Featured Book Review
As those who follow The Well-read Naturalist’s Twitter or Instagram feeds will likely already know, I make a regular habit of reading from the collected essays in Melissa Harrison’s Seasons quartet of anthologies from Elliott & Thompson. However what most likely don’t know is just how regular this habit is, or why I do it. It’s easy enough to assume that I find the essays, poems, and diary extracts enjoyable and inspiring; Ms. Harrison’s exquisite editorial taste assures that nothing less would have been included. However even more than these collections being superb assemblies of writings about nature, in then I have found something more than I originally expected that has been of deep and lasting value to me, for which I am deeply grateful to all those whose works are included as well as to their remarkable editor, that perhaps may well be of similar help to others, hence I take somewhat of a personal risk by explaining it here. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
In Roxanne, the 1987 film adaptation of the Cyrano de Bergerac story, Steve Martin – in the leading male role of the a small mountain resort town’s erudite fire chief somewhat obviously named C.D. Bales – chastises his lovable but incompetent band of volunteer fire fighters upon finding a trash can ablaze inside the fire station:
I have a dream. It’s not a big dream, it’s just a little dream. My dream – and I hope you don’t find this too crazy – is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can’t have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, “Whatever you do, don’t call the fire department!” That would be bad.
What is the purpose of a zoo? Is it a place offering its visitors to opportunity to view animals from far off lands? Is it a public space where people can gather, perhaps for events such as concerts of simply to meet for a few hours of relaxation? Is it a research institution where the animals collected can be studied under controlled conditions? Is it a center of wildlife conservation in which rare animals can be protected and breeding programs undertaken to increase their numbers? Is it a socio-political tool for the creation or reinforcement of a national identity? Is it a cause around which a society can rally in times of or following a national crisis? Keep reading…
Mark on Sundays
One of the things I look toward with greatest anticipation each time I visit England are the opportunities these journeys provide to indulge in a wide range of direct-from-the-farm foods. I can’t speak for what’s to be found in “the City” as I’m rarely there, but in the countryside where I generally find myself, the availability, quality, and variety of locally grown or raised foodstuffs is truly delightful.
Thus I was particularly pleased to discover this week, thanks entirely to Mark Avery’s Sunday Book Review, a new book from Elliott & Thompson that had not yet come to my attention : Charlie Pye- Smith’s “Land of Plenty; A Journey Through the Fields and Foods of Modern Britain.”
Newly Noted Books
It’s named Superior for a reason. The largest lake in the world, Lake Superior has a history as vast and deep as its seemingly endless waters. However not so very long ago, following unrestrained industrial pollution and natural resource exploitation, it was in a sorry state indeed. However unlike other similarly afflicted bodies of water around the globe, Lake Superior has, thanks to the diligent efforts of a large number of people and organizations dedicated to restoring its health, made a comeback.
One need not read too far back into the history of natural history to encounter the idea of spontaneous generation – the idea that life could be created directly out of rotting material. It was a widely held, even thoroughly tested, theory that stood the test of a far longer period of time than many of our present scientific ideas have existed.
One of the great treats of attending scholarly events is the presence of university presses and other academic publishers who – on occasion – will have with them a copy of a highly anticipated forthcoming book for examination. Such was the good luck I had recently at Entomology 2017 with the forthcoming second edition of “Garden Insects of North America” by Whitney Cranshaw and David Shetlar.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man / is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” So wrote John Donne in his oft-quoted Meditation XVII. Theodore Fleming, we can assume has, at least at some point in the past, likely read Donne’s famous meditation, and perhaps was even thinking about it as he examined the discoveries he made in his study of cactus pollination and pollinators near Sonora, Mexico.
When it comes to field guides pertinent to the United States and Canada, while the massive full country editions are often very helpful for study and reference, the breath-taking variety of eco-regions to be found within the continent’s temperate zone renders such volumes often far too large and cumbersome for field use.
I couldn’t help but find it particularly ironic that the day after the first rains my home state of Oregon had seen for months finally arrived, providing much-needed help to the valiant fire fighters working around the clock trying to extinguish the massive forest fires raging throughout the state, that a copy of Edward Struzik’s new “Firestorm” arrived on my desk from Island Press.
In light of the recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lift the ban on importing “sport” hunted trophies of elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia, it seems that a short overview of some recent worthwhile books about elephants is in order – in case any readers of The Well-read Naturalist should find themselves needing to engage in a discussion, say… over a holiday supper table, perhaps with a family member seeking to defend this myopic administrative decision. Keep reading…
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
On the day this article is published, it will be exactly one month until the day of the 2017 North American Solar Eclipse; an event that is expected to cause tens of millions of people to stop what they are doing and turn their eyes (properly protected, it is hoped) skyward to witness one of […]
The recent arrival of a copy of “The Oxford Handbook of the Science of Science Communication” spurred me to look further into the Oxford Handbook series as a whole. What I found was indeed quite a remarkable selection of high-level but still remarkably readable collections of scholarly articles on a wide range of subjects.