Ok, in point of fact, I don't think everyone really needs to read this book, but I certainly needed to read it, and many people have found it both enjoyable and transformative. Maybe you will, too.
But I bring this up because the author, who is both my teacher and my friend, had his retirement party yesterday, and this post seems a fitting tribute--because this is the book that made him more less a star. A very woodsy and homey star, to be sure, but the man has a Wikipedia entry. This is also an appropriate book to follow the three books on restoration landscaping I've just recommended, because this is the book that inspired my interest in suburban ecology--though I'd be surprised if anyone who doesn't already know can identify the connection. This is a book about the woods, as the name implies.
Basically, it is possible to walk into a wooded area, look around for a while at the plants and the ground, and figure out the history of the area going back decades or even centuries. This book will tell you how to do that, or at least give you a taste of how you might do it, if you keep at it long enough. More importantly, this book is a way for people to connect more deeply with the landscape...you read it and you start to notice more. It's written for central New England, and a lot of the details (which tree species mean what) will be different in other areas, but the method can be adapted to any forested area.
It's a fun book, easy to learn from, with wonderful pictures (thanks for them go to an illustrator I have never met), and I've found myself quoting from it, or at least using ideas and information from it, in person or print, often over the years. So I guess I have to take that back--I DO think everyone needs to read this book, or at least learn what it has to teach. If I didn't, I wouldn't keep passing on what I learned from it every chance I get.
Wessels, T. (1997). Reading the forested landscape: A natural history of New England. Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press.