Chuck Lura on Winter Reads | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Chuck Lura on Winter Reads


It is often this time of year, when the days are short, and temperatures are often below zero that the outdoors is not as inviting as we would prefer.  That is when we often look to the bookshelf to help us out.

 I was thinking about all that recently, and thought that you might appreciate some suggestions on good books related to nature.  So here are a few books I have enjoyed, in no particular order.  But all of them are nature related, most relevant to our region, and some are from an historical perspective.  

Perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded book on nature and a land ethic is Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac from 1949.  Leopold himself said it best: “there are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.  These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” It is an easy read, and a must read for anyone interested in nature and natural resource management.  

Any book by Sigurd Olson is good.  His books include Listening Point, Wilderness Days, The Singing Wilderness, and Reflections from the North Country.  Sigurd Olson was extremely instrumental in getting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness established.  His book Runes of the North is about the “haunting appeal of the wilderness and the tales and legends, reflections, and adventurers, set in the vast wilderness of the North that sweeps from the Quetico-Superior and Hudson Bay to the Yukon and Alaska.”  Chapter titles include Cranberry Bog, The Swamp Buck, Ghost Camps of the North, and Wild Rice.

Paul Errington’s The Red Gods Call is a book almost everyone can relate to.  You accompany Errington in his formative years as he hunts, traps, and explorers his boyhood home in eastern South Dakota.  It could be subtitled “neat things I did as a kid.”  He also colorfully describes battling wits with a wily coyote.   

If a little historical ecology and observations on nature is up your alley or prairie trail, consider early journals such as those of Lewis and Clark.  Also Joseph N. Nicollet on the Plains and Prairie:. the expeditions of 1838-39 with journals, letters, and notes on the Dakota Indians, edited by Edmund Bray and Martha Coleman Bray (1976).    It includes, for example, Nicollet’s description of their trepidations of traveling for several days between the James and Sheyenne Rivers while surrounded by herds of bison.  

There are many other good reads, of course.  But if you are so inclined, find at least one book about nature to read this winter.  I have listed these and a few other books along with the text of this Natural North Dakota.  You can access them at www.prairiepublic.org.

Bray, Edmund C., and Martha Coleman Bray.  1976.  Joseph N. Nicollet on the Plains and               Prairies.  The expeditions of 1838-39 with journals, letters, and notes on the Dakota Indians.  Minnesota Historical Society.  

Includes journals from St Louis to Fort Pierre to Devils Lake then back to Fort Snelling.  Also includes his description of traveling for days while surrounded by bison.  

Errington, Paul.  1973.  The Red Gods Call.  Iowa State University Press.  

Accompany the young Errington as he hunts, traps, and explores the area around his eastern South Dakota home.  Later on, he battles wits with a coyote.  

Leopold, Aldo.  1949.  A Sand County Almanac.  

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.  These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.”

Madson, John. 1982.  Where the Sky Began, land of the tallgrass prairie.  Houghton Mifflin.  

    The history, ecology, use, and abuse, of the tallgrass prairie.  

Manning, Richard.  1995. Grassland.  Penguin Books.

“The History, Biology, Politics, and Promise of the American Prairie.”

Olson, Sigurd.  1976.  Runes of the North.  Alfred A. Knopf.  

The haunting appeal of the wilderness and the tales and legends, reflections, and adventurers, set in the vast wilderness of the North that sweeps from the Quetico-Superior and Hudson Bay to the Yukon and Alaska.”

    Chapters include Cranberry Bog, The Swamp Buck, Ghost Camps of the North  

Other books by Olson include Listening Point, Wilderness Days, The Singing Wilderness, and Reflections from the North Country

Reid, Russell (editor). 1988.  Lewis and Clark in North Dakota.  State Historical Society of North Dakota.  

Edited and annotated Journals from the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  

Severson, Keith, and C. Hull Sieg.  The Nature of Eastern North Dakota:  Pre-1880 Historical Ecology.  North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU.  

Geology, Climate, People, Fire, Vegetation, and Animals of eastern North Dakota prior to 1880

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.