An ardent message about environmental peril.



A personal and historical exploration of how plastic blighted the planet.

Walking her dog one day, poet and essayist Cobb found a piece of black plastic—the inside of a car’s fender—outside her yard, a jarring discovery that inspired this wide-ranging meditation on war, waste, consumerism, racism, love, and grief. Weaving memoir, history, and anecdote, the author considers the political, cultural, and especially ecological implications of plastic, which, since it was patented in 1907, now fills nearly every corner of the planet. “Featureless, flawless, eternal,” and made into everything from buttons to atomic bombs, plastic has become Cobb’s obsession. “I wanted it to speak to me. I wanted it to tell me something about how to live. How to live now, on this planet, in this real life, as a member of the human species.” Working at the Environmental Defense Fund, Cobb spends her days conveying information about “planetary trauma and emergency,” a job that she does “to make others feel sorrow and concern, but not despair.” She must feed their hope “that money can heal the world. That by giving some of their money away, the privileged can help to stem the tide of damage, waste, and plunder embedded in our global economy.” But Cobb is acutely aware that systemic change is the planet’s only hope. Tracking her carbon footprint when she flies or drives, the author bears striking witness to destruction: Birds and fish die from plastic detritus; decades after World War II, the stomach of an albatross was perforated by a plastic shard from a bombing raid. Cobb also shows how Black communities are especially vulnerable. In Freeport, Texas, home of Dow Chemical, cancers are on the rise; in Mossville, Louisiana, refineries poison land and water. “Most of the plastic ever made remains with us,” writes the author, “circulating through water, living bodies, and the atmosphere—and the waste keeps coming.”

An ardent message about environmental peril.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64362-038-1

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Nightboat Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A heartwarming and inspiring story for animal lovers.


The third volume in the Elephant Whisperer series.

In this follow-up to An Elephant in My Kitchen, Malby-Anthony continues her loving portrait of the Thula Thula wildlife reserve, which she co-founded in 1998 with her late husband, South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony, who published the first book in the series, The Elephant Whisperer, in 2009. Following his death in 2012, Malby-Anthony sought to honor his legacy by continuing his vision “to create a massive conservancy in Zululand, incorporating our land and other small farms and community land into one great big game park.” At the same time, the elephants gave her “a sense of purpose and direction.” In the Zulu language, thula means quiet, and though the author consistently seeks to provide that calm to her charges, peace and tranquility are not always easy to come by at Thula Thula. In this installment, Malby-Anthony discusses many of the challenges faced by her and her staff, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. These included an aggressive, 2-ton rhino named Thabo; the profound loss felt by all upon the death of their elephant matriarch, Frankie; difficulty obtaining permits and the related risk of having to relocate or cull some of their animals; the fear of looting and fire due to civil unrest in the region; and the ongoing and potentially deadly struggles with poachers. Throughout, the author also shares many warm, lighthearted moments, demonstrating the deep bond felt among the humans and animals at the reserve and the powerful effects of the kindness of strangers. “We are all working in unity for the greater good, for the betterment of Thula Thula and all our wildlife….We are humbled by the generosity and love, both from our guests and friends, and from strangers all around the world,” writes the author. “People’s open-hearted support kept us alive in the darkest times.”

A heartwarming and inspiring story for animal lovers.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9781250284259

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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A quirky wonder of a book.



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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