For those who prefer to conclude an excursion outdoors by returning indoors, America’s Best Day Hikes: Spectacular Single-Day Hikes Across the States (Countryman, $29.95) is an essential resource. Derek Dellinger spent over a year investigating and exploring national and state parks to highlight fifty of the best one-day hikes across the United States, none of which require camping, all of which are memorable in their own way. Organized by region, these wilderness destinations make exciting and convenient additions to existing travel plans. Better yet, the hikes are complemented by Dellinger’s gorgeous photography as well as thoroughly researched logistical information, from difficulty to dog friendliness to planning and packing suggestions. With this guide, a worthy addition to any nature-lover’s collection, readers will be ready to embark on spectacular single-day adventures for years to come.
Vanishing: The World’s Most Vulnerable Animals (National Geographic, $40), by Joel Sartore, is unlike any other photography book. Sartore is a National Geographic Fellow and photographer. After a career of wildlife photography documenting the loss of species and the desperate need for conservation, Sartore felt he needed to change his approach. Despite his efforts, extinctions continued unabated with no systemic response from humankind. To help raise the alarm, fifteen years ago Sartore founded the Photo Ark project. Its continuing mission has been to create portraits of all the animals in human care worldwide. The reason for this new focus was simple and yet profound: wildlife centers have become the last refuge for many creatures facing extinction. By creating studio-like conditions where animals would be comfortable, Sartore was able to capture stunning and moving portraits. You have never seen images like these. The level of detail and intimacy each one conveys is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Another key facet of Sartore’s method is to present all animals equally, giving species that typically do not capture the popular imagination the same space as those that do. Accompanying the portraits is text that also powerfully conveys the dire circumstances of animal life on this planet and the desperate need for action.
“Trees can live without us, but we cannot live without them,” write Diane Cook and Len Jenshel. Supported by a National Geographic Society grant, the husband- and-wife team spent two years traveling the world creating portraits of Wise Trees (Abrams, $40). The result is a breathtaking photographic monument to more than fifty ancient, majestic specimens. There are those whose rooted presence has made deeply influential marks upon human culture: Siddhartha’s Bodhi, Isaac Newton’s apple tree, and the Derby Boab brought by aboriginal peoples from Africa to Australia some 1,500 years ago. Others quietly bear witness to horrific chapters of human history: the Hiroshima bonsai and Nagasaki survivor trees, a Southern Live Oak that served as Texan gallows, and a massive Monkeypod against which children were beaten to death in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Still other specimens exhibit inspiring impassiveness to human concerns and epochs: the California Redwoods, the “Tomb Raider” strangler fig of Angkor Wat, and the Magna Carta yew thought to predate the birth of Christ. And then there are those bewildering beauties made fragile by human interference: a vandalized California Sequoia, and “Pando,” the eighty thousand year old clonal colony of aspen trunks in Fishlake Forest, Utah.