Leslie:
We move throughout the day from one place to the next with little regard for the natural world we pass through. Clare Walker Leslie inspires us to follow that old adage of stopping to smell the roses but in a fresh way. This book encourages you to explore your neighbourhood or walk around outside and notice the various elements, from the clouds in the sky to the fungus on a tree trunk. Filled with information and simple activities such a making a spore print from mushroom caps or pressing autumn leaves, this guide would make an excellent gift for nature-loving families with curious children.

Gardening for Butterflies by the Xerces Society:
Stunning photography with detailed information on butterfly biology and behaviour is presented in this book in a very informative and easy to read manner. It suggests suitable plants for a variety of North American regions and provides an alphabetical listing of those plants along with wonderful reference pictures and ideal growing information. If you know someone who is planning or designing a new garden or is just looking for information about plants (including trees) that will attract butterflies to their garden, this book would be a welcome addition to their library.

Garden Flora by Noel Kingsbury:
Noel Kingsbury has written and excellent reference guide on the origins of garden plants. Laid out alphabetically, Garden Flora delves into the heritage of plants and describes, among many other things, how they were crossed with others to give us the plants we use in our gardens today. Visually, the book is gorgeous, with reproductions of historical illustrations, watercolours and paintings as well as contemporary photographs of plant species. This book is well suited to gardeners and botanists who wish to delve further into the history of their current garden flora.

Peterson First Guides by Roger Tory Peterson:
There are so many field guides to help identify the plants and animals around us that it is difficult to know which one to choose. My most well-used guides have always been by Peterson. Whether you want to identify the caterpillar you found on the sidewalk or the bird at your feeder, there is a Peterson guide to help you. The smaller First Guides are a great start for any age and there is one for birds, butterflies, caterpillars and insects.  Any of these field guides would make great stocking-stuffers for nature lovers. 

Bee Time by Mark L. Winston and H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald:
Both award winning books, Bee Time and H is for Hawk, are non-fiction accounts of the authors' personal relationships with nature. In Bee Time, Mark Winston describes his work in apiaries around the world and makes connections between his interactions with bees and with people. Helen Macdonald describes her immersion into the training of a goshawk while shutting out friends and family in order to deal with the death of her father. Both books are beautifully written. Upon finishing them, the reader is left not only with a great deal of knowledge about bees and hawks, but with a new understanding of human nature. If you know someone who is fascinated with nature and those that study it, both of these books would make excellent gifts.

A Child's Introduction to Natural History by Heather Alexander:
For readers aged 8 to 12, Heather Alexander provides a wealth of information about the natural world. The world's biomes are well described along with the living and non-living things contained within them. She introduces kids to the scientists and naturalists who have helped further our knowledge of the natural world. As an added bonus, the book includes patterns and paper for making origami animals.

A Wasp Builds a Nest by Kate Scarborough:
For younger readers, Kate Scarborough has written a book that can be read like a storybook but is full of accurate information on how wasps build their nest. Curious kids who wonder what it looks like inside a wasp nest will get a chance to see exactly what's happening in it at each stage of its development. The book is suitable for young nature lovers aged 5 to 8.

I could happily spend days in the library or bookstore leafing through books on plants or animals or the environment in general. The above are just a few suggestions that I think any nature lover would be pleased to receive. If you have read or used any of these books, I'd love to hear your feedback. Also, if you have any further recommendations for gift books, please do share them.

Blog post by Jean Godawa

About Jean GodawaJean is a science teacher and writer. She has been writing science-related articles for print and online publications for more than ten years. Jean holds a degree in biology and environmental science with a focus on entomology from the University of Toronto. She had conducted field research in the tropical rainforests of Asia and South America.

Thomas Allen & Sons has kindly given us a copy of the Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of Plants in Your Garden to give away. Because we will have to send this book through the mail, we will have to limit entry in the draw to readers in Canada and the USA.

Please leave a comment below if you would like to be included in the book draw. The draw will remain open for the until December 1st

If you are not a blogger, you can enter to win by leaving a comment on the Three Dogs in a Garden Facebook page. You are also welcome to enter by sending Jennifer an email (

Please make sure there is a way for us to track down your email address should your name be drawn.


  1. I'd love to win this book! Thanks for the giveaway!

    Have a great weekend xo

  2. What an excellent set of books, some real interesting reads

  3. Books are always high on our gift giving list.

  4. What a beautiful book! Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. Some great suggestions here! I would love to win Noel's book. Thanks for the post and for the giveaway opportunity!

  6. Awesome! Please include me in the giveaway.

  7. Looks like a fabulous book. Would love to be considered for the giveaway. Thank you!

  8. I love gardening books, nothing can transport me on a cold winter day back to the glories of summer better than a book. Thank you for this post!

  9. Hello Jennifer girl !
    Please include me in the draw .. I love garden books and all of these look very special in their own right : )

  10. Nice to read this book special as I love reading gardening books. I have put the books of Amy Stewart on my wishlist.
    Thank you for posting this.

  11. This does look like a lovely gift.

  12. Oh my gosh! Amy Stewart's books look so interesting. They are on my wish list! Garden books keep me in touch with my garden through the long, cold, dark winter.

  13. I would love to win, what a lovely book!

  14. This looks like such a lovely book and an inspiration for our small garden.

  15. The only thing better than garden plants is a book about garden plants.

  16. Well here I am, getting in under the wire. Noel Kingsbury's book covers all my passions from plant history to botanical illustration.


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