Book reviews: Curl up with a good read

Often I’m asked about the reference books I use. Regular readers of this column know that the Peterson field guides, Stokes nature guides, and National Geographic bird identification book figure prominently in my library of well-used references.

But on a recent visit to the Pontiac Printshop, home of The Equity, I discovered some new books that you might want to investigate. So, for the sake of summertime reading that will help you to identify plants and critters of the Pontiac region, here’s a brief run-down of books that were new to me.

Many are published by Lone Pine Publishing, whose website is (To save room, I’ve simply used the letters LPP to designate this publisher.)

1. Animal Tracks of Québec

A handy little book: at 4 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches, you can tuck it into your daypack or jacket pocket and take it along on your hikes.

And this is exactly what you need to do if you wish to identify tracks. Authors Ian Sheldon and Tamara Eder accurately advise, “Most importantly, take this book into the field with you! Relying on your memory is not an adequate way to identify tracks. Track identification has to be done in the field, or with detailed sketches and notes that you can take home. Much of the process of identification involves circumstantial evidence, so you will have much more success when standing beside the track.”

I couldn’t agree more. Tracking is a great deal of fun because it uses your powers of deduction. As well, tracking teaches observation: what did that animal eat? Where are its tracks located: along a streambed, or in a field? Animals are like us, unpredictable at times. So it is that tracking can test your knowledge, push you to the limits of your understanding of your environment.

This little book offers a great introduction to tracking. An introductory chapter introduces readers to the different paces of an animal: ambling, bounding, galloping, hopping, loping, running, trotting, side-trotting and walking. It also covers types of tracks made by animals: direct register and double register, as well as the “dragline” made by a tail or by a foot.

All of these definitions are illustrated by extremely clear illustrations.

And another nice touch: horses, cows, domestic dogs and cats are included among the wild animals and reptiles discussed. This is a great idea as there are enough of these animals here in the Pontiac to create a bit of confusion when trying to discern between a coyote, fox, wolf - and domestic dog.

At $8.95, this book is a must-have. ISBN 1-55105-252-0, LPP.

2. Birds of Ontario

Andy Bezener’s book is just as useful to us here in Québec as we share the major bird species with our neighbouring province.

On the plus side, the volume has excellent illustrations plus what I particularly like is that there is a map on the same page as the text and illustration, showing the range of the bird in Ontario.

Disappointing for us here in Québec, since the map doesn’t extend into our home territory.

If you’re going to supplement your current identification book with a second, this book may be for you. But it doesn’t beat Peterson’s nor the National Geographic bird texts which depict many more species.

Rating: Good for a second or third reference at $26.95. ISBN 1-55105-236-9, LPP.

3. Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada

Author George Barron has produced a winner. Text is clear, with lots of intriguing little boxes or “pull-outs” which nicely emphasize such critical issues as edibility.

As well, photographs depict not only the fungi in its natural upright growing position, as you’d find it, but also often show the species picked, with its underside (gills) and root showing.

If you look at this book, check out the author’s photo at the back: A composite, it shows him sleeping beneath a mushroom. A graduate of the University of Glasgow in Scotland, Mr. Barron possesses a Ph.D. in Mycology from Iowa State, and from 1958 to 1993 was on the faculty of Guelph University.

Rating: a must-have for fungi fanatics at $26.95. ISBN 1-55105-199-0, LPP.

4. Herbs & edible flowers

Just one of a series of Lois Hole’s books, I found this to be a delightful little book for the home gardener and cooking enthusiast. It’s got “everything” from mouthwatering colour photos of the dishes she’s recommending we try preparing, through to close-up shots of like varieties of basil, for instance. As such, it’s a great cottage companion, for it gives short insights into the most common edible flowers and herbs, such as nasturtiums, lavender, borage, pansies, sunflowers and more.

Rating: A fun book insofar as it goes. It left me feeling a bit flat as I wanted to learn more about more species. Definitely take a look at this book: The Equity has many books authored by this extremely popular writer. $24.95. ISBN 0-96827911-3-9, Hole’s publishing.

5. Woodlot Management

Want to learn why clearcutting is the best method of harvesting trees? Author Bruno Wiskel writes, “Clearcutting, contrary to many popular misconceptions, is an excellent harvest strategy in many situations. Clearcutting is the harvest option of choice in even aged stands, overmature stands, stands to be replanted to shade intolerant or pioneer species, and for development of wildlife habitat of popular game species.”

Whatever your opinion on the subject might be, this writer’s thoughts on this and other aspects of woodlot management are interesting. As well, the text is peppered with instructive photographs and illustrations which emphasize such critical things as overhead hazards that you must take time to look for prior to putting chain saw to tree.

Rating: At $14.95 this is a thought-provoking little book that introduces the basic principles of woodlot management… whether or not you concur with his clearcutting arguments! ISBN 1-55105-067-6, LPP.