A wonder-inducing dive into the unique kingdom of fungi.

THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS

ON MUSHROOMS AND MOURNING

In this debut memoir, an anthropologist recounts how mycology eased her out of mourning.

Long’s husband, Eiolf, collapsed suddenly at his office and died at age 54. A “paler, stupider, ashen” version of herself, the Norway-based author took a beginner’s course on mushrooms at the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo. Finding voluptuous, golden chanterelles and flavor-bomb morels gave her a sense of joy—“for me there is no doubt that my discovery of the realm of fungi steadily nudged me out of the tunnel of grief”—and she trained to become a “mushroom inspector.” In Norway, certified mushroom inspectors, who must learn 150 species, review foragers’ hauls (for free!) to ensure no one inadvertently makes a deadly error, like mistaking a destroying angel for a tasty meadow mushroom. Long focuses on many aspects of various fungi—beauty, oddity, edibility, toxicity, hallucinogenic properties, potential as antidepressants—and less on mourning. The two subjects don’t always mesh well, though the author makes interesting observations about loss—e.g., “the map of my friends and acquaintances was redrawn after Eiolf’s death.” She brings an anthropologist’s perspective to the book, considering various cultures’ differing views—the clouded agaric smells “perfumed” to Norwegians and skunky to Americans, for example, and Norwegian mycologists really don’t like talking about magic mushrooms, which isn’t the case in the States—and she unearths endless fodder to liven up cocktail conversation: “Members of the fungi kingdom are more closely akin to those of the animal kingdom and, consequently, to Homo sapiens, than to the plant kingdom!” The book is more a collection of edifying tales and facts than smooth narrative, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Learning about glow-in-the-dark jack-o’-lanterns, puffballs that “smoke” when you smash them, or toothy hedgehog mushrooms never gets old. Anyone with an interest in the natural world will delight in Long’s sharp-eyed descriptions (and Viskari's line drawings) of fungi and her therapeutic rambles through Norwegian woods.

A wonder-inducing dive into the unique kingdom of fungi.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984801-03-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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