Whether the author is opining on mass extinctions, the importance of plankton, the history of lighthouses, or the epicurean...

SHARK DRUNK

THE ART OF CATCHING A LARGE SHARK FROM A TINY RUBBER DINGHY IN A BIG OCEAN

Accomplished Norwegian historian, journalist, and photographer Strøksnes invites readers into the fantastical ocean environment of his quest to capture a Greenland shark.

More than just a chronicle of two men (the author and his artist friend, Hugo Aasjord) discussing their surroundings as they drift along off the coast of Norway, the narrative follows the pair’s lofty goal of snaring one of the world’s largest beasts from their small rubber boat. A few of the strange qualities of their prey include its ability to dive to more than 4,000 feet, “sawblade teeth” and “suctioning lips that ‘glue’ larger prey to its mouth while chewing,” and poisonous flesh that smells like urine. They can also live to be 400 years old and weigh more than a ton. During their endeavor, whether on the ocean or sidelined on the rugged land due to inhospitable weather, Strøksnes and Aasjord tackled a variety of existential questions while contemplating the magnificent, complex mysteries of the ocean. Their conversations range over subjects as diverse as mythology, poetry, history, literature, and science, all interspersed with their observations. In the hands of a less skilled storyteller, readers may have felt burdened by the amount of information, but Strøksnes handles it well. Following the philosophical proclamation that “life cannot exist without death, and the cycle of life is what keeps the planet in harmony,” the author explains how the men planned to use the decomposed carcass of a Scottish bull as bait, after which he provides an enlightening vignette on the history of that hardy breed. While tracking down the rotting carcass, the author also describes the surrounding countryside, including the ancient sacrificial altars he encountered.

Whether the author is opining on mass extinctions, the importance of plankton, the history of lighthouses, or the epicurean treat of boiled cod tongues, readers will happily devour this smorgasbord of delights.

Pub Date: June 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49348-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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