For armchair adventurers, a competent examination of the pros and cons of living off the land.

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FEASTING WILD

IN SEARCH OF THE LAST UNTAMED FOOD

A geographer and environmental anthropologist travels the globe in search of those who hunt and gather in the midst of civilization.

Although La Cerva pays some attention to those who pick mushrooms and weeds for food and medicine, she focuses mostly on those who kill animals—often illegally, though in line with historical and cultural traditions—chronicling her time in Maine, Scandinavia, Poland, Borneo, and, particularly, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eating at the world-famous Copenhagen restaurant Noma, the author ruminates on how the act of serving tiny portions of wild foods—including “caramel made from sourdough bread yeast served with Icelandic yogurt and sea buckthorn flower marmalade”—is in some ways a “fetishization of need.” La Cerva prefers the fried grasshoppers she and her friends ate as children in New Mexico, which “tasted like some kind of discordant freedom.” In chapters that bounce precipitously from topic to topic, the author manages to keep a steady eye on her central concern: the contradictions inherent in eating “wild” meat at this point in human history. She shows sympathy for those who hunt and sell “bushmeat,” including monkeys and elephants, but not for the rich at home and abroad who use this meat as a sign of status. A narrative strand about her romantic entanglement with a Swedish conservationist—who coordinates anti-poaching efforts at a rainforest reserve and whose “narrow lips arch into two perfect mountains at the center, surrounded by deep smile lines, like the walls of a canyon valley”—follows a fairly predictable path and contributes little to the story. Throughout, La Cerva demonstrates her ability for diligent observation, and if her prose is sometimes overwrought, it also offers glimpses of human activities that have grown increasingly rare—e.g., butchering a moose or gathering birds' nests for soup.

For armchair adventurers, a competent examination of the pros and cons of living off the land.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77164-533-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Greystone Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

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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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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