Next book

Poor Will's Almanack for 2017


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

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

Next book



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

Next book



Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Close Quickview