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The Green Life: Book Review Wednesday: Views of the Earth

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July 20, 2011

Book Review Wednesday: Views of the Earth

Book Roundup Wednesday Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we're recommending books that document the beauty of Earth's surface.

Arctic Sanctuary: Images of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (by Jeff Jones and Laurie Hoyle, $55, University of Chicago Press, 2010): Panoramic images of the remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge reveal the tremendously varied zones contained within the 19.5-million-acre refuge, which is unique not just for its size but for its lack of roads or traces of humanity. The book's shape and size it's roughly 9''-by-14'' and images are shown horizontally mirror the vast, sweeping Arctic landscape. One gets the sense that this book is only just barely able to contain the huge scenes.

Granite and Grit: A Walker's Guide to the Geology of British Mountains (by Ronald Turnbull, $25, Frances Lincoln, 2011 [paperback]): It's easy to be awed by mountains' beauty and grandeur; it's another matter to understand the science behind geological formations. This book covers both realms, offering hikers in the U.K. a resource by which to fuel their wonder and inspire their journeys. Chapter names like "The Crunch of the Continents" and "A 200-Million-Year Walk over Dufton Pike" hint at the book's immense scale.

36 Acres: A Portrait of the Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Preserve (by Tobin Fraley, $35, Woodland Grove Press, 2010): The Reed-Turner Preserve in Long Grove, Illinois, a village some 35 miles north of Chicago, is tiny compared to the parks that most often inspire book-length photographic documentation. Yet this unique act of intense focus on one 36-acre plot of land is one of the things that make this book so exquisite. The images, arranged by season, remind us that, as Fraley writes, "the beauty of our own backyard is taken for granted."

Over the Coasts: An Aerial View of Geology (by Michael Collier, $35, Firefly Books, 2009): Michael Collier's first experience with flying was a failed cliff leap with a secondhand hang glider. Though he crashed to the ground, his "earthbound bond was broken." Now a more experienced pilot, he treats readers to a rich sampling of aerial coastal photography. His portrayal of America's shores inspire awe.

The Universe in the Landscape: Landforms by Charles Jencks (by Charles Jencks, $65, Frances Lincoln, 2011): Charles Jencks sculpts the earth to form philosophically inspired designs for the gardens, parks and sprawling works. In this book, breathtaking photos of the finished "landforms" are augmented by models and drawings that document the creation process. For Jencks, landforming "is the art of using nature to speculate on nature, to play with its shapes, manipulate it aesthetically, and find uses for the result." Behind each constructed shape, inspired by DNA strands, galaxies, or whirlpools, is a deep contemplation of the natural world.

--Della Watson

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