Don’t know about you, but I quite enjoy picking up a good field guide and using it to figure out what it is I’m looking at in the natural world. Even more than typing a hunch into a Google search browser and hitting return and scrolling through the results. So it is with some excitement I share with you a handful of especially well-written and packaged field guides—all published by university presses—that have recently moved from my desk here in the office to my bedside at home.
• Encyclopedic in scope, Richard Dickinson and France Royer’s Weeds of North America (The University of Chicago Press; $35) is the first to cover North American weeds at every stage of growth. Five hundred species are included, making this an essential reference for all who wish to understand the science of the all-powerful weed.
• Covering more species (630 in the West, 825 in the East) than any comparable field guides, Trees of Western North America and Trees of Eastern North America (Princeton University Press; $29.95 each) are the most comprehensive, best illustrated, and easiest-to-use books of their kind. The book features thousands of meticulous color paintings by David More and easy-to-read descriptions present details of size, shape, growth habit, bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, habitat, and range. With an unmatched combination of breadth and depth, these are essential guides for every tree lover.
• Home and business owners know that trees are necessary for—among many other benefits—providing shade, reflecting heat, and blocking wind. But choosing the right trees for the right location and Midwestern conditions is not always easy. With Landscaping with Trees in the Midwest: A Guide for Residential and Commercial Properties (Ohio University Press; $26.95), Scott Zanon provides a generously illustrated guide to 65 excellent tree species, their characteristics, as well as their uses in the landscape.
• Fusing general interest in mushrooming with serious scholarship, Mushrooms of the Midwest (University of Illinois Press; $39.95) by Michael Kuo and Andrew S. Methven describes and illustrates more than 500 of the region’s mushroom species. From the cold conifer bogs of northern Michigan to the steamy oak forests of southern Missouri, the book offers a broad cross section of the fungi, edible and not, that can be found growing in the Midwest’s diverse ecosystems.