Archive | Books RSS feed for this section

Rereading Pratchett

17 Feb

Most of us, readers especially, can point to a work in our lives that influenced the way we think. We’d prefer it be someone impressive, Nietzsche, Kant, Salinger, Steinem, or Malcolm X. Someone you can genuinely bring up with reverence in intelligent company. There’s a range, somewhere from your teens to early twenties where works of literature, film, and philosophy have a greater impact than any other time in our lives. They’re introductions to thoughts outside of what we grew up with. What our parents, teachers, and friends taught. What we discover through these works can shape our beliefs in enduring ways.

I did not encounter someone pretentious at this age. Instead, I stumbled across Terry Pratchett. To this day, I’m glad I did.


I’ve been having a hard time finishing books lately, so I decided to return to Pratchett for some comfort reading. I picked up Jingo. It was one of the first books I read by him in high school. Jingo is the story of our heroes in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch getting swept up as their city goes to war against neighboring Klatch over a worthless island that spontaneously pops up in between their territory. When you reread something at a different point in your life, there’s a danger of it losing its magic. Instead of diminishing returns, I was struck by how much he must have influenced me in ways I could not see while I was introduced to his Discworld books for the first time.

If you’re not familiar with Pratchett, let me tell you what resonated with me as I reread Jingo. It’s really hard for me to recap a Discworld novel without descending into just listing quotes. So while I’m trying to avoid that, I’ll go ahead and start with one, shall I?

It was because he wanted there to be conspirators. It was much better to imagine men in some smoky room somewhere, made mad and cynical by privilege and power, plotting over the brandy. You had to cling to this sort of image, because if you didn’t then you might have to face the fact that bad things happened because ordinary people, the kind who brushed the dog and told their children bedtime stories, were capable of then going out and doing horrible things to other ordinary people. It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, then what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.

Much of the book deals with xenophobia, racism, and patriotism. How do you remain a patriot when you think your country and countrymen are bloody stupid? Yes, I asked the book, hypothetically how would one handle that? At one point, a new leader takes over the city and demands that the Watch takes all Klatchian residents into custody because they might… do something. And everyone’s saying 1984 hits close to home.

 Odd thing, ain’t it…you meet people one at a time, they seem decent, they got brains that work, and then they get together and you hear the voice of the people.  And it snarls.

I like that the characters struggle between optimism and pragmatism. It can be a little heartbreaking to feel goodwill towards man dissolve into reality. That’s the point where Pratchett gives me hope. He suggests, throughout his books, that we need to see the truth of things, but we also need to work to change them for the better and believe that’s possible because what else can we do? I couldn’t put it into words then, but now I know that through his works, he made me a humanist.

Books Benches, Discworld

My first time around reading Pratchett, I was impressed with his observations on human nature, his belief that most people are mostly good, and his acceptance that, despite point two, people can do really bad things to each other out of malice or ignorance. That’s life, he said. Accept it, or… Well, there’s really no other option so might as well enjoy it as much as you can. I didn’t know that as I voraciously consumed his writing, I was incorporating it into who I am. So while the first time I read most of his books I relished his viewpoint, as I read them again, over a decade later, I see my own perception of life echoed back to me. Guys, I’m pretty sure he put that there.

I think Pratchett is a great writer to be reading right now. I think, if he were alive, he would be calling  bullshit on this current U.S. administration, but he would also remind us that turns out the other side is probably trying harder to be good than we think, and we’re a lot less righteous than we think. He’d caution us to be aware that the other side might be right sometimes, and we might be wrong. Even if we come to the conclusion that this is not the case, it’s good practice to remind ourselves. Pratchett’s books make you glad to be a part of humanity, even when you’re fully aware humanity is a bloody, vindictive, irrational mess, and that’s a feeling I need to keep close right now. Thank gods I chose him instead of Rand.

Further reading: Terry Pratchett was fantasy fiction’s Kurt Vonnegut, not its Douglas Adams

~ April


How to Run a Reluctant Book Club

7 Feb


“We’re looking for a book club book, but nothing depressing.”

It’s one of my least favorite reader’s advisory requests, but it’s pretty common.  It turns out that most books worth talking about cover some pretty heavy topics.  Conflict is what drives a story along and there’s not much to discuss when the characters are happy and well adjusted, except maybe how much you hate them.

To put a twist in things, I’ve been part of such a book club.  My friends and I started a book club a few years ago, which was really just an excuse for getting together and having dinner and drinks.  After the first year, which included Brett Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero and Room by Emma Donahue, the members decided that kidnapped children and sociopaths did not jive with our girls’ night vibe.  We tried some other options, but school and life got in the way and the book club went by the wayside.  Recently, we’ve decided to revive it, but with the political climate, they’re clamoring for feminist fiction. Our first book is The Handmaid’s Tale, so, y’know… Not light. However, there’s still a lot of people in a similar position, so here are some suggestions for a low-key book club.

Graphic Novels – Here’s my most important rule.  If it’s easy enough (and over fast enough) it can include some depressing content. Reluctant book club members don’t want to struggle through Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, but Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is manageable.  They’re also great for last minute readers since you can usually finish them in one or two sittings.

  • Pride of Bagdhad by Brian K. Vaughn
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • March by John Lewis

Short Stories – Collections of short stories are great for several reasons.  First, we have the whole short thing going on like the graphic novels.  The other bonus is that no one has to read the whole collection in order to have a productive discussion.  Members can end up recommending their favorite stories to others that may not have read them.  Whether it’s a high concept collection or something more literary there will definitely be something to talk about.

  • Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes
  • Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
  • Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Machine of Death by Ryan North

YA Books YA is huge among all ages.  The books are fodder for Hollywood and their designation makes them less intimidating. I swear, if you told people War and Peace was a YA title, they’d immediately think “Yeah, I think I can handle that”. If you’re me and really just want to get people to read more, you can also get them hooked on a series they might continue with when everyone’s moved on to the next selection.

  • Bone Gap  by Laura Ruby
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Books to Movies / TV – This is a perennial favorite of book clubs and I’m not breaking any ground by suggesting it, but there’s a reason they’re popular. Once you tell someone they’re making a book into a movie, they, almost without exception, perk up. It’s not that they’re lazy and want to skip the book. People just love comparing the written word to the visuals. It gives them an extra topic of discussion as well as another activity to do with their book group friends. I think it also helps them feel a little superior to other movie watchers and that’s never a bad thing.

  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Hidden Figures  by  Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

My last rule is to try and keep things under 350 pages unless everyone’s pretty stoked about it. Adults being assigned a book are worse than 6th graders with their attention to page count. Under 300 is even better. And suggest audiobooks as well. Reluctant, if optimistic, readers can often be convinced if their commute is long enough and the narrator is good enough.

What books are you guys reading? And any suggestions for reluctant book club attendees?

~ April

Read Harder is Harder Than I Expected

8 Sep

Earlier this year I posted about the Read Harder challenge. The goal of the challenge is to make you read more diversely and boy did I feel like I was doing a great job.  I read books in translation, books by authors from different countries, graphic novels, nonfiction, and still managed to keep up with books that I just wanted to read anyway.  I figured that putting any focus on reading diversely would expand my reading life. Proud of my accomplishments, I decided to take a quick inventory of the demographics of the authors I read.  I was expecting a pretty even distribution.  I didn’t get that.

While the ratio of men to women authors was split pretty evenly, of the 34 books I read so far this year, only six could be considered to be by authors of color.  And four of the authors of color were men.  That’s pretty shabby for someone actively trying to introduce diversity into her reading.  Sure, I’ve succeeded in pulling myself out of my literary comfort zone and I feel like that’s an accomplishment in itself, but I’m going to try harder the rest of the year.  That means that I’m putting aside the rest of the explicit Read Harder challenge (no worrying about reading a book written before 1850 or by an author under 25), but I’m going to take the spirit of the challenge to heart.  I want the majority of my reading the rest of the year to be by authors of color.

And I think it’s going to be harder than I anticipated.  I don’t think I’m going to get close to a 50/50 distribution, but if I can get a third of my year’s reading to be diverse that would be great.  I know it would be easier if I completely banished Anglo writers from the back half of 2015, but that’s not my goal.  I want to read a Stephen King book in October and after finishing We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, I want to start The Haunting of Hill House, too.  There are far too many awesome Anglo authors that have something unpredictable to add to my life to remove them.  I just want to make room for other voices as well.

So here’s to the next stage of my 2015 reading journey.  I’m currently reading Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, a middle grade novel that takes place in Vietnam.  It’s taking me awhile because I keep stopping to figure out how to pronounce Vietnamese words.  That’s what reading diversely does.  Makes you look like a fool trying to pronounce things to yourself in public places.  I think I’ll keep it going.

~ April

One Dead Person Who Is Definitely On the Invite List to My Imaginary Dinner Party

30 May

Today I want to talk about someone I admire. She lived over a century ago, her name was Lydia Maria Francis Child, and she was a 19th century badass.

Picture 8
Portrait from her collected letters

Most people have never heard of her but they probably know the first verse of a poem she wrote:

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandmother’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Knowing only that, you would probably picture her as a silly Martha Stewart-esque house wife. Cheerful, rosy cheeked, with an annoying inclination for “the way things used to be”. This picture is far from correct.

Hale Farm and Village

I learned about Child when I did an internship at Hale Farm and Village years ago. I was encouraged to read her book The American Frugal Housewife Dedicated To Those Who Are Not Ashamed Of Economy. At first I only paged through it, unimpressed by the random list of tips for 19th century housewives. But when I finally read it properly I was grabbed by her introduction. In it she says:

“The writer has no apology to offer for this cheap little book of economical hints, except her deep conviction that such a book is needed. In this case, renown is out of the question, and ridicule is a matter of indifference.”

“The information conveyed is of a common kind; but it is such as the majority of young housekeepers do not possess, and such as they cannot obtain from cookery books. Books of this kind have usually been written for the wealthy: I have written for the poor.”

Every piece of advice in the book is intended to be one hundred percent practical. Child is practically poetical on the topics of frugality and economy, and she had little patience for frivolousness or vanity. When writing about how to maintain combs she advises:

“The jewellers afterwards polish them by rubbing them with dry rouge powder; but sifted magnesia does just as well- and if the ladies had rouge, perhaps they would, by mistake, put it upon their cheeks, instead of their combs; and thereby spoil their complexions.”

That, my friends, is nineteenth century sass.

There are even a few tips and “receipts” that are still practical, or at the very least intriguing, including one that has been all the rage on pinterest. Rather than a modern day Martha Stewart, think of her instead as the life-hacks queen of the 1830s.

Hale Farm and Village

Of course, the majority of the book is outdated today. Very few of us need her advice for keeping butter in brine, making our own lye from ashes, or her three different preventions for lockjaw. (I like to think that if she were alive today, we would share zealous opinions on the subject of anti-vaxxers.) The America of Child’s Frugal Housewife was very different from our own, and struggling with it’s own contemporary issues. Yet, even today, her devotion to economy is still valuable. American Frugal Housewife was a great success for Child, and led her to publish other domestic manuals.

But she didn’t just publish domestic manuals. In fact, she was a prolific writer who published works in a wide variety of genres. Over her career she authored works of historical fiction, children’s literature, comparative history, political opinion, and romance. More importantly, she was a driven activist, fighting not only for women’s rights, but also for the abolition of slavery, prison reform, and against Indian removal. Certain aspects of her activism make me think that she would be right at home among modern feminists, particularly the way that she campaigned for the rights of less privileged minorities. She seemed to understand that there was a connection between white supremacy and the rights of women. That was something that other prominent feminists didn’t always get.

Photo shamelessly plundered from Wikipedia

She gets even more badassery points because she managed to use her writing to support herself through her husband David’s rocky legal and political career, even during a period of time when he was jailed for libel.

Sure she is not without her flaws. Her style of writing, while probably entertaining for her intended audience, today seems a bit trite. Today’s women might be annoyed by how freely she issued parenting advice considering that she did not have children herself. But I admire her because she didn’t shy away from controversy, and used her talents to create positive change.

Picture 9
From a letter about John Brown to Virginia Governor Henry Wise.

In a society where talking about money was borderline profanity, she saw that women with limited means couldn’t learn how to manage their households. So she wrote a book for them. She wanted children to have both constructive ways to play, and reading material that was entertaining and educational. She published several children’s books and took on an ambitious project: the first American magazine specifically for children. She saw that slavery was entrenched in American culture and scandalized polite society by writing against it, advocating for the black right to vote, even for interracial marriage. She was unapologetic about her controversial beliefs in a society that expected women to fade into the background.

And Lord help you if you ever found yourself at the receiving end of her sarcastic italics.


From Reading Green to Reading Harder

15 May

This year I decided to tackle Book Riot’s Read Harder 2015 challenge.  I’ve recently become somewhat of a devotee of Book Riot.  I love that they hold both fine literature and guilty pleasures in passably equal regard because they have such a passion for reading.  I’ve recently gotten back into that sort of reading since I began working at a public library again and their guidance has been invigorating.

Of their many favorite topics, the writers consistently return to that of diversity in literature.  Like many of them, I never paid close attention to the diversity of my reading list.  I read what I liked and that was that.  Their attention to reading diverse authors has made me interested in what my literary life was missing.  That’s part of the reason I started the Read Harder Challenge.  There are several categories that will push me to read outside of my traditional repertoire of urban fantasy, psychological horror, and whatever has the longest hold list that isn’t written by James Patterson.

One of the first books on my list was Toni Morrison’s newest, God Help The Child.  I haven’t read any Toni Morrison (a.k.a. The National Treasure) books since Beloved scarred my adolescent mind in high school.  I detested the book and decided that since 15-year-old me didn’t like Morrison, all of my future incarnations would also spurn her books.  The Book Riot team could double as a Toni Morrison cheer squad, so encouraged by their de facto praise for her, I gave her another shot.

I’m so glad I did.  This is the type of book that the Read Harder challenge was created for.  It’s the sort of book I would never pick up on my own.  Character studies are not generally my thing, but the manageable length and my spirit of adventure spurred me onward.

This is the story of Bride, a twenty-something independent career woman whose success hides the pain of her childhood.  Her mother, who could pass for white, was devastated that her daughter’s skin was dark as night.  She distanced herself from the girl, causing a chain of hurt that spreads far beyond Bride herself.  Bride, and her companion Booker, must confront the pain of their past if they want to create a future.  What’s more, they come to understand that no life is perfect, no choice is without risks, and we all live with the failures of ourselves and those that care for us.  I’m amazed that Morrison, who is in her 80s now, has such a firm grasp on the concerns of this generation.

Perhaps it is the passage of a decade and a half, or maybe it’s just the more modern storytelling in this book, but I’m willing to admit I might have been wrong about swearing off Morrison.  Thanks to the Read Harder challenge, I hope to introduce myself to other previously off-limits areas of literature.


Earth Day: Sharing Nature with Children

30 Apr

Read Green 6.

As I mentioned earlier, children benefit greatly from exposure to nature. If you want more information, I would recommend starting with Richard Luov’s Last Child In the Woods or The Nature Principle. But I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually read either of these books cover to cover, and that’s not exactly the topic I wanted to talk about for my last Earth Day post.

Instead I’m going to assume that you already have a vested interest in sharing natural places with a child in your life, but don’t know how to get started. Maybe you are the parent of the child in question, or lead a scout or youth group. Or maybe you are the cool and/or crazy aunt or uncle who just wants to teach the little nugget to appreciate the outdoors. The good news is that you don’t need an advanced degree in ecology to create meaningful experiences for children in nature. All you really need is a healthy dose of common sense when it comes to safety and some basic knowledge of how to reduce your impact in your natural areas of choice. Once you’re armed with those, feel free to dive into these resources:


The first, Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature with Children is such a classic that I couldn’t help but steal it’s title for this blog post. More than thirty years after its first publication the activities in it are still pure gold, even for a generation of kids who grew up being amused by computers and video games. I challenge you to find a child under the age of eleven who doesn’t enjoy playing Camouflage, Bat and Moth, or Meet a Tree.

The activities are divided into three categories. (And in true outdoor educator form each category is named after an animal. That is how you know this book is really legit.) Bear activities are calm and often introspective, crow activities encourage observation and physical activity, and otter activities encourage playfulness.


Another great book that uses a slightly different approach is Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown. The first part of this book is geared more towards expanding the skills and perspectives of the mentor, (that’s you,) and the second half dives into activities. It is definitely intended to be more of a curriculum guide than a collection of stand alone activities but don’t let that scare you away. It also focuses more on tracking and survival skills than Cornell’s book, but includes meaningful activities about awareness and community building.


When my friend Sal described this last book to me, I thought it was too good to be true. There was no way a book existed that connects children with natural places using outdoor activities and books. And yet it does. The book is called A Sense of Place by Daniel A. Kriesberg. While this book is definitely more geared towards teachers, I don’t think the activities are too complicated or difficult to be useful for the rest of us. Plus, if you’ve stuck with us all the way through the month of April you clearly have an interest in books and the environment; it would be kinda great if you could pass those on to the next generation.

Those are just a smattering of the resources I know and love. If you want more ideas I am happy to chat about it. Leave a comment or send us an email.


Thanks also to everyone who read along with our annual month-long Earth Day celebration. Thanks especially to Mara for writing a guest post, commenting, and also for always being awesome. To Lisa and Rebecca for their proof-reading rescues. To Bethany and Jamie at the El Portal Library who helped me find and check out a huge mountain of books. To Sal, Rebecca, Ayla, Becky, and everyone else who told me about awesome books I should read.

❤ ~Robin


Earth Day: A Tale of Two Upcycling Books

29 Apr


If you want to hear Robin speak passionately for awhile, there are a few topics that are guaranteed to get her talking.

  1. Bats
  2. Music with fiddles in it
  3. Birdwatching
  4. People who incorrectly use the word “upcyle”

While it may be true that I only recall having one or two conversations about number four, I do know she is my go-to person to complain about said topic with.  That’s why this post will be formatted as though I’m addressing her.

Ahem.  Robin.  Hi.

Remember how at the beginning of the month I thought it was a good idea to review some green crafting books?  Maybe even do a couple crafts?  Well, big surprise I didn’t get to the doing part, but I don’t have to actually make anything to review a craft book.  Anyway, I pulled all the eco-craft type books out of my library.  One evening I went through them all and was mostly pretty “meh” about the whole lot of them.  Until I came to one.  God, I wish I could show you the pictures.  I think the neighbors heard me yelling at this book.

Here’s the offender:

So, I looked up Danny Seo and apparently he’s a pretty successful guy in the crafting and home dec world.  His Facebook page claims he’s a “green living expert”.  So maybe I’m missing something.  Feel free to argue, but I think you’ll agree with me.  I kind of felt bad about panning this guy until I looked at the book again.  Immediately the regret evaporated.  I remember the rant you had about Michaels selling brand new mason jars to “upcycle” with.  Pretty much every project in this book fills me with that kind of frustration.

Some of the projects are just not that great of ideas.  The main contender for that category is the Painter’s-Tape Privacy Screen.  Said screen actually upcycles old window or door frames, but then lines those with criss-crossed painter’s tape.  First off, who wants a painter’s tape covered square in their home?  It’s ugly.  Second, none of that painter’s tape is being recycled.  Now it’s no good for its intended purpose and knowing me, I’d have gotten wasted a roll and a half trying to keep it from sticking to myself.  You know that.  You’ve seen me in action.  Finally, this project could have been slightly altered to actually upcycle.  Why not use fabric strips?  That’s just one thought.  If I was writing a book that I hoped to publish I’d probably think a little harder, which he did not.

Other ideas are baffling.  For the Electronic-Cord Organizer (all these hyphens are his), you take a couple wine corks, put a pipe clamp around them and literally stick a fork in them.  You are then supposed to use this contraption to wind your electric cords around them, apparently while they are still plugged to the wall, in order to keep them out of the way.  Would you do that?  No, you wouldn’t.

But here’s my favorite one of all time….  You’re not going to believe this and just imagine me shaking the book in your face and yelling this whole next part.  There is an actual project where you take plastic water bottles, fill them with concrete, then REMOVE the plastic bottle and recycle it.  You do not paint these bottles.  You are just stuck with ugly concrete two liters.  You’re supposed to use them for door stops or some bs.  Here’s the thing though, if you just recycled the plastic bottle you would have less waste.  Now you have concrete blocks which I guess you could recycle if you knew where you could do that?  UGH

Now if I were actually talking to you, you know at this point we’re going to be flipping out about these projects and thinking we could do so much better. I would have to put the book away so I wouldn’t keep pointing at new confusing ways to go green.  Since you’re not here and I’m too worked up to come up with some solutions myself, I’d like to bring things back to the bright side of life by introducing you to a second book.

The book is eco craft by Susan Wasinger and I can already feel my blood pressure dropping as I leaf through it.  Her projects are mostly classics, like using old sweaters to knit rugs or fusing plastic bags together to make lunch bags.  Not too out there, but still useful, interesting and actually upcycled.  Even though her creativity as far as techniques leaves something to be desired, her simple instructions and minimal use of new supplies makes this an excellent green crafting book.

Oh, I forgot she had this one… It’s a privacy screen, just like Seo’s except she uses those plastic six-pack can holders instead of painter’s tape.  I’m still suspicious that it would look good in person, but yes, Susan, that is an actual upcycle.

I feel bad going on so much about the book I don’t like and so little about the one I do, but looking through eco craft makes me want to actually go make something.  So I’m going to go do that.  Or at least think about it.

It was nice talking to you.  This Earth Day blogging thing is always more fun than I think it will be.

~ April

Earth Day: The Wild Trees

28 Apr


Rebecca recommended The Wild Trees to me a few years ago. I picked it up and was immediately sucked in. It tells the stories of a team of researchers who endeavored to learn more about the coast redwoods….by climbing them.

Don’t worry, it’s not a research paper or an expedition report. It’s a wonderful story about the personalities and the lives of the people who were drawn to these trees. My friend Kim recently read this book, but had one complaint: it was keeping her awake because she couldn’t put it down to go to bed. My roommate Ayla saw the book lying on the table last week and she has already finished it. It really is that good.

I don’t know how else to convince you to read it, other than saying that reading it fills me with the same sort of wonder and reverence I feel when I watch this video:

Seriously, go read it.


P.S. It’s also just happens to be the book that I reached for when I needed a chunk of text for the Read Green artwork that’s been plastered all over this blog for the past month.

Earth Day: Books in Nature

26 Apr


Everyone in Yosemite is slightly relieved that we finally got some precipitation this past week. It isn’t even close to enough to relieve the drought, but every little bit helps. We’ve seen the effects of the rain most dramatically in Crane Creek, which runs smack through the middle of the burned area from the El Portal fire last summer. With no plants to hold the soil back the deluge of water has filled the creek with sediment.

The book in the picture is Your Water Footprint by Stephen Leahy. It provides a good overview of current water use issues, and includes a pretty extensive section on the water footprints of everyday products. It also provides several suggestions for how to reduce your individual water footprint, and well made visuals accompany the information.

In truth, I wanted to review more books about reducing water footprints, and after scourging the local libraries, the shelves of Barnes and Noble, the collections of other Central Valley libraries, and even the library of the environmental organization I work for, I was disappointed by how little I found. You would think that in a place in such a dire state of drought, resources like this would be in high demand. Friends, this does not bode well for us.


Read Green 4

Earth Day: Nature Journaling

24 Apr

Read Green 6.

You may have noticed that I’m a big fan of dragging art supplies out into the woods. Nature journaling gives me an opportunity to practice my art skills and refine my observations of the natural world, but that’s not why I do it. I really just enjoy hanging around outside and seeing where my eyes and my paintbrush will take me.

Sage Flowers

The only hint that I can really offer about nature journaling is that it’s more fun if you don’t pressure yourself to create a masterpiece. Make sure you’re having fun even if your painting of Tissiak ends up looking like an inbred armadillo.


For everything else I’m going to refer you to a few books on the subject:


I would start with Keeping a Nature Journal by Charles E. Roth and Clare Walker Leslie. It takes the “no pressure” approach to nature journaling. It focuses mostly on tips and techniques for seeing and observing the world around you, and only scratches the surface of technical drawing skills.


If technique is what you want, The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson will deliver. It includes techniques for drawing and painting in a variety of mediums.


Grinnell journaling is a technique that incorporates science into the journaling process through methodical recording and observation. I was blown away by How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson. She managed to write a book that seamlessly incorporates science, art, and outdoor ethics.


Maybe you still can’t imagine why someone would ever want to make a nature journal, or you just want inspiration. You should pick up Barbara Bash’s True Nature. It’s a little hard to read, but that’s only because every time I try to sit down with it, I find myself wanting to go outside with my paints instead.

Grab your art supplies and get out there and color!