Forced to Choose
Eclectic zoologist and author of, among others, The Thermal
Warriors, Ravens in Winter, The Trees in My Forest and
Naming the book that has been most influential to me is like trying
to name the most important cell in the body or the best tree in the
forest. However, being forced to make a choice, I suppose that the
earliest exposure in one's embryonic development may ultimately have
the largest effect. I never owned so-called children's books. The
first book I owned (and still possess) and pored through eagerly and
often was Hans Wagner's 1922 little Taschenbush der
Käfer (Pocketbook of Beetle). It is primarily
identification keys with color plates. I was nine years old and
collecting carabid beetles at the time. The book connected what I'd
found with science, and it opened my imagination to new wonders of
other species that I had not yet found and that I could then dream
about and search for, to make little discoveries on my own. The book
influenced me to connect the contents of pages with concrete nature.
It taught me that books have something real to offer, as opposed to
describing figments of the imagination that most other kids were
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