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May 10, 2020

Earth Almanac by Ted Williams ~ a Review

by Donna Huber


When I requested Earth Almanac several months ago, it was mostly because I was trying to read more nonfiction and I like nature. But now, during the pandemic, my reason has changed slightly. If you read my April wrap-up, you know that I've been trying my hand at writing nature poetry. After reading this book, I think I might try my hand at nature prose.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

September 2020; Storey; 978-1635862836
ebook, print (256 pages); nature writing
When I was a young adult, I wanted to be a naturalist. Particularly after reading John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson. But being a naturalist didn't seem realistic in the 1990s as these people were writing nearly 100 years before. I still got a degree in biology and I went to work with native wildlife at a local zoo. Fast forward many years and now I'm writing about science. As I get closer to my 30 years and will soon retire from the day job, it has me thinking about other science I could write about. Enter Ted Williams's Earth Almanac.

Williams writes a column for Audobon and this book is a collection of those essays. It is arranged by the seasons, and in short essays, he describes the wild flora and fauna that you might encounter during that season.

It starts off in winter and I didn't enjoy these essays as much as some of the other seasons. I think mostly it is because most are focused on snow and ice. As someone that lives in the deep south, we don't get much in the way of snow and ice. While Williams does mention other regions from time to time, his focus seems mostly on species found in the northern parts of the country or are widely distributed across North America. It was pretty evident that he wasn't taking into account that winter looks a lot different in the southern states when he mentioned the first rains of late winter. When it rains all winter long how to do you distinguish between the last rain of mid-winter and the first rain of late winter?

I found some of the essays boring. Either the descriptions were lacking for me or nothing new was being revealed to me. I enjoyed the essays that revealed new facts about the wildlife or plants that were the focus. Like in the essay about the plant Jack-in-the-Pulpit. My parents have them on their property, and as one of the few plants, I remember from my plant taxonomy class I have a particular fondness for the plant. In the essay, he mentions Jill-in-the-Pulpit. I don't remember this little fact about the plant from my plant classes so it made the essay more interesting.

Williams does state up front that he tries to stay away from heavy science in the essays and while there are some fun sciency facts sprinkled it, the essays do keep away from the more in-depth science surrounding the topics. The essays are more just short observations.

As I said in the beginning of this review, my reason for reading Earth Almanac has changed slightly from when I first requested it. I've been working from home for the past 8 weeks and during that time I've been taking a 3-mile walk every afternoon. Without all the to-do lists tasks to crowd my mind, I'm trying to notice my surroundings more. This was taken up a notch when my local library asked patrons to submit their nature writings. I wrote a poem because I couldn't seem to get anything down in prose. But after reading Earth Almanac, I think I might be inspired to try an essay again. I observed some vultures on Friday that I think might be a good start.

Hey, I'm living my dream of being a recluse so maybe I can also live my dream of being a modern-day naturalist.

If you want to up your observation skills of what you might see on a hike, or even in your backyard, then I recommend checking out this book.

Buy Earth Almanac at Amazon

Note: It was originally scheduled to publish in April, but now I see that the publication date has been pushed to September.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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