I have selected the following list of books which I have read so that the reader might find the way of things in the desert. And while I have read many other books that have influenced me and were full of knowledge, many of them are not on this list, the reason for this being that they were not about the desert environment or had no practical application in the desert. However, this list of books will always be growing and directed to a wide audience; that is to say, some are for beginners, others for professionals.
But in the end, I feel that all of them will be beneficial for someone trying to learn the ways of the desert
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West
By: Michael Moore
Museum of New Mexico Press
In my opinion, this book is well written and organized. The subject of medicinal plants can be difficult to write about accurately in both the scientific manner as well as the traditional and holistic approach. This book accomplishes just that with the expectation that the reader will use and experiment with this knowledge. It covers many plant species, some common and some harder to find. What’s rather intriguing is the way this author treats each specie systematically and covers each topic by appearance, habitat, plants, chemistry, medicinal uses and so on. There is not as much information regarding some of the very dangerous plants in the desert southwest, however it is still an excellent book for anyone starting out and wanting to explore medicinal plants. This is a subject anyone spending time in the desert should know about as it deals with something basic to our humanity. When thinking of our traditional human culture, that is the hunter and gatherer, we know that these words can also mean male and female. However, pharmacology is practiced by both men and women alike and was practiced under many titles such as Shaman midwife and so on. The practice of using plants as something other than food is uniquely to human.
The Golden Guides
Golden Press New York
Western Publishing Co. Inc.
These wonderful books cover an array of subjects that I, and many others, remember and cherish from our youth. While often considered literature based for children or young adults, these books carry with them a complete and useful overview of their subject matter. As the name implies, The Golden Guides can be used as field guides and are worth carrying into the field. This publisher has a very unique and rare way of presenting photographs, illustrations, numbers and graphs that convey concepts easily understood by someone simply enjoying the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake. Most of these books were written in a time when the Internet did not exist and this kind of knowledge was difficult to find. In this day and age, there is a lot of competition, but their strong suit is that they are user friendly. It is for these reasons they make my list of recommended reading.
By: C. Alan Davis and Gerald A. Smith
San Bernardino County Museum
This particular book offers an insight into the desert southwest’s past. It contains an official publication of an archaeological study. It can be a bit cumbersome to someone other than an archaeologist, but it is a study worth reading. One of the reasons this particular study has meant a great deal to me is because it covers an area that I have explored extensively and know well. For anyone taking on a mountain range or an ecosystem as a whole it will be worthwhile looking up the various archaeological studies that pertain to it. Although many of these studies contain language meant for a professional, one can still ascertain a lot of information found nowhere else.
Windswept – The Story of Wind and Weather
By: Marq de Villiers
Walker & Co. New York
I found this to be an excellent book! It seemed to be more about the wind than weather, but as we know, wind and weather are inseparable. The wind is often a major component that can be discussed in its own right. This book covers not only the factors of global winds, but also the history of how we understood them in ancient times and the reason for those thoughts. It also takes the reader through a step-by-step understanding of the wind from a modern global understanding to a local one. No ecosystem on earth could be fully understood without a good understanding of the wind.
Great Arc of the Wild Sheep
By James L. Clark
Foreword by Richard M. Mitchell
University of Oklahoma Press
I found this book to be an ideal piece for any naturalist trying to better understand the desert southwest. A true understanding of what is taking place in a particular ecosystem is rooted in an in-depth understanding of individual animal species. While this book provides the science of many major species throughout the world, it is still valuable in terms of understanding the desert southwest. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the book offered not only a scientific description of an animal, but that it provided an enjoyable mixture of science, adventure, history and keen observation of the environment. As alluded to by the book’s title, one also gains a deeper appreciation for the Bighorn Sheep, the great masters of survival, through learning of their struggles for survival in not only the desert southwest, but throughout the world.
The Pinon Pine
A Natural and Cultural History
By Ronal M Lanner
Section on pine Nut Cookery by Harriett Lanner
University of Nevada Press
For someone wanting to understand the ecology of the desert southwest, a detailed knowledge of the Pinon Pine tree is an excellent place to start. Other plant species such as the Saguaro Cactus, Joshua Tree, Greasewood Juniper and Sagebrush are all vitally important to an ecosystem, but the Pinon Pine is in a class all of its own. There are few other plants that can claim the dominance in size and importance in the desert southwest as that of the Pinon Pine. One major difference is its ability to feed the entire ecosystem with its pine nuts as well as having a shaded root system and of course, the wood that it produces. If we take into account the folk wisdom that says “we are what we eat”, we can see that perhaps there’s much more to this section than one might expect; that is, when we gather and eat the Pinon, we literally partake of the land itself and gain a certain knowledge and wisdom that can be acquired in no other way.