Get your field guide on

Maybe it’s because the kids are out of school and that big vacation is coming up, but summer seems like the perfect season for going out of your way to be a little more studious, even if it’s actually casual and, you know, fun. Here are two new 225-approved field guides you can comb through while lying in your hammock, rocking on your porch or backpacking the trails for a more learned adventure this month.

Crawfishes of Louisiana

Most of us probably don’t give much thought to the humble crawfish. Or perhaps that’s inaccurate. We all think about crawfish, but rarely outside of “When’s the next crawfish boil?” The big questions about the lives of crawfish—mating, habitat, ecological importance—tend to go unasked.

Author and professor Jerry Walls seeks to answer all the questions you never asked about our mud-burrowing crustacean friends in his guide Crawfishes of Louisiana. Diving deep into Louisiana crawfish lore and crawfish behavior, Walls gives an illuminating glimpse into the lives of the critters we find so tasty.

The book is extremely readable for the most part, although chapters about specific taxonomy may not be riveting to nonbiologists. The extensive portion of the book given to exploration of the crawfish in Louisiana history and ecology makes up for it. Surveying the crawfish’s origins as a Lenten meat substitute to the culinary staple it is today, Walls makes it clear just how vital it is to both Louisiana’s stomach and its economy.

Nearly half the book also serves as a field guide to the 39 native Louisiana species, an astonishing variety with names like “Painted Devil” and “Flatnose.” Considering most Louisianans think of crawfish in only two varieties— “live” and “cooked”—the book is well worth a look for the guide portion alone. For the record, the crawfish you’re chowing down on are probably the Red Swamp variety. It’s the species cultivated by crawfish farms across the state.

Walls does a good job of illustrating that there’s much more to crawfish than how they taste. They’re a vital part of our culture, and an indelible part of Louisiana life. With as much impact as they have down here, we could probably all stand to study up.

Wildflowers of the Coastal Plain

With the long Louisiana summer ahead, the native flowers are already in bloom, and there’s no better way to enjoy them than to go out and experience the flora for yourself. And Wildflowers of the Coastal Plain, a guidebook to the local species by biologist Ray Neyland, is a great tome to take along.

The guide supplies vivid, color-saturated photos and taxonomical information for each flower. Two separate reference indexes are useful, especially one that handily breaks down flowers by bloom color, making identification much easier. The array of species represented in the book is fascinating. With 535 varieties, you won’t be bored of looking. So hit one of the local walking trails and bring this guide along. You might just learn something.