Books of the Backwoods

Good Reads for Environmental Educators this November

Between gravy, family, and bouncy-ball weather, I got the chance to do some much-needed reading this Thanksgiving.  What I found was an incredible treatise to the effects of nature on the brain.  Eva M Selhub, M.D., and Alan C. Logan, N.D., have put together a wonderful collection of knowledge, from ancient wisdom to the most recent research in neuroscience and psychology, that give even more weight to the argument that we need nature.

Their writing is direct, well-organized, and easy to read.  The collaboration between a medical doctor and a nature enthusiast is an effective partnership, and the authors draw from a variety of well-researched sources.

Some of their points are enlightening.  Some bolsters what we already seem to know from instincts or experience.  Outdoor enthusiasts might give a “duh” to certain points – for example, the chapter entitled “Green Exercise is Like Exercise Squared” is something I’ve been touting in my own personal practice for some time now – but the average American’s experience does not match up with what research (and common sense) are telling us.  I found this book full of “proof” I’ll be happy to use the next time I get into the discussion about the importance of Environmental Education around the dinner table. This book gives clear evidence that it is needed as far more than just a side dish.

Here are a few other EE-relevant titles that I haven’t had time to review, but which were passed on to me through the Wisconsin DPI Newsletter. 

Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconin’s Early Settlers by Marcia C. Carmichael.  “This part of our collective history comes alive at Old World Wisconsin’s recreated 19th century heirloom gardens. [H]istorical gardener Marcia C. Carmichael guides us through these gardens, sharing insights on why the owners of the original houses…planted and harvested what they did. She shares timeless lessons with today’s gardeners and cooks about planting trends and practices, garden tools used by early settlers, popular plant varieties, and favorite flavors of Wisconsin’s early settlers.”  -Read more at

People of the Sturgeon is a history of the lake sturgeon in Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago region, told by a fascinating collection of stories on the culture, art, and science surrounding this mysterious fish. From some of the earliest inhabitants of Wisconsin, the Menominee Indian Tribe, to the spearers who flock to frozen Lake Winnebago for the annual sturgeon spearing season, people have always been drawn to this ancient fish. This is the only population of sturgeon in the world to have been nearly extirpated, then resurrected through a community-wide effort of people who are now joined together as “People of the Sturgeon.” -Read more about this Audiobook at

Return to Wake Robin by Marnie O. Mamminga “Bookended by the close of the logging era and the 1970s shift to modern lake homes, condos, and Jet Skis, the 1920s to 1960s period covered in these essays represents the golden age of Northwoods camps and cabins – a time when retreats such as Wake Robin were the essence of simplicity…By tracing the history of one resort and cabin, she recalls a time and experience that will resonate with anyone who spent their summers Up North – or wishes they had.” -Read more at

The Great Peshtigo Fire: Stories and Science from America’s Deadiest Firestorm by Scott Knickelbine. “On the night of October 8, 1871, a whirlwind of fire swept through northeastern Wisconsin, destroying the bustling frontier town of Peshtigo. Trees, buildings, and people burst into flames. Metal melted. Sand turned into glass. People thought the end of the world had come. When the “tornado of fire” was over, 2,500 people were dead, and Peshtigo was nothing but a smoking ruin. It was the deadliest wildfire in U.S. history.” -Read more at

Beyond the Trees: Stories of Wisconsin Forests by Candice Andrews. Traverse the footsteps of Ojibwe hunters and early explorers in the remote woods of Brule River State Forest. Trek past the remains of bygone logging and CCC camps in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest…From orchids to oak savannah, beaver to brook trout, and white-tailed deer to timber wolves, discover Wisconsin’s flora and fauna. Richly illustrated with color photographs by the author’s husband, John T. Andrews, and other professional photographers, “Beyond the Trees” is also an intimate visual portrait of these stunning landscapes.

Happy Reading!

About jennicaskoug

A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer making her way in outdoor education.
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