A grateful homage to the iconic naturalist and a pleasant memoir of wildness.

QUIET DESPERATION, SAVAGE DELIGHT

SHELTERING WITH THOREAU IN THE AGE OF CRISIS

Further evidence that Thoreau offers wise counsel in dark times.

Melding memoir and nature writing, award-winning environmentalist Gessner celebrates Thoreau, whose Walden he discovered at the age of 16, inspiring him to question his values, attend to the natural world, keep a journal, and, as an adult, even build his own solitary writing shack. Now, facing environmental degradation and a global pandemic, Gessner sees Thoreau as his “presiding genius, and guiding spirit.” Examining Thoreau’s enduring relevance, he writes, “in an age of climate change he gets to the root of it: the need to do with less not acquire more. The need to live a moral life despite the risks and the ridicule. And of course the deep understanding of just how much nature can still offer us. Not nature in any vague or high-handed sense but in the physical daily experience of it.” Gessner vividly recounts his rich daily experiences of wildness, including walking, biking, kayaking, and bird-watching in North Carolina, his adopted home for the past 17 years; accompanying environmental activist Rick Bass for a project to save grizzlies; and traveling to Thoreau country—Cape Cod, Concord, and Maine—with his family. “Wildness, unlike wilderness,” he writes, “can be found anywhere.” Writing this book during the first seven months of the pandemic, the author reports the increasing numbers of cases and deaths, statistics that serve as bleak epigraphs to each chapter. As much as he asserts “that staying still and finding home can be exciting, even thrilling,” he admits to feeling low-level depression during “this endless night of a year.” He also admits to wondering if it is too late to save the planet and to raise consciousness about the perils of materialism and anthropocentrism. Yet despite evidence that sometimes overwhelms him, Gessner, like Thoreau, finds hope in every new morning and joy in the world that Thoreau so eloquently extolled.

A grateful homage to the iconic naturalist and a pleasant memoir of wildness.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948814-48-5

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Torrey House Press

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

THE MEATEATER GUIDE TO WILDERNESS SKILLS AND SURVIVAL

The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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