An incisive take on an American treasure that shines with illuminating detail and insight.

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

A BIOGRAPHY

Superbly rendered biographies of the adventurers who were instrumental in conceiving, building, popularizing, and sustaining the storied Appalachian Trail.

D’Anieri, a lecturer in architecture, regional planning, and the environment at the University of Michigan, is a former journalist, a background that serves him well in this account of the development of the 2,100-mile AT. The author opens with a concise survey of the Appalachian range’s geological past, but he is clear in his intent for the narrative. This book, he writes, “is not a comprehensive history of every aspect of the Appalachian Trail’s development, and it is even less about the details of hiking on the trail. It is a biography: an attempt to render something essential about the life of this place by looking at how it developed over time.” His character studies are uniformly fascinating, as readers learn far more than expected about these obsessive, sometimes cranky creators. No romanticist, D’Anieri also asks, and usually answers, salient if seldom-asked questions: Whom is the trail for? How reflective of the “natural” world is it? Is the human past of this unique and ever changing landscape of any consequence? Hitting the AT himself (in fits and starts), he approached it like any other research project, probing for noteworthy features and how its history casts light on today’s trail. While knowing the history of the AT punctures some of the aura, the reality still has the power to inspire—even if, compared to the grand vistas of the American West, the AT is more immersive than scenic. In exploring the trail’s “collage of aspirations and associations,” D’Anieri has gone a long way toward discovering its identity. Thankfully, the tone is by no means academic but rather as accessible as the author believes the AT should be. Fans of A Walk in the Woods will also enjoy the chapter on Bill Bryson.

An incisive take on an American treasure that shines with illuminating detail and insight.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-17199-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

ON ANIMALS

The beloved author gathers a wide-ranging selection of pieces about animals.

“Animals have always been my style,” writes Orlean at the beginning of her latest delightful book, a collection of articles that originally appeared in “slightly modified form” in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New Yorker, where she has been a staff writer since 1992. The variety on display is especially pleasing. Some essays are classic New Yorkerprofiles: Who knew that tigers, near extinction in the wild, are common household pets? There are at least 15,000 in the U.S. Her subject, a New Jersey woman, keeps several dozen and has been fighting successful court battles over them for decades. Lions are not near extinction, however; in fact, there are too many. Even in Africa, far more live in captivity or on reserves than in the wild, and readers may be shocked at their fate. Cubs are cute, so animal parks profit by allowing visitors to play with them. With reserves at capacity, cubs who mature may end up shot in trophy hunts or in stalls on breeding farms to produce more cubs. In “The Rabbit Outbreak,” Orlean writes about how rabbit meat was an American staple until replaced by beef and chicken after World War II, whereupon rabbit pet ownership surged. They are now “the third-most-popular pet in the country, ranking just behind dogs and cats.” Readers may be aware of the kerfuffle following the hit movie Free Willythat led to a massive campaign to return the film’s killer whale to the wild, and Orlean delivers a fascinating, if unedifying account. The author handles dogs like a virtuoso, with 10 hilarious pages on the wacky, expensive, but sometimes profitable life of a champion show dog. Among America’s 65 million pet dogs (according to a 2003 report), 10 million go astray every year, and about half are recovered. Orlean engagingly recounts a lost-dog search of epic proportions.

Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982181-53-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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