NEW AND RECOMMENDED READING:
2010 2009 2008
What the editors have been reading or stumbled across recently.
- Lorna Siggins writes about her encounter with the Silken
Thomas yew and other "Meetings
with remarkable trees", in The Irish Times
- Vanessa Serrao has begun recording her adventures with
wildlife over at Nature
Break. The current
video is an unsettling reminder that an entirely
romantic attitude towards nature is an incompete one:
botfly removal is not a pretty sight (and leaves not a
A Bestiary pairs photography by Rosamond Purcell
to text by late biologist Stephen Jay Gould in a stirring
essay celebrating the diversity of life. Norton, 1987,
out of print.
- Over at The
Jackdaw's Nest, blog curator Hedgie -- a retired college
instructor and literary magpie -- has selected twelve
nature poems for the pleasure of his readers.
Quill and the Scalpel looks like a good recommendation
for your local or institutional library, as it is both
attractively conceieved -- being as it is about "Nabokov's
Art and the Worlds of Science" -- but also priced
outside the budget of most private readers, at $54.95.
Author Stephen H. Blackwell examines the way Nabokov examined
science, and how the Russian writer's intellectual and
aesthetical incorporation and reaction to empiricism shaped
the worlds of his writing. Ohio State University Press,
- Author Kim Smith has filled Oh
Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester
Garden with "design ideas and plants that work
well in this coastal region" (according to reviewer Viveka
Neveln in The American Gardener). This is more
a handbook for cultivating nature in one's home yard,
rather than a literary account of man's relationship with
nature, but Smith's writing is lithe and clean and her
experiences in conjuring beauty out of a quarter-acre
plot in Gloucester make for excellent reading. David R.
Godine, 2008, $35.
Bedside Book of the Garden, by D.G. Hessayon.
Expert, 2008. $19.95. From Amazon: "If you ever longed
to learn about plants you may never be able to grow, and
to discover gardens you may never be able to visit, then
here is your bedside companion. Learn how people gardened
in the past and what they have contributed to our gardens
today." Having only briefly browsed this title at the
library, the editor concurs that the first twenty pages
are quite enjoyable.
Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature, by
David Quammen. Norton, 2009. $10.85. This collection of
Quammen's columns by the same name from Outside
magazine, gathers the author's considerations of Malthus,
the mating habits of snakes, Tycho Brahe's quest for the
stars, magnolia trees, whales, and deserts, and other
topics that knit together data and interpretations from
science, nature, and experience.
Living Planet: A Collection of Writing on the Environment,
edited by Mary Green. Cambridge University Press, 2009,
$12.00. This collection explores life on earth and our
place within it through a range of non-fiction and fiction
extracts and short stories and verse, arranged in four
themed sections: Wild things, Water worlds, Nature's Power
and Future planet. Includes texts by David Attenborough,
Sujata Bhatt, John Clare, Susan Cooper, Roger Deakin and
- The Atlantic features Brendan Galvin's "A
Note from the Spadefoot Toads," a poem recited or
croaked by these backwater criers.
- On BoingBoing,
a self-proclaimed directory of wonderful things, is a
handy selection of reviews of books written "by people
who have raised apes in their homes." Read about Toto,
Lucy, Nim, and others.
Cats, by Doris Lessing. Harper, 2008. $11.66.
On Cats is a memoir of Lessing's own relationship with
these "exotic visitors, household friends," whether roaming
a farm in Africa or prowling a flat in London.
Adventures in the World's Frozen Places", by Bill
Streever. Little, Brown, and Co. 2009. $14.99. In this
new book, Streever travels high mountains, tracks explores,
and documents in detail the phenomenon of cold.
Light: A Portrait of the Universe by David Malin.
Phaidon Press, 2009. $32.97. Malin's hardcover photography
book features stunning photographs of celestial bodies,
galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters, accompanied by short
texts explaining the phenomena caught on film.
Garden, by James Harvey Bloom. Adamant Media Corporation,
2004. $23.99. The aptly named Bloom has painstakingly
compiled "a compendium of quotations and references from
the bard to all manner of flower, tree, bush, vine, and
herb, arranged according [to] the month in which they
are seen to flourish." Look no further for flora and poetry.
- Though seemingly indifferent to the wealth of breaking
news in the nature poetry world, The LA Times
animal blog, Unleashed,
features animal interest stories.
Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring, by
Richard Preston.Random House, 2008. $16
Preston writes about shinnying up giant redwoods on "spider
rigs" and about the researchers who study these wild
for the Earth, edited by Saran Dunn and Alan
Scholefield. Ballantine Books, 1992. $19.00
the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl,
by Stacey O'Brien. A reprint edition, 2009 from Free Press,
$15. Stacey O'Brien brought a four-day-old owlet home
and named him Wesley; this memoir relates the relationship
these two shared over the next nineteen years.
Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal,
by Silas House and Jason Howard. University Press of Kentucky,
- In his essay "Human
Nature," Mark Dowie explores the concepts of wilderness
and nature for Guernica, a magazine of art and
- Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and
the Meaning of Coral, by David Dobbs. $25.00 from
- The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business
of Breeding Plants, by Jane Smith. $25.95 from
Penguin, 2009. Tells the story of the emergence of modern
agribusiness out of the nineteenth-century farm culture
as magicked by wizard gardener Luther Burbank.
Evolution Is True, by biology professor Jerry
Coyne, is available for $27.95 from Viking (2009) or in
- Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins,
by Donald Johanson and Kate Wong. $25.00 from Harmony,
Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History
Museum, by Richard Fortey. $27.50 from Knopf,
2008. A natural history of the natural history museum
by the senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum
in London. Reading
the Mountains of Home, by John Elder. $20.50 from
Harvard University Press, 1999. A memoir taking off from
Frost's poem "Directive"
to celebrate the natural wonder of Vermont's mountains.
Poetry Save the Earth?: A Field Guide to Nature Poems,
by John Felstiner. $35.00 from Yale University Press,
2009. Writes Harold Bloom: "John Felstiner's study is
a remarkable attempt to bring the rich tradition of nature
poetry to our aid in the current and ongoing ecological
in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New
England, by William Cronon. $15.00 from Hill and
Wang, 2003. From Amazon: "Cronon treats the land of New
England with the same sensitivity and attention to detail
as the lives of the American natives and the colonists--he
depicts the effects of changing land-use patterns on the
texture of the New England landscape, and gives voice
to the changing communities of trees, rock walls, and
Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History
of the Human Body, by Neil Shubin. $13.95 from
from the Far Field: American Nature Poetry in the Late
Twentieth Century by Bernard W. Quetchenbach.
$19.50 from University of Virginia Press, 2000. Wherein
close attention is paid to the nature poetry of Robert
Bly, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry.
A Novel by Marilynn Robinson. $25.00 from Farrar,
Straus, and Giroux, 2008. In this novel, Robinson—always
a lyrical, introspective, and precise writer—returns
to rural Idaho and the Boughton family.
Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. $14.00 from
Picador, 2008. An old man moves to the desolate Norwegian
tundra only to find himself absorbed in a memory from
of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, by
Joyce Sidman. $16.00 from Houghton Mifflin, 2005. In this
Caldecott Honor Book, Sidman enriches Beckie Prange's
lovely woodcut illustrations with verse chunks and prose
passages which give the kids scientific explanations of
the species shown.
Tidings: The History and Ecology of Shellfish Farming
in the Northeast, by Barbara Brennessel. $29.95
from University Press of New England, 2008. From the same
author and press, earlier in the year, Diamonds
in the Marsh: A Natural History of the Diamondback Terrapin
the Love of Animals: The Rise of the Animal Protection
Movement, by Kathryn Shevelow. Henry Holt and
Co., 2008. Reviewed in the Washington
Variety of Life, by Colin Tudge. $30.20 from Oxford
University Press, 2002. For lovers of taxonomy (not taxidermy,
an art which is not nearly as stiff).
- The other four recommendations for this month have
been shamelessly thefted from Jef Taylor, the Urban
Pantheist; click here
to see his original post.
The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners,
and Other Ecological Anachronisms ($19.00 from
Basic Books, 2002). "I wasn't going to recommend it, but
it is what I'm reading now. It's about the very fascinating
subject of plants that evolved alongside seed-dispersing
animals such as giant sloths and mastodons which are now
extinct. It's not very well written, however, I like the
subject enough that I'm digging through it. It's by Connie
Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction
($22.00 from Scribner, 1997). "Rather tomelike but entertaining
piece on island biogeography, and how all biology is becoming
similar to it, by David Quammen. I would recommend reading
anything by Quammen, who recently has been writing stuff
about Darwin for National Geographic. Let me take this
opportunity to link to his essay Planet
of Weeds, again."
in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return
to Suburban America ($14.95 from Norton, 2005).
"A natural history book that reads like a pulp crime novel,
about the way the world is has changed in such a way as
to put mountain lions into dangerous proximity to humans,
by David Baron."
Rex : Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous
Creatures ($15.00 from Free Press, 2001). "About
the vital role parasites have played in the evolution
of other animals, and how parasites can manipulate the
behavior of other animals. By Carl Zimmer."
a Porcupine in My Outhouse: Misadventures of a Vermont
Mountain Man Wannabe, by Michael Tougias.$14.95
from On Cape Publications, 2006. The title says it all:
a hapless New Englander buys a mountain-top cabin and,
through trial and error – mainly error – learns how to
become an accomplished mountain man.
Peregrine, by J.A. Baker. $15.85 from NYRB Classics,
2004. In lucid prose, Baker recounts a season of following
and learning about the peregrine falcons that occupy the
river valley by his home.
of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invation, by
Alan Burdick. $15.00 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
Burdick provides a highly readable account of the ecology
the July/August 2005 issue of Resurgence magazine,
Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The
Idler, has an excerpt of his book How
To Be Idle (Hamish Hamilton, 2004). The essay,
titled "To Ramble," is a distinctively more literary discussing
of the slow art of going nowhere than Thoreau's more nature-oriented
"Walking." NB: The Idler seems to share the Charles
River Journal's preoccupation with snails.
Bishop Poems, prose, and letters. Library of
America, 2008. Particularly for "Questions of Travel,"
"The Fish," and "The Man-moth."