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Holiday Gift Ideas for Nature and Book-Lovers on Your List

Winter is a bittersweet time for us nature lovers. Yes, Snow Falling on Cedars is a beautiful sight to see and a great book by David Guterson. But, reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats too many times in a row on the couch can induce a case of cabin fever. The perfect remedy for cabin fever is an afternoon in The Parklands and a stroll on the Osage Orange Explorer Trail in Beckley Creek Park. The canopy of Osage Orange trees on this trail (we like to call it the Storybook Forest) creates a magical place for kids of all ages. It’s the perfect place to read Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. For me, reading on the bench by the Limestone Gorge in Broad Run Park is the ideal way to end a bike ride.

For book-lovers, shorter days means longer books. My wish list this holiday season starts with West with The Night by Beryl Markham—an autobiography by a daring aviator and acclaimed horse trainer in Kenya. The book impressed Ernest Hemmingway too. In a letter encouraging a friend to read the book he said, “[Beryl] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers.”

For an aspiring adventurer, like the preteens on your list, I recommend My Side of the Mountain written and illustratedby Jean Craighead George, an award winning novel about a young boy who runs away to the mountains to escape his family and a confining New York City apartment. This coming-of-age story is a mediation on balancing self-reliance and the need for companionship.

I asked the staff at The Parklands to recommend their favorite books to inspire your winter reading and shopping lists this season. If any of these reads catch your eye, please consider purchasing through Amazon Smile. This feature allows you to designate 21st Century Parks Inc. – The Parklands of Floyds Fork as your charity of choice. Your regular and holiday shopping through will result in a percentage of sales being donated to support the annual operations of a place you love – with no additional cost to you.

Dan Jones, Chairman and CEO

Reading the Forested Landscape:  A Natural History of New England
By Tom Wessels
One of the most fun natural history books of the last few decades. Explores how to break down and understand a landscape using field marks as “clues.” Will open your eyes quickly to the dynamism of the landscape and the interrelationships between human and natural history.

Oracle Bones:  A Journey Through Time in China
By Peter Hessler
The best and most readable book on modern China and China in general. Great travel literature as well. If you only read one book on China, this should be it!

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian:  John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West
By Wallace Stegner
A mesmerizing story of exploration, politics and missed opportunity set in the spectacular scenery of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau. Stegner is an amazing writer, and Powell a fascinating subject.

Wolf Willow:  A History, A Story, and A Memory of the Last Plains Frontier
By Wallace Stegner
I don’t like to recommend one author twice, but this is one of the great memoirs, and also one of the great histories, of life on the frontier and the Great Plains.


Scott Martin, Parks Director

Cecil Andrus: Politics Western Style
By Cecil Andrus
Remember when bi-partisan efforts and pragmatic leadership got things done in the name of conservation?  Well, it isn’t a fairy tale.  At one time, it was the norm.  Reading this autobiography of Cecil Andrus, President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Interior, one hears tales of the last great push for huge conservation in America from the man at the helm.  From setting aside much of Alaska in the last days of the Carter administration, to locking horns with the federal government over the storage of nuclear waste, Governor Andrus was a believer in the power of conservation to make lives better for everyone.

The Cumberland (Rivers of America Series)
By James McCague
The story and history of one of America’s most important landscapes.


Curtis Carman, Education Coordinator

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
By Bill Bryson
Ever wonder what it would be like to walk all 2,200 miles of Appalachian Trail? To slog and hoof from Georgia to Maine with nothing to do except enjoy the natural world and think? If so, this outrageously funny book details one man’s quest to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. All the while musing about the trails history, ecology, animals, plants, and people. A must read for any hiker, experienced or newbie!

Last Child in the Woods
By Richard Louv
The first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard. Check out the book and bring your children and grandchildren to The Parklands for a good dose of Vitamin N (vitamin nature that is!).


Ellen Oost, Development Director

Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted
By Justin Martin
When Parks Director Scott Martin gave me this book for Christmas two years ago I thought, “Oh boy,” thinking it would be a boring rendition on the life of this most important historical figure, the “father of landscape architecture.” Luckily, it was so much more than that. Not only does it provide insight into his thinking and his world-renowned projects, but it also highlights parts of his life you may know less about- including his family and his social activism. If you appreciate his vision, or if you just like interesting historical tales, you’ll love this book. It’s as much about him as it is about the times he lived in- and it’s a page turner (who’d have thought!) Thanks Scott for the gift, I’m paying it forward.


Laura Mattingly, Development Coordinator

A Christmas Memory
By Truman Capote
I’ve always loved this book for the sweetness, stillness, and silence Capote captures so gracefully on every page. He reaches back to an important time in his youth, to the south during the Great Depression, and he brings to life the significance of such seemingly insignificant things: fruitcake, kites, and oranges. It’s a beautiful story about traditions and hopes and families and dear friends. We all have memories that seem heightened as we get closer to the holidays and it’s such a perfect time of year to appreciate the sweetness, stillness, and silence in our own lives.


O Pioneers!
By Willa Cather
Along with following the astounding life of Alexandra Burgson, this novel envelops the reader in a world where the land and seasons have a tremendous influence on one’s life. From icy winter nights to catastrophic storms to clear summer days, it makes you realize how significant and beautiful the world around us truly is.

Bridge to Terabithia
By Katherine Paterson
A heartbreaking novel about what the wilds of nature, a beautiful forest, and an imagination can bring. I read this for the first time when I was twelve years old and have always sought the magic of Terabithia whenever I walk deep into the woods. Take the time to read this book and open your eyes to the wonder that’s in your own backyard.


Olivia Kaiser, Education Specialist

Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles:  The Lives and Lore of North American Wildflowers
By Jack Sanders
This book is for any wildflower enthusiasts. Throughout its pages you will learn about how common wildflowers and weeds were used throughout history.

Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide
By Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie E. Ferrell
Squirrels are found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. For an animal most of us see every day, we probably don’t know much about them except they collect nuts in the fall and eat the bird seed out of our feeders. If you want to become more familiar with our woodland friend, I recommend this book. There is something new to be learned on every page.

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