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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.

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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1 March 2016

How to Clone a Mammoth, by Beth Shapiro

I just finished an interesting book with a provocative title. How to Clone a Mammoth, by Beth Shapiro, is a readable, sober assessment of de-extinction, the idea of bringing back extinct species through a variety of techniques. She defines very clearly at the outset that the purpose of de-extinction is ecological – to restore critical / desired organism/organism or organism/abiotic environment interactions in ecosystems. It is, in other words, a …

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23 May 2013

Gaining Ground, by Forrest Pritchard

Last week, I got a great new book from Amazon. I had pre-ordered it months ago, so when it finally arrived, I was delighted, and dove right in. Within 24 hours, I had finished it. It’s the story of how my friend Forrest Pritchard re-made his family’s farm into a sustainable enterprise by going organic. The book is called Gaining Ground, and it’s less academic than something like The Omnivore’s …

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29 November 2012

Living in the Appalachian Forest, by Chris Bolgiano

Last week, I finished reading Living in the Appalachian Forest: True Tales of Sustainable Forestry, by Chris Bolgiano. It’s a grab-bag of stories from the forested mountains of the south-central Appalachians, ranging from Pennsylvania down to Kentucky and maybe Georgia, too. West Virginia and Virginia get the most attention. The driving question behind the book is: How should I manage my land? Since this is a key question in my …

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4 October 2012

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

In the delivery room last week, while we waited for Lily’s labor to ramp up, I finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. I think it was one of the most insightful, important books I’ve ever read. I was pre-disposed to like it, because I really enjoyed Pollan’s earlier book The Botany of Desire, which served as four botanico-cultural “micro-histories” in one book (one on apples, one on marijuana, …

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