Entangled Life / Knowing the Trees / Salmon, Cedar, Rock & Rain

Review by Rachel Fowler

As the weather gets colder, my favorite activity is to curl up with a good book. I love fiction, but I have a special affinity for nonfiction, especially nature books.

Recently I’ve read three that were particularly enjoyable. They range from the world of fungi to a beautifully illustrated book about trees and end with the wonder and majesty of the Olympic Peninsula. These books encompass a wide array of knowledge of the natural world and are perfect gifts for fans of the outdoors.

Entangled Life: The Illustrated Edition: How Fungi Make Our Worlds by Merlin Sheldrake, is an incredible book about mushrooms. Sheldrake's original bestselling edition explains how prevalent and important fungi are in our lives.


“They are eating rock, making soil, digesting pollutants, nourishing and killing plants, surviving in space, inducing visions, producing food, making medicines, manipulating animal behavior and influencing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere," Sheldrake writes. 

This gorgeously illustrated edition is abridged and is accompanied by full color pictures of fungi that show the variety, beauty and awe that exist in the fungal kingdom. Seeing the stunning colorful fungi and lichens really helps hit home how diverse fungi are and adds in another level of enjoyment to an already astonishing book.

Knowing the Trees: Discover the Forest from Seed to Snag by Ken Keffer, is a quaintly illustrated book about trees and the beauty of the forest. Keffer outlines the life cycle of trees in his book. He starts with chapters about seeds, then moves on to roots, trunks, heart wood, the canopy and finishes with snags and a broad look at forest ecology.

Keffer notes the purpose of his book is to educate and inspire respect for nature.

“Knowing trees inspires readers by imparting a new level of awareness and understanding of the natural world... allowing you to see the forest and the trees," Keffer writes.

I’ve read many books on trees, but this one stands out for its ability to explain in beautiful detail the importance of each stage of a tree's life to the health of a North American forest and all the animals in it. The lovely color illustrations by Emily Walker paired with Keffer’s lyrical text just add the immersive feeling that you’re walking through a forest.

Salmon, Cedar, Rock & Rain: Washington's Olympic Peninsula by Tim McNulty, showcases the natural beauty and wonder of this diverse corner of our state as well as conservation efforts to maintain it. McNulty touches on efforts to return salmon and protect native birds, mammals and sea creatures, like octopus. Along with this information, he has stunning full color pictures to show the majesty of these flora and fauna.

I think the most intriguing part of this book is after each chapter, a writer from one of the five sovereign tribes in the region tells what that area means to their people with stories or insights. It adds such depth to see Indigenous voices explaining the beauty of the land their tribe maintains traditional homelands on.

As McNulty writes, “The deeper importance of the Olympic Peninsula extends beyond the beauty and biological richness of this island-like ecosystem. It lies in the promise these lands and waters offer to the Northwest Region, the North Pacific Rim and the world.”

This is a gorgeous book that anyone can benefit from and learn.

These books show a dizzying array of the wonders of nature. I would highly recommend all of them. I know they would make wonderful Christmas gifts for anyone interested in the stunning beauty of our natural world.