Some Favorite Nature Books

My nature bookshelf

I try to keep my library to fewer than about 1,200 books, but there are so many good ones! Here are my favorites from the nature shelves:

  • The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams
  • Encounters with the Archdruid, by John McPhee
  • Peaks, Plateaus and Plains: The Ecology of Colorado, by Allen Crockett
  • In Beaver World, by Enos Mills
  • Dirt: a Love Story, edited by Barbara Richardson
  • North American Mammals, by Roger Caras
  • The Song of the Dodo, by David Quammen
  • A Neotropical Companion, by John Kricher
  • Wilderness Management, by Hendee and Dawson
  • Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin
  • The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
  • Do Elephants Have Knees?, by Charles Ault
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

Parody Titles for The Dinosaur’s Daughter

The Girl with No Dress: the incredible story of a girl raised by dinosaurs (The Girl with No Name)

Gray is the New Pink: my three years in a dinosaur quarry (Orange is the New Black)

Dig, Question, Screw: one woman’s search for everything in stone (Eat, Pray, Love)

Beyond Dead Animals: growing up inside paleontology and my harrowing escape (Beyond Belief)

Impertinent: surviving Colorado Springs and paleontology (Troublemaker)

Paleo Pinup: the incredible true story of a bone addict’s double life (High Achiever)

Digging up Alícé: one American girl discovers the wisdom of a Laurasian upbringing (Bringing up Bébé)

Dig Up: women, pickaxes, and the will to dig up (Lean In)

Digging and Driving: and other Woody blunders (Drinking and Tweeting)

Call the Bone Digger: a memoir of discovery, passion, and odd characters (Call the Midwife)

Battle Hymn of the Dinosaur’s Daughter (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother)

My Favorite Memoirs

Many memoirs have inspired me while writing The Dinosaur’s Daughter. Here are five of my favorites about young people finding their way in the world.

India looking out a train window in about 1976. Photo by Nancy Wood.
Me, looking out a train window, about 1976.

Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army, by Georg Rauch (2006). This is a gripping story from the front lines of World War II told from the perspective of a kindhearted and funny young man trying to survive in a brutal world. The book is beautifully designed, with photos and vintage letters interspersed.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (and Other Lessons from the Crematory), by Caitlin Doughty (2014). This coming-of-age story wades through the surprisingly sacred (and wry) work of caring for the dead while taking a critical look at the American funeral industry.

Lost in Place, by Mark Salzman (1995). Salzman is a delightful writer, one of my top five. This book is an hilarious look at growing up in Connecticut while seeking enlightenment as a Kung Fu master.

An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard (1987). This beautifully-written memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh explores Dillard’s interior world, her family, and how they twine through the geography and history of that city.

Little Britches, Man of the Family, Shaking the Nickel Bush, and other books in Ralph Moody’s memoir series published in the 1950s.  Moody is the consummate Western storyteller: funny, wise, and adventurous. He grew up in Colorado about 50 years before I did.

My Creative Family Tree

My family tree is a southwestern pinyon growing in the high desert of Colorado and New Mexico. The wizened evergreen smells good and the old branches burn well. The nuts, produced in abundance, are delicious.

Nancy Wood dancing atop Independence Pass, 1997

My mother, Nancy Wood, authored 28 books of poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and children’s books, published mostly by Doubleday and Candlewick Press. Three of her poems appear in the Unitarian Universalist hymnal. Her camera and ethnologist’s notebooks focused on Taos Pueblo and rural New Mexico and Colorado. University of New Mexico’s Center  for Southwest Research houses her photographic and literary archives.

Myron Wood, 1978My father, Myron Wood, was a freelance black-and-white photographer, shooting 125,000 negatives from the late 1940s through the 1980s mainly of Colorado, but also New Mexico, New York City, and Texas. Myron and Nancy produced several books together before they divorced when I was three. Daddy’s photographic archive is at the Pike’s Peak Library.

My eldest sister, Margaret Wood, has written two books about her years as one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s caregivers: A Painter’s Kitchen and Remembering Miss O’Keeffe.

My sister, Kate Lynch, is working on several manuscripts for the children’s and YA markets.

I also have three other siblings: Karin, a real estate broker and former thespian; John, an accountant and old book collector; and Chris, a dam-saving geophysicist. Together we swing from the branches of four biological parents and two ex-stepparents.

Why I Write

Tarryall creek, 2017I write because it is as essential to me as love, mountains, the wind on wild grass, and hiking.

For the first 27 years of my work life I wrote factual publications that did not require a glance at myself or my past. I wrote marketing plans, website specifications, three editions of Artists and Art Materials USA and Canada, and five editions of The State of Specialty NeedleArts. I supported our family financially and helped many independent businesses succeed. My antidotes to all this rationality and numbers were to build sculptures and forts with my kids and go camping.

But then Mom died when I was 46. She was the author of 28 books who suffered from bipolar and personality disorders. Her lack of empathy and glass-sharp tongue made me afraid to be like her. But she was also creative, funny, passionate, and one of the world’s finest poets, right up there with Rilke and Dickinson. Her death opened a space for me to become comfortable with who I am as a creative human. 

A few months after Mom died I began to write my memoir, The Dinosaur’s Daughter. I promised Mom I would. The more I wrote, the more I realized how much I loved creative writing. It was like pulling a plastic sheath off a rose ready to bloom.