It’s been rumored I have a book obsession, especially field guides and books related to the outdoors. By the looks of my overflowing bookcases, the piles on every flat surface, and my go-to stack of reference books on my desk, there may be some truth to that rumor.
One of my favorite places to shop for books may seem unlikely. While I can wander through any big-name booksellers for days when I really want good books related to the outdoors, especially Illinois, I turn to the Illinois Natural History Survey website and the University of Illinois Press. These sites offer up some of the best that will long be treasured volumes for anyone on your gift list.
Notable University of Illinois Press 2022 releases:
Field Guide to reptiles and Amphibians of Illinois. If you’ve someone on your list who likes to hoard field guides, this is an excellent addition to the collection. It’s a truly one-of-a-kind resource that serves as the definitive guide to the 102 species of frogs, toads, snakes, and lizards found throughout Illinois.
In the Spirit of Wetlands: Reviving Habitat in the Illinois River Watershed
This volume, filled with inspirational stories and haunting black-and-white photographs, chronicles the experiences of Individuals from all walks of life who have devoted time, energy, and money to restoring the state’s lost wetlands. If there’s someone on your gift list that has a love of wetlands or restoration of wild places, this is a must-have volume.
Light Through the Trees Photographs at The Morton Arboretum For those with a love of trees, gorgeous full-color photography, and longing for a beautiful coffee table-style book, This volume checks all the boxes. A beloved and famous Illinois institution, The Morton Arboretum welcomes one million annual visitors to walk its trails and view the 4,200 tree species on the grounds. Author Peter J. Vagt has photographed the Arboretum for over twenty years. This collection showcases eighty-four of his favorite works, each in full color. A celebration of The Morton Arboretum in its centenary year, Light Through the Trees is the perfect keepsake or gift for anyone who admires trees and believes in their restorative power.
An Atlas of Illinois Fishes 150 Years of Change
Scientifically up-to-date and illustrated with over 240 color photos, An Atlas of Illinois Fishes is a benchmark in the study of Illinois’s ever-changing fish communities and the habitats that support them.
A rich guide that effortlessly bridges the gap between scientific study and a guide for the average fish enthusiast. Each of the entries on Illinois’s 217 current and extirpated fish species offers one or more color photographs, maps depicting distributions during different periods in time, clear and concise descriptions of identifying features, and information on habitat preference. The provided pictorial keys for fish identification make it easy for the average fish enthusiast to quickly identify and learn more about virtually any fish they are likely to encounter in Illinois waters.
While not new releases, INHS has excellent deals on what I consider must-have reading for outdoor enthusiasts. Call them “oldies but goodies,” if you will. Their timeless nature makes them a bargain for any outdoor lover’s bookshelf.
INHS Manual 07: Waterfowl of Illinois: Abbreviated Field Guide
This abbreviated guide provides anyone with a love of waterfowl a handy guide to aid in learning what kinds of waterfowl frequent our state. This slim and portable guide explains all about waterfowl in Illinois. This handy guide describes when one can see specific waterfowl, where, how many, what they eat, and where they nest. This great glove box and blind bag companion helps us understand what we can do to enjoy and conserve the rich history of waterfowl in Illinois. This is a great quick guide for birdwatchers who want to learn more about waterfowl or for new waterfowl hunters who wish to sharpen their waterfowl identification skills.
Biologists in the Field
Initially published in 2009 in celebration of the INHS’s 150th Anniversary, Biologists in the Field is a collection of writings by past and current INHS field biologists about their adventures in fieldwork. Included are letters and journal entries of early INHS biologists along with some most entertaining tales from contemporary biologists. These include giving CPR to a squirrel, tracking turtles in a nudist campground, losing an entire trailer on Halloween, and encountering law enforcement officials. This delightful collection of tales from the field will leave you with a smile on your face and a new appreciation for the fieldwork that biologists in Illinois perform.
Be sure to check out upcoming print editions of Illinois Outdoor News for additional gift-giving ideas for the outdoor lovers on your holiday list.