A welcome read for the outdoor inclined.

THE NATURE INSTINCT

RELEARNING OUR SIXTH SENSE FOR THE INNER WORKINGS OF THE NATURAL WORLD

It all comes down to paying attention: Naturalist Gooley (How to Read Nature, 2017, etc.) writes affectingly of how to recapture our ability to live in the real world with senses “almost forgotten and steamrollered by our modern lifestyle.”

If you scare a fish, which way will it dart? That’s the kind of thing you might find highly useful to know if you lived near a stream and far from any other source of provisions. It’s also the kind of thing you’re not likely to know unless you’ve logged time splashing around with startled fish, which is where wilderness guide and interpreter Gooley comes in. “I have sat with Dayak tribespeople,” he writes with luminous awe, “as they explained that a deer would appear over the brow of a hill, and was amazed moments later when my eyes met those of a muntjac in the predicted spot.” How would a Dayak know the exact moment when a deer would emerge? Sight, sound, smell—and perhaps the law of probability, which suggests that a deer might appear at a salt lick or creek within a certain range of times over another range of times. Other lessons the author brings back from the wild include how to know when a leopard is watching you and how to know when one of those aforementioned deer is pretty sure you’re not going to catch it. Of course, even the most attentive predator is successful only a small percentage of the time, but knowing that is part of knowing the world, too. Gooley’s book, which features occasional illustrations by Gower, is a useful owner’s manual for anyone who likes to get outdoors and be immersed in something beyond the asphalt—whether part of an eddy in which “our scent is announcing our presence to any animal with a nose” or someone merely appreciative of the fact that vultures can discern the living from the dead from two miles away.

A welcome read for the outdoor inclined.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61519-479-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: The Experiment

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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