John Muir Laws will be at the Booky Joint this Saturday, Sept. 25 from 1-3 p.m. for a book signing. (Photo courtesy Heyday Books)
Written and Illustrated by John Muir Laws
Paperback, 368 pages, with 2,800 watercolor illustrations, Heyday Books
Imagine meandering along a trail in the Sierra Nevada and coming upon a beautiful purple flower. You become intrigued by its delicate makeup, but wonder, is it a Meadow Penstemon or a Showy Penstemon? As long as you have your Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada with you, it’s easy to find out.
With more than 2,700 full-color illustrations depicting more than 1,700 species, “The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada” has been described by The Washington Post as “[A] fast, intuitive, accessible way to do snappy identifications in the field.” And this Saturday author and illustrator John Muir Laws will be at the Booky Joint to sign books, sketch drawings and share his knowledge about nature with the public.
The guide is full of brightly-colored drawings hand-sketched by Laws himself while on his own expeditions in the Sierra. Each species is given a description of its behavior, adaptations, and interactions with other species. Species range from the littlest plant to the largest bear and mountain lion. Also included are drawings of animal tracks and scat, galls, and even cloud formations seen in the Sierra. All of these are hand-drawn, giving a personalized feel to the species on the pages.
Using the guide is relatively easy. The front inside cover depicts a color-coded legend that corresponds with the colors on the edge of each page throughout the book, making for an easy thumb through when trying to find the subject of your admiration in a hurry. Also included in the back of the book, just before the index, are constellations easily seen in the night sky of the Sierra. Learn where to look in the sky to find Ursa Major during the Spring Equinox as opposed to finding its location during the Fall Equinox. Or perhaps just learn how to identify your astrological sign during the summer and winter solstices.
According to his website, “Laws has worked as an environmental educator for over 25 years in California, Wyoming, and Alaska. He teaches classes on natural history, conservation biology, scientific illustration, and field sketching. He is trained as a wildlife biologist and is an associate of the California Academy of Sciences.”
Other than The Laws Guide to the Sierra Nevada, Laws has written and illustrated Sierra Birds: a Hiker’s Guide (2004) and The Laws Pocket Guide Set to the San Francisco Bay Area (2009). “His illustrations are informed by extensive field experience and capture the feeling of the living plant or animal, while also including details critical for identification,” the site says.
Laws is a committed steward of nature and encourages readers of his field guide to really get involved with what they see along the path. He hopes his readers will think critically about the deeper activities these species take part in rather than just identifying them and moving on.
“Help yourself see more by asking questions,” Laws says in his introduction letter in the guide. “Challenge yourself to learn as much as possible from every set of observations you make. Do not shy away from what you do not know but let your curiosity drive you to investigate further.”
The Sierra Nevada is full of sights and sounds just waiting to be discovered by you, the eager explorer. Start your journey this Saturday, Sept. 25 from 1-3 p.m. at the Booky Joint for Laws’ book signing. Pick up a copy of the guide while you’re there or bring a copy you already own. Refreshments will be served.
Learn more about Laws at his website, www.johnmuirlaws.com.