For those who spend significant time on snowbound mountain slopes, this is an informative and powerful cautionary lesson.



One of Alaska's leading avalanche experts explores the terrible beauty of avalanches and the human toll they exact each year.

Fredston (Rowing to Latitude, 2002) joined with her husband, Doug Fesler, to create in 1986 the Alaska Mountain Safety Center, helping to forecast avalanches and protect rescuers trying to dig out avalanche victims. To the uninformed, avalanches may seem like random “act of God” events. But Fredston and her husband, “avalanche chasers” who could witness snow slides from the rattling windows of their mountaintop home, argue that many, if not most, avalanches can be predicted and avoided. Actually, one of the most effective safety measures is to induce the avalanche intentionally with explosives while the avalanche's “slide path” is free of humans. The husband-and-wife team not only spent much of their time doing just that, but they have actually derived income by creating “designer avalanches” for snowbound B-movies. Nevertheless, Fredston is generally more somber and serious, as she describes the emotional toll of digging out the ever-mounting number of Alaska avalanche fatalities, many of them acquaintances. Too often, Fredston argues, skiers, snowmobilers and mountaineers ignore the warning signs. Moreover, basic safety measures like netting, crevicing and protective tree-planting that are widespread in the Alps and the western U.S. are ignored in Alaska. Fredston brings passion and a wealth of experience to her story, although her writing occasionally borders on the gushy. Talking of her first meeting with future husband Doug, she writes: “He was such an avalanche guru that it didn't feel any more appropriate to fall for him than to date my doctor—or Davy Crockett or Abe Lincoln, for that matter.” And though she’s a capable writer, it's difficult to avoid the repetitious when describing one crunching avalanche after the next.

For those who spend significant time on snowbound mountain slopes, this is an informative and powerful cautionary lesson.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-101249-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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

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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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A quirky wonder of a book.



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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