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It is hard to concisely describe the book you are holding. It is easy to see that it is a beautiful book. There are some photographs here that you will never forget. John Hess, the author, is also a wildlife photographer and even a quick glance through the book makes it clear that he knows his craft.

It is a book that offers a great deal of knowledge—even in some ways, wisdom. Like Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, it presents, one incisive insight after another, and Hess illustrates those insights with glorious photographs of the plants and animals that live there. Like Leopold, Hess celebrates each of our seasons and helps us see why they work. They work the way they have to work. Nature is beautiful, but she is not forgiving. We see here that Hess is a biologist and he knows how systems work.

There is great complexity in nature and well as simple necessity. The art required to approach both truths is narrative. You will find here not just thoughtful explanations and beautiful photographs, but also a narrative that integrates one kind of meaning with another. Hess is a natural storyteller and he has been telling this story to audiences for many years. You will see that he knows how to tell a story.

One of the truly remarkable things about this book is that it starts where we start and then takes us further. An intricate flower can attract the eye or a male songbird in full display amaze. Hess enriches both those experiences by placing what we can see into the context of what we can know. The flower is beautiful, but why is it beautiful in just that way? The male songbird is spectacular, but it is in just the way he needs to be. In such ways, Hess explores why we react to these sights as we do. So A Perfectly Ordinary Paradise is about who we are as much as it is about the world around us.

The book is about what happens, and why it happens, on the 30 acres of woods and grassland where John lives with his wife, their dogs, and a cast of thousands. By immersing ourselves in this narrative, we can see both why it is ordinary and why it is perfect.

It is perfectly ordinary.