Thursday, September 6, 2012

Old Books

During the loll between Summer Camp and School Program at the Nature Center, I have been going through a donation of very beautiful books.  The task has been fun, but hard because the nature center has little storage area for books, especially if they are just going to sit on shelves collecting dust.  Many of the oldest books in the collection are available in digital format and often for free.  I am guilty of not thinking of using the books in the Nature Center's library for reference material.  It is just too easy to google online for the answer to questions or background information for a new project, than to search through books not knowing if it even holds the key.  A well known book, digital or a hard copy, can be a source of knowledge, new ideas, help, entertainment, and friendship.  My job has been to find the books that staff will read, and books that will help us fulfill the Nature Center's mission as a place for hands-on exploration on the environment.  But each book has so much to offer, and each person who looks at the collection of books finds a different treasure!

It is interesting to find that I have gained a sense of the two different people who donated the books: Sandra Foster, a former director of the Nature Center, and John E. Sunder PhD a UT history professor and naturalist.  Mrs. Foster's collection consists of many textbooks, extra large picture books, TX State extension pamphlets, nature activity books, and complete sets of nature magazines.  You can see the teacher, animal lover, and information gatherer that must have made her a good person to over see the Nature Center.  From her books you can infer that she was religious, had pets and rehabilitated wildlife, made collections of natural history artifacts, and enjoyed teaching.   Dr. Sunder's collection consists of series by influential naturalist authors, stories of naturalists, books concerning the state of the planet, and books about how human thought and history has effected nature.  I can conclude from his books that he traveled to many parts of the world, considered conservation important, was a birder, and valued the collection enough to have paperbacks bound.  What do my books say about me?  My shelves are filled mostly with field guides, nature activities resource books, gardening, and our old biology class textbooks.

After going through so many books, I feel that I have a deficit of reading and learning, and I am making a list of books to read.  One gem found in Dr. Sunder's collection is a writer named Richer Jefferies.  He was a contemporary of Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson, and heralded the beauty and joy in nature.  Another  book on my list is One Day on Beetle Rock, by Sally Carrighar, a story of a place with each chapter from a different animal's perspective.  I need to read some writings of John Muir, father of our National Parks. There are of course many more books that I should read.  Do you have any recommendations?

What kind of books are on your shelves and what do they say about you?
If you had to choose 3 books which would you keep?

There are many books in the collection
by birder, deep sea and jungle explorer William Beebe
A John Aududon illustration.
Older books have the most beautiful prints!