All winter long, we’ve been enjoying the outdoors through some of our favorite cold-weather activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. Now that the first signs of spring have begun to sprout, we’re ready to move on to some warmer-weather pursuits: fishing, gardening and birding.
Our first post in our “Bean Reads” series highlights those activities through a few of our favorite books. If you’re passionate about any of the above, we think you’ll like our list of must-reads.
Catching the Big One
We’ll kick things off with a freshwater fishing guide, “What Fish Don’t Want You to Know: An Insider’s Guide to Freshwater SpinFishing.”
The book takes you through the ins and outs of catching freshwater fish and gives you two basic ways to catch any fish. It’s a must-have for any angler’s bookshelf, and it’s extremely informative – as well as extremely funny. For example, the preface begins with this quote: “A fisherman is a jerk at one end of a line, waiting for a jerk at the other.”
Our next recommendation puts a fictional spin on the art of angling. “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” by Paul Torday, is the story of a doctor tasked with discovering if salmon exist in the Yemen – even though science says that’s impossible.
A great read based on human truths, this book is excellent for the fisherman’s imagination. The main theme of the book is “impossibility.” And isn’t that something all fishermen have dealt with? The book was recently adapted into a movie, and you can watch the trailer here.
We’ll conclude our fishing recommendations with our own “The L.L.Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing,” a handy reference guide for beginners and pros alike.
The book is divided into four parts: General Fly Fishing, Fly Fishing for Bass, Fly Casting and Fly Tying. It covers each subject in a comprehensive way and is a great guide to the art of fly fishing.
Books for the Birder
According to the New Yorker, “Birding is the opposite of being at the movies – you’re outside, not sitting in a windowless box; you’re stalking wild animals, not looking at pictures of them. You’re dependent on weather, geography, time of day – if you miss the prothonotary warbler, there isn’t a midnight showing. On the other hand, birding, like moviegoing, is at heart voyeuristic, and you can’t do it without technology – to bring birds closer you must interpose binoculars between yourself and the wild world.”
Our first book for birders is “National Geographic Birding Essentials,” by Jonathan Alderfer.
This is a good book for beginners and pros to learn what to look and listen for in the field, and improve birding skills.
In this next book, you’ll see all facets of what it means to be in love with birding – inside and out. “The Birding Life: A Passion for Birds at Home and Afield” provides a look at birders, the homes of bird enthusiasts and a glimpse at houses designed with a love for birds in mind.
The book is broken into three parts: Birders in Birdland, where you’ll meet some iconic birding figures; Bird Houses, where you’ll be welcomed into the homes and studios of bird enthusiasts, artists and collectors; and At Home with Birds, where you’ll meet homeowners who have designed their “nests” to reflect their love of birds.
Intrigued? We were, too.
Our final recommendation is a nod to our great home state. “Maine Birding Trail: The Official Guide to More than 260 Accessible Sites” by Bob Duchesne explores hundreds of locations in Maine that are ideal for spotting birds – and just like the landscape of Maine, the bird species are exceptionally varied.
Knowledge in Bloom – Books for the Gardener
Our first gardening book recommendation is from First Lady Michelle Obama.
“American Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspires Families, Schools, and Communities” details Mrs. Obama’s journey from planting the first White House garden to its latest harvest. It’s more than that, too. The New York Times writes, “Michelle Obama describes her plan to use the White House garden as a way to call the nation’s attention to a big issue: the connection between the quality of our food and the health of our children. ‘American Grown’ is a warm and personable record of her very public garden’s changing seasons. And tucked behind the hazy glow of its lovely photographs is an impassioned message: Vegetable gardens may be good for our diets, but they’re even more important for our hearts and souls.”
As an added bonus, the book includes great recipes and instructions on how to plant your own garden.
If your definition of “buying local” means picking produce from your own backyard, this next book is for you. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” details a family’s year on a farm in Appalachia.
Kingsolver describes her family’s move to this farm, where they planned to live on homegrown food for a year: “Six eyes, all beloved to me, stared unblinking as I crossed the exotics off our shopping list, one by one.”
Our last recommendation takes a look at farming in the city. We believe any outdoor space is good space, and “Urban Farms” by Sarah C. Rich looks at the urban farming movement across the country.
The book is full of how-to tips from leaders in the movement – like advice on composting, canning and beekeeping – as well as in-depth looks at 16 urban farms across the country. Not only is it a great read, but the photography is beautiful as well.
We know how many great books are out there on these three subjects, and our list is a short one. What are some of your favorites that we didn’t include here?