HERON HILL CHRONICLE

Reiger, conservation editor of Field & Stream (Wanderer on My Native Shore, 1983, etc.) offers a paean to life lived close to the land. In their early 30s, Reiger and his wife, Barbara, abandoned fast-track publishing careers in New York and Washington, D.C., to settle in a quiet backwater community of coastal Virginia. This graceful memoir is largely a response to his shocked urban colleagues who asked, ``How could you do it?'' As he and his wife restore their traditional Eastern Shore farmhouse and harvest, hunt, and fish on the 67 acres of their farm, Heron Hill (which they had purchased in 1970), he feels a growing sense of connection to the land and the people who live there. He relishes a full range of country life, from salvaging serendipitous roadkill to learning the lore of his ``born here'' neighbors. This account is dense with the detail of hedgerow planting, proper nesting-box placement, the merits of mummichogs (a kind of small fish) for bait and tree swallows for mosquito control. A close observer of nature, Reiger looks also at some of the larger lessons it has taught him: Living off the land instills self-reliance, which is the only access to wisdom; traditional gender roles are rooted in the natural world; pain is proportional to one's ability to survive. His theory of conservation is equally grounded in his farm experience. Save-the- whale rallies and rainforest fund-raisers are not for him. ``Real conservation is hands on, net gain, local habitat manipulation and species management. It's not about letting nature take its course.'' Reiger is the author of 15 books and hundreds of magazine articles, but this memoir suggests that his most satisfying creative act has been the stewardship of his own land. A deeply felt, immensely satisfying memoir.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 1994

ISBN: 1-55821-296-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

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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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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