Montgomery’s fascinating exposé of how our food is grown will convince readers that soil health should not remain an...

GROWING A REVOLUTION

BRINGING OUR SOIL BACK TO LIFE

An optimistic look at how regenerative farming can revive the world’s soil, increasing food production, boosting cost effectiveness, and slowing climate change.

For decades, big agribusiness has promoted quick-and-dirty farming practices that have profoundly worsened the health of the planet’s agricultural land, a cycle enabled by the use of herbicides and pesticides. As a result, farmers across the world are seeing their efforts yield smaller crops and falling profits—never mind the environmental impact. Yet an often cited myth is that industrialized agriculture is the only option to keep up with a rapidly growing population. MacArthur Fellow Montgomery (Geomorphology/Univ. of Washington; The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood, 2012, etc.) combines decades of rigorous scientific research and firsthand experience to demonstrate that a common-sense, biology-based approach to maintaining soil health is key to reversing degradation. Importantly, the author emphasizes that such regeneration is not only possible, it’s within reach for farms of any size and in any climate. In a compelling writing style that is more conversational than scientific, Montgomery recounts trips around the globe where he met the pioneering farmers embracing the soil health movement. Through their successes, the author elegantly connects the dots among no-till planting, the use of cover crops, letting cows graze, and other practices that have shown almost universal success in allowing farmers to dramatically increase crop yields and lessen the need for chemical additives. These practices also reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. A wide-scale move toward regenerating soil health would truly revolutionize what we eat and who has access to it, and while nothing can happen overnight—especially when government subsidies reward farming practices supporting the status quo—the author is confident that change is afoot and that the future will be bright and green.

Montgomery’s fascinating exposé of how our food is grown will convince readers that soil health should not remain an under-the-radar issue and that we all benefit from embracing a new philosophy of farming.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-60832-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

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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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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