While the weather forecasts may be debatable, this almanac still features beautiful essays by the author and some useful...

Poor Will's Almanack for 2017


An annual almanac attempts to predict weather-related phenomena based on patterns observed in previous years.

The almanac begins with an introduction giving a brief overview of the information provided in the monthly sections. Felker (Poor Will’s Almanack 2015, 2014, etc.) also explains the dominical forecast, which is a method from the Middle Ages based on the date on which the first Sunday of a year occurs; for 2017, readers can apparently expect “great conflict and fighting among robbers and new tidings of kings.” An overview of what the author calls “the Forty-Eight Seasons” follows, in which he breaks each season into smaller parts and describes what happens at those times. Each monthly section begins with a quote followed by a brief essay by Felker and then various astronomical and predictive details. First he presents information about the states of the moon, planets, and stars during the month and a list of holidays. Next appears a S.A.D. Stress Index. This index “is one way of measuring those natural phenomena which are assumed to be related to seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.): the day’s length, the probable percentage of sunlight, and the weather.” Then the author offers a discussion of when to best perform gardening and animal husbandry tasks; a list of cold fronts and related weather events; and a reader-submitted story. Finally, Felker delivers a brief autobiography. The author’s pseudo-scientific explanation of the moon’s effect on weather and animals is somewhat dubious, and the dominical forecast is downright astrological. Of more value are his descriptions of the seasons and when to expect which natural events; his gardening advice should also prove helpful. Felker’s essays verge on poetry, and his reader stories are amusingly nostalgic. And his names for various moons throughout the months—such as the Robin Chorus moon and the Sweet Corn moon—remain an intriguing way to tie the passing of time to expected events in the natural world.

While the weather forecasts may be debatable, this almanac still features beautiful essays by the author and some useful details about seasonal events and gardening.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4537-8709-0

Page Count: 250

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2016

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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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. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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