A sampling of nature related books from a volunteer's bookshelf.
A sampling of nature related books from a volunteer’s bookshelf.

There are so many wonderful books we could recommend.  Please enjoy those listed below, and let us know if there are others you think we missed!

Accounts of Local Stewardship

  • City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness
    Gavin Van Horn and Dave Aftandilian, Editors
  • Hunting for Frogs on Elston: Jerry Sullivan
  • In Service of the Wild: Restoring and Rehabilitating Damaged Land: Stephanie Mills| Tells the story of the North Branch Prairie Project and its efforts, including restoration of Somme Prairie Grove.
  • Miracle Under the Oaks: The Revival of Nature in America: William K. Stevens | Tells the story of the birth of ecological restoration, with a focus on Somme Prairie Grove.
  • Natural History of the Chicago Region: Joel Greenberg | Details the history of natural areas in the region and provides context for understanding our current landscape.
  • Nature’s Restoration, People And Places on the Front Lines of Conservation: Peter Frederici | Compares the work at Somme Prairie Grove to projects in the United States and elsewhere.

Historical Accounts

  • 36 Acres: Tobin Fraley
  • Aldo Leopold – His Life and Work: Curt Meine
  • A Prairie Grove – A Naturalist’s Story of Primeval America: Donald Culross Peattie | A narrative of the life and home of Illinois naturalist Robert Kennicott.
  • A Sand County Almanac: Aldo Leopold
  • Building the Canal to Save Chicago: Richard Lanyon
  • Flora of the Chicago Region: Herman Silas Pepoon | One of our earliest published floras.
  • Flowers – How They Changed the World: William Burger
  • Henry Chandler Cowles: Pioneer Ecologist: Victor Cassidy | Cowles is regarded as the father of modern ecology.
  • H.S. Pepoon: Pioneer Conservationist of Northwest Illinois: Cory Ritterbusch
  • Of Prairies, Woods, and Waters: Joel Greenberg
  • Pioneer Naturalists: The Discovery and Naming of North American Plants and Animals: Howard Ensign Evans
  • Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham: Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes | One of the Midwest’s most eminent but lesser-known early naturalists.
  • The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History: Libby Hill

Plant Identification

  • Plants of the Chicago Region, 4th Ed.: Floyd Swink and Gerould Wilhelm | Could also be listed as a technical reference; this is the go-to guide for plants in our region but requires some experience to use.
  • Plants of Kane County: Dick Young | Accessible and informative.
  • A Great Lakes Wetland Flora: Steve Chadde
  • A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and Northcentral North America: Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny | Excellent drawings and descriptions. Organized by color.
  • Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide: Lawrence Newcomb | A key guides you quickly to the right group of plants.
  • Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers: Douglas Ladd | Excellent photographs of prairie species and many of the savanna species, as well as providing an excellent summary of prairie ecology.
  • Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States: Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie
  • A Guide to Wildflowers in Winter by Carol Levine
  • Trees of Illinois: Linda Kershaw | Good photos and narrative, great for beginners.
  • Forest Trees of Illinois: Illinois Department of Natural Resources
  • Oaks of North America: Miller and Lamb
  • The Urban Tree Book: Arthur Plotnik
  • The Sibley Guide to Trees: David A. Sibley
  • Midwest Ferns: Steve W. Chadde
  • Orchids of Indiana: Michael Homoya
  • Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region: Fred Case
  • The Sunflower Family of the Upper Midwest: Susanne Masi and Thomas Antonio
  • Field Guide to Wisconsin Sedges: Andrew Hipp
  • Sedges: Carex (Illustrated Flora of Illinois Series): Robert Mohlenbrock | This entire series is great!
  • Woodland Carex of the Upper Midwest & Bog and Fen Carex of the Upper Midwest: Linda Curtis
  • First Book of Grasses: Agnes Chase | Ms. Chase was from Illinois, later Head Agrostologist at the Smithsonian. She has a fascinating life story.
  • Grasses: Lauren Brown
  • Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians: Karl B. McKnight

Mushroom Identification

  • Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois: Greg Mueller and Joe McFarland
  • The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms: Gary H. Lincoff
  • Mushrooms of Northeast North America: George Barron

Invertebrate Identification

  • Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity: With a Photographic Guide to Insects of Eastern North America: Stephen Marshall
  • Butterflies of Illinois: Michael Jeffords, Susan Post, et al.
  • Caterpillars of Eastern North America: David L. Wagner
  • Common Spiders of North America: Richard A. Bradley
  • Field Guide to Crayfishes of the Midwest: Christopher A. Taylor, Guenter A. Schuster, and Daniel B. Wylie
  • Field Guide to Freshwater Mussels of the Midwest: Kevin S. Cummings and Christine A. Mayer
  • Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids and Crickets of the United States:  John L. Capinera, Ralph D. Scott, and Thomas J. Walker
  • Fieldbook of Illinois Land Snails: Frank Collins Baker

Vertebrate Identification

  • A Birder’s Guide to the Chicago Region: Lynne Carpenter and Joel Greenberg
  • Birding Illinois: From the Regional Birding Series: Sheryl De Vore
  • Birds of Illinois: Sheryl De Vore, Steve Bailey, Gregory Kennedy
  • Birds of North America: Kenn Kaufmann
  • Illinois Birds: A Century of Change: Jeff Walk, et al.
  • Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois: Christopher Phillips, Ronald A. Brandon, and Edward O. Moll
  • Mammals of Illinois: Donald F. Hoffmeister


  • Geology of Illinois: R. Kolata and C. K. Nimz, eds., Prairie Research Institute, 2005
  • Geology Underfoot in Illinois: Raymond Wiggers


  • Atlas of the Wisconsin Prairie and Savanna Flora: Wisconsin DNR
  • Biodiversity Recovery Plan: Chicago Wilderness
  • Canaries in the Catbird Seat – The Past, Present, and Future of Biological Resources in a Changing Environment: John Taft
  • Forest and Thicket: John Eastman
  • Life on a Little Known Planet: A Biologist’s View of Insects and Their World: Howard Ensign Evans
  • Reading the Landscape: May Thielgaard Watts
  • Restoring Oak Ecosystems: Stephen Packard, Restoration & Management Notes, Volume 11, Number 1, Summer, 1993.| Summarizes more than a decade of woodland restoration and responds to critics who recommend a “hands off” approach.
  • Tallgrass Restoration Handbook: Stephen Packard, ed.
  • Vegetation of Wisconsin – An Ordination of Plant Communities: John T. Curtis
  • Where the Sky Began – Land of the Tallgrass Prairie: John Madson
  • Wisconsin’s Natural Communities: Randy Hoffman

Ecologically Sound Human Habitats

  • Bringing Nature Home, How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants: Douglas Tallamy
  • Native Plants in the Home Landscape: Keith Nowakowski
  • Nature and Nurture: The Art and Science of Living the Good Life: Brad Woodson
  • Nature’s Second Chance: Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm: Steven I. Apfelbaum
  • The Midwestern Native Garden: Charlotte Adelman, Bernie Schwartz
  • Rantings of a Mad Botanist: Bill McKnight
  • The Sunflower Forest: Ecological Restoration and the New Communion with Nature: William Jordan

Art Inspired by Ecology

Technical References

  • Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri (in three volumes): George Yatskievych
  • Vascular Flora of Illinois: Robert Mohlenbrock, Southern Illinois University Press, 2013
  • Tallgrass Restoration Handbook: For Prairies, Savannas and Woodlands: Stephen Packard and Cornelia Mutel, eds., Island Press, 1997.
  • Rediscovering the Tallgrass Savannas of Illinois in Proceedings of the Tenth North American Prairie Conference, Denton, Texas, 1986.
  • Restoring the Herb Layer in a Degraded Bur Oak ‘Closed’ Savanna: Stephen Packard and John Balaban in Proceedings of the North American Conference of Savannas and Barrens: James S. Fralish, Roger C. Anderson, John E. Ebinger, Robert Szafoni, eds. Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, 1994.
  • Habitat Establishment, Enhancement and Management for Forest and Grassland Birds in Illinois.  Herkert, James R., Robert E Szafoni, Vernon M. Kleen, and John E. Schwegman. Division of Natural Heritage, Illinois Department of Conservation, Natural Heritage Technical Publication #1, Springfield, Illinois. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, 1993. | A good reference for understanding habitat size requirements.