From the Archives: Soon to be Nature Book Classics

Nature // August 17, 2016

One in an occasional series in which FOW publishes articles that appeared in our publications in the past, and still resonate with us today. This piece was written by Dena Sher, former FOW Board member and Associate Editor of the FOW Newsletter, and first appeared in FOW’s Summer 2006 Newsletter. What are your favorite nature books?

Books for the Nature Lover’s Collection

By Dena Sher

Philadelphia on the Fly: Tales of an Urban Angler. By Ron P. Swegman. Frank Amato Publications, Inc., 2005.

Only a short bike ride from his center-city home, Ron P. Swegman discovered that the Wissahickon Creek provided a place for solitude and his hobby of fly-fishing. The creek, he writes in one of his 15 well-crafted chapters, is “wild and picturesque as any remote mountain stream.”

Reviewers of the book express surprise that good angling can be found in an urban setting. Writes the publisher: “While these stories happen to take place in Philadelphia, they capture the heart and soul of fly-fishing and can be enjoyed by anglers everywhere.” Color illustrations and photographs, many of the Wissahickon, are numerous. At the back of the book the author provides a list of fish caught in the Wissahickon Creek and the Schuylkill River. He also provides lists of source material comprised of articles, books, and websites—including FOW’s.

Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent’s Natural Soul. By Scott Weidensaul. North Point Press, 2006.

The original Wild America, published in 1955, was an account by American birding guru Roger Tory Peterson and noted British naturalist James Fisher of a 30,000 mile, 100-day trek around North America. On the book’s 50th anniversary, naturalist and gifted storyteller Scott Weidensaul retraced Peterson’s and Fisher’s epic journey to tell the tale of wild America today. Like his predecessors, Weidensaul traveled from the great seabird cliffs of Newfoundland to the cypress swamps of Florida, from the cloud forests of the Mexican Sierra Madre to the lonely Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea. He examined what has been lost, and celebrates what remains, which, surprisingly, is much of what Peterson and Fisher found 50 years ago.

Weidensaul is the author of two dozen books on natural history including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Living on the Wind (1999). In April 2006, the Friends of the Wissahickon and the Morris Arboretum sponsored a slide-illustrated lecture by the author during which he recounted the trip that produced Return to Wild America. It turns out Weidensaul is as great a public speaker as he is a writer.

Philadelphia: A Hiker’s Paradise. By Victor Grove. Northern Liberties Press, 2005.

Published by Herta Grove 30 years after her late husband Victor compiled it, this book is a charming tribute to the couple’s many happy hours spent in the Wissahickon. On their excursions into the valley, the Groves took many photos of scenery, bridges, and buildings. Throughout the book these color photos are paired with nature-infused quotations from various sources, including Sigmund Freud, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Another lover of the Valley, Edgar Allen Poe, who spent many hours there in the mid-nineteenth century, is quoted in the introduction.  Hardly a coffee-table book (its dimensions are only 7-by-8.5 inches), this slim volume deserves to be included in the library of every person who delights in the wonders of the Wissahickon Valley.