They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Sometime, though, you get an entire package that feels just right. "The Nature of Spring" by Jim Crumley is a lovely book in every way. It's beautifully written, which will come as no surprise to anyone who's ever encountered any of Jim Crumley's many thoughtful and thought-provoking books about nature, landscape and animals. It's also beautifully produced and presented. The hardback binding, complete with an entrancing illustration that wraps around both front and rear covers, helps give the book presence and substance.
But at the end of the day, a cover is just a cover: it's what's inside it that really matters. Jim Crumley's evocation of spring is one of a series he has written, each devoted to one of the seasons. As it says - as, we assume, Jim says - on the book's rear cover, "Spring is nature's season of rebirth and rejuvenation. Earth's northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun, winter yields to intensifying light and warmth, and a wild, elemental beauty transforms the Highland landscape and a repertoire of islands from Colonsay to Lindisfarne."
There's a sense in which at one level this book harks back to an earlier era, in which the written word carried a weight and presence that has long-since been eroded by so many of those words now appearing on screens both large and small. A quote from the author Seton Gordon, at the beginning of a chapter about a visit to Mull and Iona, brought a spark of recognition. There's something about the authority with which Jim Crumley writes that does remind you of an earlier generation of authors: and it is perhaps no accident that Seton Gordon's writing is mentioned in the author's acknowledgements.
While the look and feel of the book may be reminiscent of an earlier, perhaps more genteel, era, the contents are bang up to date. Jim Crumley does not shy away from the important issues facing the natural world - indeed the planet more widely - in the 21st Century. To return to the cover blurb: "Climate chaos brings unwanted drama to the lives of the badger and the fox, seal and seabird and raptor, pine marten and sand martin. Jim lays bare the impact of global warming and urges us all towards a more daring conservation vision that embraces everything from the mountain treeline to a second spring for the wolf." Definitely a book to be read and to be thought about: a book you'd like to think could have real influence on the world we live in.