Field Guides 2.0 | Wyatt’s World

With the arrival of spring and summer approaching, all kinds of plants and animals are now on heady display—especially for those living on the East Coast anticipating the return of swarming cicadas. For armchair biologists and botanists, suggest these brilliant, quirky, reflective, and beautiful guides to the natural world.

  • My Backyard Jungle: The Adventures of an Urban Wildlife Lover Who Turned His Yard into Habitat and Learned To Live with It by James Barilla (Yale Univ.). Barilla traces the complexities of having animals as intimate neighbors—from his own backyard to wildlife habitats from around the globe. [See LJ 5/15/13].
  • What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz (Scientific American/Farrar). Biologist Chamovitz explores the lives of plants and how they respond to the world and experience the sense of sound, touch, smell, and more.
  • Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy R. Hugo (text) & Robert Llewellyn (photogs.) (Timber Pr.). What do American beech, ginkgo, red maple, Southern magnolia, tulip poplar, white oak, white pine, American sycamore, black walnut, and Eastern red cedar look like from bud to leaf to bloom? Hugo highlights these ten trees and through Llewellyn’s astounding photography teaches readers how to look at their minute detail. [See LJ 10/15/11].
  • Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise by David Rothenberg (Griffin: St. Martin’s). Do bugs have rhythm and did they teach it to us? Philosopher and jazz musician Rothenberg traces the impact of insect noises on our understanding of sound.
  • What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young (Mariner: Houghton Harcourt). Naturalist Young’s book is a reference guide about identifying and interpreting bird sounds, from their reactions of alarm to less frantic communications. [See LJ 5/1/12].
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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at