A holiday first suggested by Nebraska journalist and tree-lover J. Sterling Morton in 1872, Arbor Day was initially a day set aside to encourage pioneers to plant trees in an otherwise flat and lonely landscape. Since 1885 Arbor Day has been a legal holiday in Nebraska, a day not only for planting trees but for celebrating the role trees play in the environment and the human imagination.
The Arbor Day Foundation lists a number of ways to celebrate this holiday beyond planting trees—including “Read a book about trees.” UNP is happy to help with that!
Browse our list of nature-loving books below, and maybe bring one with you to read under a tree.
Books that Celebrate Nature
Paul A. Johnsgard
With characteristic clarity, energy, and charm, Paul A. Johnsgard guides us through Nebraska’s incredible biodiversity, introducing us to each ecosystem and the flora and fauna it sustains and inviting us to contemplate the purpose and secrets of the natural world as we consider our own roles and responsibilities in our connection with it.
Edited and with an introduction by Tom Lynch and Susan N. Maher
Loren Eiseley (1907–77) is one of the most important American nature writers of the twentieth century and an admired practitioner of creative nonfiction. A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Eiseley was a professor of anthropology and a prolific writer and poet who worked to bring an understanding of science to the general public, incorporating religion, philosophy, and science into his explorations of the human mind and the passage of time. Artifacts and Illuminations, the first full-length collection of critical essays on the writing of Eiseley, situates his work in the genres of creative nonfiction and nature writing.
John Janovy Jr.
“We share a common bond with even the most bizarre beetle of the Peruvian rain forest,” asserts John Janovy Jr. “A belief in that common bond might, in fact, be the most fundamental characteristic of a biologist.” And biologists see the worth of a plant or an animal not in monetary terms but in its contribution to our understanding of life. The famous naturalist brings a humanist’s vision to this superbly written book.
Twyla M. Hansen
This collection of poems by the State Poet of Nebraska covers significant emotional territory while remaining firmly grounded in the landscape. From memories of the isolation and beauty of growing up on a farm, to a burgeoning awareness as a teenager of the economic and cultural forces waged against family farming, to coming to terms with the legacies of her parents after their passing, and, finally, arriving at an appreciation of nature and the environment wherever and whenever she finds it, Twyla M. Hansen offers poems that are alternately sad, sweet, funny, moving, human, and humane.
Edited and with an introduction by Char Miller
Elers Koch, a key figure in the early days of the U.S. Forest Service, was among the first American-trained silviculturists, a pioneering forest manager, and a master firefighter. By horse and on foot, he helped establish the boundaries of most of our national forests in the West, designed new fire-control strategies and equipment, and served during the formative years of the agency. Forty Years a Forester, Koch’s entertaining and illuminating memoir, reveals one remarkable man’s contributions to the incipient science of forest management and his role in building the human relationships and policies that helped make the U.S. Forest Service, prior to World War II, the most respected bureau in the federal government.
Bruce L. Smith
Over the past four decades, Bruce L. Smith has worked with most big-game species in some of the American West’s most breathtaking and challenging landscapes. In Stories from Afield, readers join Smith on his adventures as a naturalist, sportsman, and wildlife biologist, as he pulls us into the field of learning and discovery across wilderness areas of western Montana, the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and a South African temperate forest.
Edited by Tom Lynch, Susan Naramore Maher, Drucilla Wall, and O. Alan Weltzien
In response to the growing scale and complexity of environmental threats, this volume collects articles, essays, personal narratives, and poems by more than forty authors in conversation about “thinking continental”—connecting local and personal landscapes to universal systems and processes—to articulate the concept of a global or planetary citizenship.