An optimistic journal of promise for the future and a supremely motivational text for readers interested in Earth’s...

RANCHER, FARMER, FISHERMAN

CONSERVATION HEROES OF THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND

Journalistic portraits of pioneering farmers, harvesters, and conservationists unafraid to fight for the protection of the American landscapes they cultivate.

Covering territory from the rambling Northwest to the Louisiana bayou, journalist Horn (co-author: Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming, 2008, etc.) delivers a cautionary yet compelling chronicle spotlighting threatened productive farmlands and introduces “the families who run the tractors and barges and fishing boats who are stepping up to save them.” Among those she profiles is a Montana frontiersman who prides himself on veteran stockmanship; he is praised for his effective collaborative strategies with other grassland ranchers and wildlife managers to peaceably “keep both livestock and wild carnivores alive.” In other sections, a Kansas prairie farmer uses environmentally trailblazing strategies to refertilize depleted soil after years of devastating drought conditions, and a marine transportation company CEO maintains a commitment to improved efficiency of his operations to preserve and maintain the Mississippi River’s infrastructure. Horn then directs her focus to the sea, which is just as endangered as the land and in need of dedicated champions like the Vietnamese shrimper who fights for the preservation of Louisiana’s estuaries and aquacultures and a Gulf of Mexico fisherman dedicated to balancing both commercial and sport fishing in the gulf to appease recreational anglers while keeping small, family-run businesses afloat. All of these valiant men and women, writes the author, are fiercely protective of the land and sea and its bounty not only because these delicately balanced ecosystems directly support their livelihoods, but because there is also an enduring love of the land itself and an allegiance to preserve it. A founder of the Clean Energy Program at the Environmental Defense Fund, Horn translates her passion for ecological balance and environmental sustainability into this passionate, unwavering tapestry of “conservation heroes” dedicated to coexisting with their American agricultural terrains.

An optimistic journal of promise for the future and a supremely motivational text for readers interested in Earth’s compromised biodiversity.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0393247343

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

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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Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

THE BOOK OF EELS

OUR ENDURING FASCINATION WITH THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CREATURE IN THE NATURAL WORLD

An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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