More than most years, this past winter has felt like a time of hibernation. Depending on where you live, human activities may or may not be starting back up yet. But the natural world follows its own timeline, and spring is now in full swing. If you’re still spending enough time at home to sink into a good book, we’ve found seven spring reads to help you explore the natural processes that take place regardless of lockdowns and quarantines.
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by Bernd Heinrich
The return of migratory birds is one of the classic signs of spring, but birds are not the only animals that follow seasonal migrations. The Homing Instinct explores the different methods that migratory animals use to navigate their mind-boggling journeys – from sight memory to scent trails and even magnetic orienteering. And it considers the biological significance of humans’ emotional connection to home.
by Deborah L. Martin
The best time to plant perennials is in the fall, but spring is when the gardening bug bites hardest. If the end of winter has you yearning to get your hands in the dirt, start with the basics. Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening is a not-too-technical guidebook to organic summer vegetable gardens. Use this book to get started in spring, and when fall comes, you’ll be ready to extend your growing season year-round.
by Jae Won Oh
Spring allergies can feel like the cruelest injustice – just when the weather turns pleasant and you’re itching to get outside, going outside makes you itch. The shelves are stacked with books touting dubious cures, but very few science-based explanations of the how and why of seasonal allergies. Jae Won Oh’s book Pollen Allergy in a Changing World presents the latest scientific knowledge on pollen allergies and the complex associations between allergies and environmental factors like weather, air pollution, and even climate change.
by Richard O. Prum
In the movie Bambi, the wise old owl announced to the young animals, “Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime,” and Yale University ornithologist Richard Prum agrees. He observed numerous display traits in tropical birds that seem like liabilities to individual survival. In The Evolution of Beauty, he digs deeper into Darwin’s theories. He examines that way that mate choice – which often seems to be more aesthetic than practical – influences evolution. Prum extrapolates to the possible relevance for human sexuality. In contrast to most discussions of attractiveness, he focuses on the evolutionary impact of female preferences on male bodies.
by Dick Rauh
Flowers bloom year-round, but spring is practically defined by them. Published last year, The Science Behind Flowers is based on the New York Botanical Garden course, Plant Morphology for Botanical Illustrators. Rauh teaches his students – and now readers – how to observe flowers more closely and see the biological and ecological significance of their morphology. Diagrams and photographs clearly illustrate flower anatomy and physiology.
by Elizabeth Rush
Climate change has introduced new dangers to this once-optimistic season. Each spring more sea ice melts than froze the autumn before; excessive annual snowmelt in the mountains feeds rivers to flood levels, and sea levels have begun to rise, contributing to increasingly severe seasonal storms. The result is a threatened and changing coastline. In Rising, Elizabeth Rush explores places in the U.S. that are already experiencing the dramatic impacts of changing hydrology, from the Gulf Coast to New York City and the Bay Area.
by Anne Sibley O’Brien and Susan Gal
If you think that picture books are only for children, find a child to read Abracadabra, It’s Spring with you. But don’t miss this book. Short, simple verses accompany eleven brightly colored gatefold illustrations that capture all our favorite elements of the season: snow melting in the garden, new leaves on trees, flowers in bloom, and the arrival of birds and caterpillars.
Feature image by Uriel Mont, Pexels