Botanicum Medicinale spread

10 reads for the start of spring

A moral argument for environmentalism, a lexicon and guide for discovering the essence of landscape, an illustrated guide to plants, and more

The days are getting longer, the sun is growing stronger, and your eyes are starting to itch. It’s official: Spring is upon us. And what better way to emerge from winter than with a book that reveals the hidden beauty in the unexpected or invites you to see the world anew.

Take a walk through time and place with a prominent historian of the American landscape, get lost in an illustrated guide to everyday plants used for medicinal purposes, and explore symmetry and the beauty of mathematics playfully, through coloring challenges and visual puzzles. Learn more about these and other books below.

What Is Landscape? by John Stilgoe

"What Is Landscape?"

Discovering landscape is good exercise for body and for mind. This book is an essential guide and companion to that exercise—to understanding, literally and figuratively, what landscape is.

“Weaving together long-lost lore, etymological esoterica, and astute observations on ongoing developments, Stilgoe challenges common assumptions and imbues overlooked environments with unheralded significance.” —Timothy Davis, National Park Service landscape historian

Read an excerpt from the book

Hidden Wonders: The Subtle Dialogue Between Physics and Elegance by Etienne Guyon, José Bico, Étienne Reyssat and Benoît Roman 

"Hidden Wonders"

Hidden Wonders focuses on the objects that populate our everyday life—crumpled paper, woven fabric, a sand pile—but looks at them with a physicist’s eye, revealing a hidden elegance in mundane physical mechanisms. In six chapters, the authors present brief stories, set in locales ranging from the Eiffel Tower to a sandcastle, that illustrate the little wonders hidden in the ordinary.

“You’ll never look at a bubble, a spider’s web, or a wineglass in quite the same way again. Utterly fascinating!” Ian Stewart, author of The Beauty of Numbers in Nature

Read an excerpt from the book

The Love of Nature and the End of the World: The Unspoken Dimensions of Environmental Concern by Shierry Weber Nicholsen

"The Love of Nature and the End of the World"

Virtually everyone values some aspect of the natural world. Yet many people are surprisingly unconcerned about environmental issues, treating them as the province of special interest groups. Seeking to understand how our appreciation for the beauty of nature and our indifference to its destruction can coexist in us, Shierry Weber Nicholsen explores dimensions of our emotional experience with the natural world that are so deep and painful that they often remain unspoken.

“Heartfelt and well-informed.” —The Ecologist

Read an excerpt from the book

Brave Green World: How Science Can Save Our Planet by Chris Forman and Claire Asher 

"Brave Green World"

In nature, there is little chemical waste; nearly every atom is a resource to be utilized by organisms, ensuring that all the available matter remains in a perpetual cycle. By contrast, human systems of energy production and manufacturing are linear; the end product is waste. In Brave Green World, Chris Forman and Claire Asher show what our linear systems can learn from the efficient circularity of ecosystems. They offer an unblinkered yet realistic and positive vision of a future in which we can combine biology and manufacturing to solve our central problems of waste and pollution.

“An ingenious, if highly speculative, save-the-planet proposal that emphasizes science over politics.” —Kirkus Reviews

The Wild and the Wicked: On Nature and Human Nature by Benjamin Hale

"The Wild and the Wicked"

A brief foray into a moral thicket, exploring why we should protect nature despite tsunamis, malaria, bird flu, cancer, killer asteroids, and tofu.

“A fun, funny, and accessible trip through Benjamin Hale’s philosophical argument for being green—even though Nature itself is amoral. The duty-based position he favors is sketched out through a series of fascinating and inventive cases—both real and fictional. You may never buy eggs the same way again.” —Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World

Botanicum Medicinale: A Modern Herbal of Medicinal Plants by Catherine Whitlock

"Botanicum Medicinale"

Remedies derived from plants are the world’s oldest medicines. Used extensively in China, India, and many African countries, herbal medicine has become increasingly popular in the West along with other holistic and alternative therapies. Botanicum Medicinale offers a modern guide to 100 medicinal plants, featuring beautiful, full-color botanical illustrations and informative, engaging text.

Botanicum Medicinale brings the garden inside—in all its soothing, healing glory.” —Washington Post

Related: The Spectacular Rise of Ornamental Plants—an excerpt from George Gessert’s book Green Light: Toward an Art of Evolution charting the ways people across the world have used ornamental plants over thousands of years, and how our aesthetic perceptions have shaped them.

To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning by Mitchell Thomashow

"To Know the World"

How can we respond to the current planetary ecological emergency? In To Know the World, Mitchell Thomashow proposes that we revitalize, revisit, and reinvigorate how we think about our residency on Earth. He describes why environmental learning is crucial for understanding the connected challenges of climate justice, tribalism, inequity, democracy, and human flourishing, and provides rationales and approaches for doing just that.

“[Thomashow’s] range of curiosity, insight, and learning is remarkable, and remarkably useful to us all!”  —Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

Cosmic Clouds 3-D: Where Stars Are Born by David J. Eicher and Brian May

"Cosmic Clouds 3-D"

This visually amazing volume, with text and 3-D images, takes readers inside the birthplace of stars—the cosmic clouds called nebulae. Nebulae (from the Latin for “cloud” or “fog”) are stellar nurseries, frequently intermingled with clusters of young stars. Seen in the night sky, they glow, energized by the new stars within and around them. Cosmic Clouds 3-D offers hundreds of magnificent images of nebulae captured by ground-based and space telescopes. We may not all know it, but we are part of the biggest recycling program that exists—the birth, life, and death of stars.

“Features hundreds of stunning images of nebulae captured by ground-based and space telescopes in unique stereo views that show these stellar nurseries in three dimensions.” —Astronomy

Beautiful Symmetry: A Coloring Book about Math by Alex Berke

"Beautiful Symmetry"

Beautiful Symmetry is a coloring book about math, inviting us to engage with mathematical concepts visually through coloring challenges and visual puzzles. We can explore symmetry and the beauty of mathematics playfully, coloring through ideas usually reserved for advanced courses. The book is for children and adults, for math nerds and math avoiders, for educators, students, and coloring enthusiasts.

“This is deep math without numbers, equations, or answers. It is an invitation to feel math, viscerally, as a starting point or as an end in itself.” —Eugenia Cheng, author of The Art of Logic in an Illogical World

The Synthetic Age: Outdesigning Evolution, Resurrecting Species, and Reengineering Our World by Christopher Preston

"The Synthetic Age"

Imagining a future in which humans fundamentally reshape the natural world using nanotechnology, synthetic biology, de-extinction, and climate engineering.

“A fascinating combination of history, science, and ethics that asks us to consider what we value most in nature and in our own humanity.”—Beth Shapiro, Professor, Physical and Biological Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz; author of How to Clone a Mammoth

Read an excerpt from the book