Throwbacklist Thursday: Call of the Mild

mrs coolidgeUntil climate change renders snowball fights the exclusive preserve of those able to climb K2, May will remain the most welcome of months, for have mercy, it is spring. Natural history, now observable without misery, returns to the forefront of our minds in the chromatic splendor of flowers and tree blossoms, the scents in the air, and the warm sun on our gently perspiring faces. The mysteries we see revealed! Human skin. Baby animals. Tornadoes. Fenders that inexplicably still look whopperjawed after that ice-aided accident in January.

We here at the University of Illinois Press have put aside the temptation to sun ourselves in the verdant pasture between the parking lot and the train tracks in order to help you find a way into nature. Why? Because we care. Pretty much every scientific study not sponsored by the fluorescent lighting industry agrees that connecting with the natural world boosts happiness and adds years to our lives, unless by “connecting” you mean “Dumpster diving with raccoons.” Get in on that free healthiness. And as you do, consult with these UIP volumes in order to better understand all the stuff going on around you.

bergmanWild Echoes: Encounters with the Most Endangered Animals in North America, by Charles Bergman
Environmentalist and photographer Charles Bergman chronicles his experiences tracking down and interacting with the few remaining members of nine of North America’s most endangered species. Bergman soars in the company of two of the last remaining California condors, swims with manatees, assists in the capture and release of a Florida panther, and comes face to face with the last remaining dusky seaside sparrow, a species now extinct. As he relates these and other poignant encounters, Bergman describes the factors, both manufactured and natural, that have led to the animals’ endangerment. He also examines the efforts of those who hope to pull species back from the brink of extinction. This edition offers substantial updates on the good news and the bad concerning the current status of the species Bergman discusses.

fineMorel Tales: The Culture of Mushrooming, by Gary Alan Fine
We here at UIP love our mushrooms, whether in Illinois or the Rocky Mountains or all around the Midwest. Gary Alan Fine spent three years in the company of dedicated amateur mushroomers and professional mycologists. What he found out will clue you in on how to talk to those people you finding poking around the forest. A landmark work of environmental sociology, Morel Tales takes readers into a a thriving community, one with its own language, ceremonies, jokes, narratives, rivalries, and social codes. Fine also provides a detailed discussion of the American phenomenon he calls “naturework,” that is, culturally constructing one’s own place in the natural environment through communities with shared systems of assigned meaning. Naturework, Fine observes, is something we all do on some level—not only birders, butterfly collectors, rock hounds, hunters, hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts, but all of us who construct community through narrative and nature through culture.

hoffmeisterMammals of Illinois, by Donald F. Hoffmeister
This comprehensive study characterizes the climate, soils, and vegetation of Illinois, particularly as they affect mammals. Then Donald F. Hoffmeister surveys the full range of the Prairie State’s mammalian life forms, ranging from the squirrels destroying your bird feeder back to the mastodons that stomped about during the Ice Age. In addition to detailing mammals from the Pleistocene and Holocene eras and from frontier times, Hoffmeister identifies each order and family of mammals present in Illinois since 1900. Within each family, each species is characterized by habit, habitat, food, reproduction, population, and variation. These entries are supplemented by tables, anatomical drawings, photographs, and Illinois and United States distribution maps. Enhanced by sixty color photographs, more than one hundred line drawings, and a glossary of scientific terms, Mammals of Illinois is an indispensable resource for students, teachers, biologists, and nature enthusiasts.