A lyrical work of profound insight.

SIGHTLINES

A CONVERSATION WITH THE NATURAL WORLD

A Scottish poet’s eloquent meditations on nature and on the art of observing the world around her “even when there’s nothing much to see.”

In this probing collection of 14 essays, Jamie (Poetry/Univ. of Stirling; The Overhaul, 2012, etc.) turns her imaginative gaze on the natural phenomena of the many wild places to which she has traveled. She begins with a sea cruise along the fjords of Greenland and a sighting of the aurora borealis. Awed by the spectacle, Jamie writes, “if we could taste the green aurora, it would fizz on the tongue and taste like crème de menthe.” Her wandering footsteps led her to remote Scottish islands in the North Atlantic, prehistoric caves in Spain and whaling museums in Norway. With the help of the scientists, surveyors and naturalists with whom she traveled, Jamie honed her sensitivity to the environment even more keenly. She learned to understand the patterns engraved in stone, earth and bone that told stories about the land and sea and the humans who lived and sailed on both. Watching other creatures, from the fragile magpie moth to the majestic killer whale, gave her glimpses into natural laws that often escaped her understanding. Not one to stand apart from what she observes, Jamie examines her own relationship to the landscapes and living things she celebrates. Her life as a writer began when, as a disaffected teenager, she joined an archaeological dig in the Scottish Highlands. Probing the past inspired her to probe beneath the surface of things with words and eventually led her to poetry. Her mother’s death many years later led her to scrutinize the human landscape from behind the lens of a hospital microscope. From there, she began to understand the connections that bind the Earth and everything in it and accept her own place in “the rough tribe of the mortal.”

A lyrical work of profound insight.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61519-083-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The Experiment

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all...

THE GENIUS OF BIRDS

Science writer Ackerman (Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold, 2010, etc.) looks at the new science surrounding avian intelligence.

The takeaway: calling someone a birdbrain is a compliment. And in any event, as Ackerman observes early on, “intelligence is a slippery concept, even in our own species, tricky to define and tricky to measure.” Is a bird that uses a rock to break open a clamshell the mental equivalent of a tool-using primate? Perhaps that’s the wrong question, for birds are so unlike humans that “it’s difficult for us to fully appreciate their mental capabilities,” given that they’re really just small, feathered dinosaurs who inhabit a wholly different world from our once-arboreal and now terrestrial one. Crows and other corvids have gotten all the good publicity related to bird intelligence in recent years, but Ackerman, who does allow that some birds are brighter than others, points favorably to the much-despised pigeon as an animal that “can remember hundreds of different objects for long periods of time, discriminate between different painting styles, and figure out where it’s going, even when displaced from familiar territory by hundreds of miles.” Not bad for a critter best known for bespattering statues in public parks. Ackerman travels far afield to places such as Barbados and New Caledonia to study such matters as memory, communication, and decision-making, the last largely based on visual cues—though, as she notes, birds also draw ably on other senses, including smell, which in turn opens up insight onto “a weird evolutionary paradox that scientists have puzzled over for more than a decade”—a matter of the geometry of, yes, the bird brain.

Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all their diversity will want to read this one.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-521-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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