Beautiful illustrations and fascinating insight into understanding the role of plants in biblical times.

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PLANT WORLD OF THE BIBLE

Biblical botany meets archaeology with lovely visuals.

Agronomist and botanist Jensen (Bibliography on Seed Morphology, 1998, etc.) brings to an English-speaking audience a translation of his 2004 Danish book, Bibelens Planteverden. The 98 entries cover plants that are mentioned in the Bible and have been found in archaeological digs in Israel and the environs, arranged alphabetically by their English names. Each entry includes the botanical name, the current English name and the name as given in the New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized edition of The Holy Bible. Next comes a miniconcordance of biblical references to the plant, a short botanical description and pertinent archaeological and/or cultural references. Where needed, Jensen discusses translation issues: For example, despite certain translations of Jeremiah 10:5, cucumbers are in fact native to Northern India and their cultivation in Ancient Egypt is not documented. The 20 color images from the Codex Vindobonensis Medicus Craecus I, created from the first to third centuries, benefit from their large, 8.5-by-11 cut size and acid-free paper and are thus particularly interesting because of their date of origin. An additional 111 black-and-white illustrations show botanical details and artifacts from the region that employ botanical elements, such as coins and wall decorations. The book has a detailed, academic approach, including careful annotations for the text and the illustrations, as well as a bibliography and index. Beyond its obvious allure for Bible readers who wish to understand more about the Scriptures’ botanical references, the book will appeal to those interested in botany, archaeology, history and botanical illustration. It would also be a useful addition to the library of anyone interested in the role of plants in folklore.

Beautiful illustrations and fascinating insight into understanding the role of plants in biblical times.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1456788353

Page Count: 198

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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Exemplary writing about the intersection of the animal and human worlds.

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VESPER FLIGHTS

Falconer and writer Macdonald follows on elegant memoir H Is for Hawk (2015) with a set of essays on nature.

“I choose to think that my subject is love,” writes the author at the beginning, “and most specifically love for the glittering world of non-human life around us.” Love sometimes turns to lamentation as she notes how much of the natural world has been destroyed in her lifetime. There are some particularly wonderful moments in this altogether memorable collection, as when Macdonald recounts retreating from a shy girlhood, teased and even bullied by her schoolmates, with the aid of binoculars and field guides that allowed her to escape into a different, better world: “This method of finding refuge from difficulty was an abiding feature of my childhood.” Later in that passage, she continues, “when I was a child I’d assumed animals were just like me. Later I thought I could escape myself by pretending I was an animal. Both were founded on the same mistake. For the deepest lesson animals have taught me is how easily and unconsciously we see other lives as mirrors of our own.” The author also recounts her treks looking for wild boars, the descendants of once-domesticated pigs that are now not quite like pigs at all, having reclaimed ancestral fierceness. Macdonald allows that while her encounters with such creatures are eminently real, she’s fully open to the possibilities of symbolic encounter as well. Anthropomorphism may be a sin among biologists, but as long as it doesn’t go to silly lengths, she’s not above decorating a nest box—and those decorations, she writes in a perceptive piece, are as class-inflected as anything else in class-conscious Britain. Perhaps the finest piece is also the most sobering, a reflection on the disappearance of spring, “increasingly a short flash of sudden warmth before summer, hardly a season at all.”

Exemplary writing about the intersection of the animal and human worlds.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2881-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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