Nature’s Gifts

Over the years, Princeton University Press has published some of the best natural histories and field guides available. For your consideration this holiday season: Conus of the Southeastern United States and Caribbean by Alan J. Kohn and Trees of Eastern North America and its companion that covers the West, both volumes by Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle and Richard Spellenberg, edited by Amy K. Hughes, with illustrations by David More. Listed for $80 (hardback) on Amazon last time we checked, Conus is for the serious naturalist

Detail from Conus.
Detail from Conus.

and a must for the hard-core beachcomber. Kohn, a foremost authority on cone snails, displays his scholarship on every page, with 2,100 mesmerizing color shell photographs of these fascinating gastropods. Conus is likely to remain in the home library or on a (sturdy) coffee table; readers will bring shells to it, not vice versa. The flexible-flapped tree guides sell for less than $30 and are made for the woods. These volumes are masterfully designed, and More’s exquisitely detailed renderings will ensure that weekend botanists never mistake their Hercules’ club for a common hoptree.