Featured Book Review
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.”
Thus said the Lorax, making his own introduction to the rapacious Once-ler in the classic 1971 book named for its title character by Theodor Seuss Geisel – Dr. Seuss. It’s a book I suspect most readers of The Well-read Naturalist have read. Indeed, I suspect it’s the most widely read book on the subject of the importance of conservation ever published. Its message is simple, direct, and remarkably memorable – and so effectively presented that ever since its publication various groups, commonly those with ties to various extractive industries or assorted apologists for such, fearing its power to evoke action in its readers have sought to have it removed from libraries and classrooms across the United States.
People love The Lorax because it speaks to them. It is not a scientific book yet it communicates the essential concepts of environmental conservation as well as a few significant ideas from modern ecology as well, all in the form of a short book of rhyming verse generously illustrated with fanciful, colorful images. Yet it was not intended to be merely idle entertainment; Mr. Geisel most certainly had a message to convey – he simply chose to do so using his most effective method: imaginative poetry. Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees shares in this tradition. It too is not a scientific book, yet it communicates much about forest ecology and the life history of trees in its author’s most effective method: narrative story. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
The feeling was really more of being struck the being stung. Standing on the hillside behind our Oregon home, I must have been 15 or 16 years old. I was performing some chore my father has set me to – clearing weeds most likely as I was using hoe when the incident occurred. I remember standing up from a stoop with the hoe in my left hand when suddenly something struck the back of my right with a perceived force that I swear knocked it backwards. My first thought was that I had been shot (we lived in the country) but looking down and seeing no blood, I was perplexed. It was only when the burning sensation and swelling began that it dawned on me that I had been stung. Keep reading…
Much like scents, flavors can have remarkable powers over our minds. Even a small taste of just the right flavor can, as Proust so eloquently described – at length – in his À la recherche du temps perdu, unlock a veritable treasure chest of memories. For myself, it’s the flavors from my childhood that seem to have the greatest ability to send my mind whirling back through time. Raspberries and salmonberries, Astoria cinnamon toast and pannukakku – and razor clams. Indeed, as I discovered when reading David Berger’s Razor Clams; Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest, even the well-written description of a flavor can possess this remarkable mnenosynic ability. Keep reading…
Mark on Sundays
This week, Mark looks back on a number of the books he’s reviewed over the past year that in one way or another have Hen Harriers or grouse shooting as at least part of their subject. Beginning with Gill Lewis’ Sky Dancer from Oxford University Press (a book with which seems particularly impressed), he moves through some others you might have already read as well as others of which you might not yet even have heard. Pop over to his blog to see the entire list, titled “Some Books,” with links to the individual review for each.
Newly Noted Books
What with the slashing of both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments by… well, we don’t speak his name here at The Well-read Naturalist as we don’t like to swear, interest in the struggle between public lands and private interests has taken an expected notable upswing.
“Sweetheart, does this smell OK to you?” said I standing before the open refrigerator contemplating the edibility of a container of left-over casserole, the date of original creation thereof had eluded me. Trusting to my wife’s much keener sense of smell than my own, I can confidently make the determination whether to eat said casserole or chuck it in the bin.
All the time I spent reading and subsequently writing the review of David Berger’s “Razor Clams” got me reminiscing about my time growing up in a commercial fishing family on the Oregon coast. The time I spent out on the water, learning the craft from my father, who learned it from his father. The feeling of a Chinook or Silver Salmon in my hands. The knowledge that what we were doing was going to enable people to have wild-caught fish to eat.
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.
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…
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 […]
When it comes to Twentieth Century classics of natural history, J.A. Baker’s brilliant memoir The Peregrine usually features prominently on any list. However as widely read and influential as Baker’s writings have been, the story of his own life – owing to his very reclusive nature – has been little known. Little known, that is, until the recent publication by Little Toller books of Hetty Saunder’s new biography of Baker titled My House of Sky.