A graceful homage abounding in fascinating discoveries.

SPROUT LANDS

TENDING THE ENDLESS GIFT OF TREES

An arborist celebrates the intrinsic creativity of trees.

When Logan (Air: The Restless Shaper of the World, 2012, etc.) was hired to train and care for 92 trees in front of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, he became obsessed with sprouting—the ability of any leafy tree or shrub to grow new branches after its trunk is cut or burned—and with the ancient practices of coppice and pollard that nurtured this regenerative power. Resprouting allows a tree to stay alive after damage or disease. “Eighty percent of the trees in a leafy forest are not virgins from seed,” the author reveals, “but experienced sprouts,” some extending the life of a tree for thousands of years. Logan’s lively obsession inspired him to travel the world—to England, Spain, Sierra Leone, Norway, Japan, and the redwood forests of California—to investigate the rich and intimate connection between trees and humans. His astute attentiveness and curiosity have resulted in a radiant, insightful amalgam of botany, history, travel memoir, anthropology, archaeology, philosophical meditation, and, not least, environmental ecology. In coppicing, he explains, trees are cut or burned down to the ground; in pollarding, trunks are cut higher. Both practices yield astounding new growth: “the wood jumps back into the sky,” attaining heights of 6 feet or more in the first year. Beginning in the Mesolithic age, humans depended on the two practices for energy, warmth, and structure. Trees could provide straight, strong vertical branches for building; curved branches for barrel hoops; small branches to make into charcoal. In the Basque Country, an elaborate form of pollarding gave boat builders thick, curved timbers for a ship’s hull. With a “very active relationship to trees,” humans listened and observed as trees taught them how to cut, when to stop, and how to wait, lessons that are still salient. “If we are to get out of the dead end that our mastery of nature has backed us into,” Logan writes, we would do well to heed the intelligence of trees.

A graceful homage abounding in fascinating discoveries.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-60941-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more