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Reading the Landscape of America

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  61 ratings  ·  11 reviews
In this natural history classic, the author takes the reader on field trips to landscapes across America, both domesticated and wild. She shows how to read the stories written in the land, interpreting the clues laid down by history, culture, and natural forces. A renowned teacher, writer and conservationist in her native Midwest, Watts studied with Henry Cowles, the pione ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published March 15th 1999 by Nature Study Guild Publishers (first published 1975)
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Sep 25, 2015 rated it really liked it

I once heard a story about a man from the United States who was traveling in India. On the train, he met a woman who would look out over the landscape, and from that observations tell what the conditions of the people living there were, what their challenges were, and what they could do differently to live within the contraints of the land. There was a practical kind of reading that gave one agency to help people live as part of their ecology.

This book, by and large, does not provide this kind o
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book. We learn about a lot of things in school, but most folks don't understand the first thing about reading the landscape, myself included. May Thielgaard Watts demonstrates how we can begin to understand our natural heritage through observation, and she makes it engaging and easy to follow along with helpful comparisons and descriptions along with wonderful sketches. She has a great sense of humor and at times she writes so poetically that it brought tears to my eyes ...more
Joshua Soileau
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Reminiscent of "A Sand County Almanac" because of the way the author tells the story of the many landscapes traversed. A true naturalist, Watts dives deep into southwestern desert plant communities and the succession of midwest Woodlands. A fantastic read.
Jul 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
may watts= 1940's UofC grad/first staff naturalist at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago/founder of rails to trails movement

mary oliver-esque

"defender of native plants and landscapes in her native midwest"

"there is good reading on the land, first-hand reading, involving no symbols.

the records are written in forests, in fencerows, in bogs, in playgrounds, in pastures, in gardens, in canyons, in tree rings.

the records were made my sun and shade, by wind, rain, and fire, by time; and by animals."
Sep 05, 2012 added it
I was born too late to have the privilege of traveling with this extraordinary botanist, story teller, and forensic sleuth. Don't miss the chapter on how islands travel. Anyone born in America before 1960 will appreciate "the Stylish House." But save it for last.
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Nature lovers
Recommended to P225 by: Jay Kranyik
Shelves: favorites
Touching and intriguing essays by one of America's first female botanists. I will never look at a landscape the same way again! Beautifully written. No need to know anything about botany to thoroughly enjoy.
Carol Cotter
Jan 28, 2016 marked it as to-read
I registered a book at!
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
excellent botany book.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Must read from highschool to senior. illustrated and easy to understand.
Nice basic info.
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing

A true gem. It will make looking out a car window and traveling to different places a whole new experience as you too learn how to read the landscape.
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
The author certainly has a special talent to combine an extensive knowledge of botany with almost poetic prose! Enjoyed reading the landscape of America with her! A good read indeed!
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