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19 August 2022
Second Nature, by Nathaniel Rich
This volume is a compilation of reporting that author Nathaniel Rich previously published (sometimes in rather different form) in a variety of periodicals, but mainly the New York Times Magazine. The general theme is humanity’s alteration of the natural world, for good or (usually) for ill. The first piece, on West Virginian lawyer Robert Bilott, was the basis of the recent Mark Ruffalo film Dark Waters. Other essays examine a …
2 February 2022
Abundance, by Karen Lloyd
Callan reviews a new book about endangered species and ecosystem recovery in various parts of Europe.
20 January 2020
A quartet of brief book reviews from some of Callan’s recent reading.
12 November 2019
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
This is an interesting novel. The book came highly recommended to me from two friends who have literary and environmental sensibilities that I respect, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year, which is an accolade worth noting – a validation of its quality. It is a story about trees, and about “radical” environmental activists who try to save them. I suppose it could be viewed as a …
2 April 2019
Spying on Whales, by Nick Pyenson
A book by Nick Pyenson (of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History) details the past, present, and future of whales. Combining paleontology, oceanography, environmental awareness, evolution, and history with personal stories of field work and insight, it’s a compelling tale of modern science on charismatic, mysterious creatures.
4 February 2019
Adventures in the Anthropocene, by Gaia Vince
I just finished reading Gaia Vince’s 2015 volume called Adventures in the Anthropocene. The book chronicles the new version of Earth that humanity’s actions have enacted, exploring all sorts of relevant topics including biodiversity, energy use, urbanization, human population, ocean pollution, fish farming, deforestation, architecture, solar radiation management, etc. It’s quite comprehensive. The book I’m familiar with that comes close in scope and subject matter is Earth Odyssey by Mark …
20 August 2018
Under a Green Sky, by Peter Ward
I’ve got a few books to catch up on from my summer reading. The first is Under a Green Sky (2007), by University of Washington geoscientist Peter Ward. I picked this up because it was referenced in another book I’d read recently: Peter Brannen’s The Ends of the World (2017). (I’ve got a review of that one coming out in a forthcoming issue of EARTH magazine, by the way!) Brannen …
10 May 2018
Last Stand, by Michael Punke
A reader of this blog recently recommended Michael Punke’s Last Stand. I thoroughly enjoyed his novel The Revenant, and so last week I started the audiobook version of the nonfictional Last Stand (2007). Last Stand is subtitled “George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West.” Prior to reading it, I knew little of Grinnell, save that he was a conservationist, and that he …
24 April 2018
An astonishing rise in the number of humans
One interesting thing about reading T. rex and the Crater of Doom, by Walter Alvarez in 2018 is the change in world population since it was first published in 1997. In explaining to his readers how to think about measurements in “parts per billion,” Alvarez explains his mental shortcut to appreciating those numbers. He says something along the lines of “since there are 5 billion people in the world, a …
9 October 2017
Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Braiding Sweetgrass is a collection of thematically-linked essays by Robin Wall Kimmerer, an environmentalist, academic, and Native American. The themes that unite them are plants, the human relationship to the natural world, and love. I’ve read Kimmerer’s essays in Orion before, but there’s a sort of literary force multiplier when you get a whole book full of her thoughtful insights, story after story, back to back. Braiding Sweetgrass is a …