Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mike MacDonald and other Authors I like - Book Review

Coming up at the Morton Arboretum (October 22) is a talk by an author whose photographs and books I just love-- Mike MacDonald!

His recent publication I reviewed below, check him out along with several other authors I love.

Recently I have been meeting authors.  Not sure why they happened in a cluster, but they have.  First I met Denise Swanson, New York Times best-selling author of cozy mysteries in several series.  I personally like the Devereaux’s Dime Store Mysteries. She is originally from Coal City, IL and met her at the pharmacy in Coal City (yes, I said the pharmacy) where she was signing her books.  Hey that is the store that sells books in that town

If you like a cozy who-dun-it, you will like these.  Here is a link for more information:

Then the next month I went to Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL  for a book publishing event for the most recent title by Laurie King.  Laurie King writes gritty mysteries including a series featuring Mary Russell, apprentice of Sherlock Holmes.  The book was entitled the Murder of Mary Russell.  No spoilers here, I have not brought myself to read it yet. 

I think Laurie King counts as my favorite author for a number of reasons (not the least of which is I have been reading Sherlock Holmes novels since I was 13), but since I have more books signed by her than any other author I read, I think that says I am a bit of a groupie.  I arrived a bit late for the book signing and as fate would have it, met the author and friends just coming over from dinner at a local restaurant.   I got to walk her into the bookstore much to my delight.

This past March I participated in the Darien Garden Club Garden Inspiration and reacquainted myself with local author Mike McDonald.  He was the key note speaker at last year’s event and this year had newly minted copies of his self-published book (partly funded by GoFundMe)   which had not yet been released last year.  He is a self-professed plant nerd, but since I am an herb nerd it works.  He autographed a copy of his book for me and I just had to share it everyone.

My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: 
          A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders 

Two hundred forty glorious pages of exploding color and whimsical words capture the natural beauty of preserves and natural areas that surround and weave through Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
Written and photographed by Mike McDonald, the book is a beautiful overview of seasons and locations all around us.

The information he imparts about the details of the plants, especially those you might not notice on a quick nature walk, causes you to slow down, pause and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds you.
Worth every penny, this book is a must have for any Chicagoland resident or transplant who wants to remember what prairie living is really like.  I am not often much for a coffee table book, but I plan to take this with me everywhere to brag about what I live among.

Beyond the photographs, the book is exceptionally readable.  With comments like “This young blue heron is molting, shedding old feathers as new ones are born.  As the pink bald patch near the shoulder shows, molting is rarely pretty – but it’s only temporary.  I wish regrowing hair was that easy.”  You feel the humor of his personality and the love of nature he displays that makes the book easy to look at even if you only have time for a page or two.

His translation of the images into words is musical making one want to read the pages out loud. Here is a perfect example: “wild flowers float above the summer prairie like musical notes in a symphony of color and texture,…” (pg. 104)

Also, although a bit heavy and large to carry around on a prairie, the rich details provided and the opulent photos make this a perfect book for identifying prairie plants in leaf, flower and bud.
I am planting a prairie garden and a wild flower garden at the house this year and to know what the flowers will soon look like makes me so excited.  Visually exquisite photos that show an eye for the detail of nature and its variety is a rare gift.  The images chosen for this book pull on you to go see the plants in person the way few books succeed.

Toward the end of the book Mike communicates that he wishes his photography to immerse you in the moment, to convey the magic and emotion as if you were there.  I can honestly say he has accomplished just that.  The unique qualities, intense colors and enchanting beauty that can be found in local “wilderness” jumps from the book with every turn of a page.

Here is a link to get yourself a copy of the book.  It makes a wonderful gift as the photos are exquisite making it perfect for Mom, Dad or the plant nerd in your life. And if you want to share in his enthusiasm, I recommend seeing is talk on October 22, 2016 at the Morton Arboretum.


  1. I was glad to find your blog via Etsy's blog share group. We herbalists are not many, we have to stick together. I look forward to digging through your archive and learning along the way. I don't have a yard to grow in yet but will use your tips as soon as I do.

  2. Dear Marcy,

    Thank you for the beautifully insightful review of my book! It makes me so happy to hear that my work has meaning.

    All the best,


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