Book Review: Ridge Writers on Books Aspects of California

By DONNA?McCrohan Rosenthal

California has everything. Or at least, these thoroughly engaging books give that impression.

“Birds of the Sierra Nevada: Their Natural History, Status, and Distribution” (Edward C. Beedy and Edward R. Pandolfino, illus. Keith Hansen, 430 pages, U. California Press, paperback, 2013, $39.95) surpasses most field guides with its wealth of detail.

Splendid color paintings accompany extensive explanatory text, charts, maps and a checklist of Sierra birds, enhancing the experience of a trek through the Sierra for earnest ornithologists as well as casual hikers.

“The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenges of a New Era” (Richard A. Walker and Suresh K. Lodha, 128 pages, U. California Press, paperback, 2013, $24.95) approaches California’s land, nature, public parks, population, government, taxation, military power, crime, economy, industry, agribusiness, technology, pollution, health care, education and much more with extremely lucid discussions and full-color graphs, making comparisons readily accessible and the subject matter fascinating.

“California Glaciers” (photographs/text by Tim Palmer, 128 pages, Heyday, hardcover, 2012, $29.95) presents luminous ice-scapes, from the morning’s first rays of sun striking the Darwin Glacier near Bishop to shrinking glacial remnants closer to home.

Palmer also records the effects of climate change: “The Mendel Glacier at the San Joaquin headwaters used to be one of the finest ice climbs in the mountains…. Now it’s just a skinny slot of dirt-covered slush.”

“Greetings from California: Legends, Landmarks & Lore of The Golden State” (photos/text by Gary Crabbe, 160 pages, Voyageur Press, coffee-table hardcover, 2011, $25.00) explores places, people and events from Mount Shasta to Edwards Air Force Base and Death Valley, from John Muir to Harvey Milk, and from the 1915 World’s Fair to the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Serious narrative combines with fun factoids such as California’s first recorded sighting of an apelike “wild man” creature in 1866.

If these titles persuade you that California demands appreciation and awe, hold onto your hat. “Weird California: Your Travel Guide to Califor-nia’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets” (Greg Bishop, Joe Oesterle, Mike Marinacci, 300 pages, Sterling Publish-ing, coffee-table hardcover, 2006, $19.95) explodes with ancient mysteries, unnatural wonders, the Curse of Griffith Park, Lakeside’s Screaming Tree, the Underground City of Lizard People beneath Los Angeles, Golden State Ghosts, the utopian story behind Zzyzx on the way to Las Vegas, many more tales and hundreds of photos.

Like the Golden State itself, these volumes have plenty to keep you interested and entertained.

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Beginning in January, meetings will be held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church. Free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions From a World Apart” is available at Carriage Inn, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, the Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and online from the official website

Story First Published: 2013-12-18