The Beauty of Nature Mixed with Memoir: Tom Lerczak’s New Book ‘Side Channels’

Tom Lerczak’s love of birding and nature has resonated throughout his life and has helped him create an amazing new book “Side Channels: A Collection of Nature Writing and Memoir.” “Side Channels” is beautifully illustrated, passionately written, and flows gracefully from one chapter to the next with a wonderful interweaving between articles. The writing regarding his life experiences in nature and nature settings themselves as he views them creates a radiant juxtaposition throughout the book.

Described within “Side Channels,” the main occurrence that made Lerczak have more appreciation for nature was during a motorcycle trip in the spring of 1978 through wild areas that truly changed the way he looked at the outdoors. It was a profound calling that he felt would be right for him rather than what he was doing at the time.

Lerczak has been also inspired by great nature writers such as Edwin Way and Edward Abbey, whose great writing also influenced him. Surprisingly enough, he was also influenced by the brilliant science fiction author, Isaac Asimov, whose prolific writing in science essays has impacted many for years. His personal viewpoints from nature make an informative, thought-provoking, and brilliant read for the general public.

Lerczak is highly influenced by viewing nature and created his life’s passion from the experience of being involved in conservation efforts and has given birding talks occasionally through the Pekin Park District. Lerczak used his own knowledge, but also slightly revised as well as updated information he created in the blog in a long process of writing and editing. He hopes to have other writings in the future.

Lerczak states, “There are really (four) lines of thought going through the book. One of the things I wanted to accomplish was to write about the Illinois River in ways it had not been written about before…I knew there was a lot about the Illinois River valley that people were not touching on. Another reason was to tell stories about the River that weren’t being talked about.”

He also remarks, “(An additional) thread that runs through the book is this idea of wilderness and wild areas. In the Midwest especially I’ve been fascinated by the idea of wilderness ever since I was a kid. I also wanted to write about nature and the outdoors to inspire people, trying to see the things that I saw and not ignoring whatever problems are out there, but not letting the problems ruin what good there is.”

This new nature paperback and memoir has been sixteen years in the making. During the past three years, Lerczak has been compiling the book from articles he’s self published on a blog called, “The River Landing,” located online at:, which is the main focus of material for the book. The blog, Lerczak states, was intended to help “make a book.”

The blog has been a great source of enjoyment for Lerczak, who has been writing regularly on it to keep it current. Eleven of the illustrations in the book were originally photographs and three of them are original drawings created by Patti Malmborg Reilly. Reilly, a friend of Lerczak, created all the illustrations to go with each chapter. These photographs are also located on “The River Landing,” which makes it interesting to see the transition between the photographs and drawings within the book. Lerczak’s wife, Julie, helped design the cover for the book with the three pictures in the middle integrated together, two of them looking very much like “side channels.”

Lerczak states that “…The memoir chapters were put in to tie everything together. Otherwise, all of the major chapters were from previously published articles, fourteen of those, were all from different subject matter from different times. When I was thinking about putting them all together for a book, I felt that there needed to be some things to tie them together. That’s why I started writing these memoir chapters and I was going back in my mind as far as how did I get interested in these things.”

“I (also) wanted to show how early life experiences when you’re a child can influence you throughout your life. Those trips to the picnic areas of the Des Plaines River, my father taking me to Starved Rock State Park, and places like that…They made an impression. Eventually, it clicked and I said that’s what I should be doing.” He mentions the importance of kids getting out in nature and really experiencing it in a world of technology.

Overall, Lerczak has made a strong presence in the nature community in Central Illinois with this eye-opening book about birding, nature, the Illinois River, and the love of wilderness. Without his informative views on nature, there would be no one who showcases a hopeful presence towards conservation efforts. Lerczak’s book is a thoughtful manuscript that sheds light on the beauty of Illinois’s environment. Ask for “Side Channels: A Collection of Nature Writing and Memoir” at a local bookstore or purchase it on

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