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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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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The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!

SILENT SPRING

It should come as no surprise that the gifted author of The Sea Around Usand its successors can take another branch of science—that phase of biology indicated by the term ecology—and bring it so sharply into focus that any intelligent layman can understand what she is talking about.

Understand, yes, and shudder, for she has drawn a living portrait of what is happening to this balance nature has decreed in the science of life—and what man is doing (and has done) to destroy it and create a science of death. Death to our birds, to fish, to wild creatures of the woods—and, to a degree as yet undetermined, to man himself. World War II hastened the program by releasing lethal chemicals for destruction of insects that threatened man’s health and comfort, vegetation that needed quick disposal. The war against insects had been under way before, but the methods were relatively harmless to other than the insects under attack; the products non-chemical, sometimes even introduction of other insects, enemies of the ones under attack. But with chemicals—increasingly stronger, more potent, more varied, more dangerous—new chain reactions have set in. And ironically, the insects are winning the war, setting up immunities, and re-emerging, their natural enemies destroyed. The peril does not stop here. Waters, even to the underground water tables, are contaminated; soils are poisoned. The birds consume the poisons in their insect and earthworm diet; the cattle, in their fodder; the fish, in the waters and the food those waters provide. And humans? They drink the milk, eat the vegetables, the fish, the poultry. There is enough evidence to point to the far-reaching effects; but this is only the beginning,—in cancer, in liver disorders, in radiation perils…This is the horrifying story. It needed to be told—and by a scientist with a rare gift of communication and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Already the articles taken from the book for publication in The New Yorkerare being widely discussed. Book-of-the-Month distribution in October will spread the message yet more widely.

The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!  

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1962

ISBN: 061825305X

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1962

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