Affirms Bowden’s place in the cranky Edward Abbey-Hunter S. Thompson school of Western individualists.




A dark, foreboding meditation on life from the provocative author.

In a postscript, Bowden (A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior, 2005, etc.) writes that this unclassifiable blend of memoir, reportage and philosophy, together with his Blood Orchid (1995) and Blues for Cannibals (2002), form an “accidental trilogy” seeking to answer the question, “how can a person live a moral life in a culture of death?” Written in a piercing blur of sharp sentences, the book conjures a landscape of death and loss—from the dead city of New Orleans, where “night comes down like the lid on a garbage can,” to terrorist-bombed Bali—in which people attempt to explain the reality that is all around them. Bowden notes, however, that our ability to express ourselves through writing is often inaccurate, even artificial. “But words are all I have,” he writes, “my skills are limited and the words at best are a veil, maybe even a shroud, between us and this world we touch but cannot embrace, a ball of dirt we stand on but never can really know.” The author embraces all manner of experience, including drink, lovemaking, violence and nature. He declares himself a man at the edge, forever engaged in foolhardy and dangerous activities, always accepting but never submitting. “I have been walking out the door on peace and quiet most of my life,” he writes. We see him trying to make sense of his childhood in Illinois, womanizing in Mexico, at sea on a 600-ton fishing vessel and firing his rifle carelessly at a coal train while driving across a desert in his pickup truck. Undoubtedly an acquired taste, Bowden’s breakneck writing is bracing and irreverent. Yet a zenlike calm lies at the heart of his bleak vision, one that he calls “snake-time,” where he can simply be like the rattlesnake. In the end, he writes, love is the only thing that matters.

Affirms Bowden’s place in the cranky Edward Abbey-Hunter S. Thompson school of Western individualists.

Pub Date: April 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-15-101395-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.


A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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