Suggestions for May Reading

Posting some titles that seem to fit into our very broad category of reading about Nature – again, these aren’t intended to be titles that we think you should read (although it wouldn’t hurt you) but titles that are intended to get you thinking about what comes to your mind when you think about the subject.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder Richard Louv     In his groundbreaking work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, journalist and child advocate Richard Louv directly links the absence of nature in the lives of today’s wired generatoin to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. This is the first book to bring together a body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional helath of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions to heal the broken bond.

All Things Bright and Beautiful  and All Creatures Great and Small – James Herriot  Memoirs of life n the Yorkshire Dales by the world’s most celebrated animal doctor.

Prodigal SummerBarbara Kingsolver   Diana Wolff, a Forest Service biologist and animal tracker, seeks solace in a cabin high in the Appalachians, but a stranger enters her world bringing both romance and danger. Full of detailed descriptions of mountain animals, plants, and weather, this novel makes you want to haul your backpack and spend a summer in the mountains.   AND

Flight Behavior – Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh  – The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Walden – Henry David Thoreau – Walden is a book about Henry David Thoreau’s experiment with self-reliance. He lived in a cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts amidst woods that were owned by fellow Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau focused on simple living and personal introspection during the two-year stay. Walden chronicles his experience.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed – At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

The Hungry Ocean  – Linda Greenlaw – Known to millions of readers of The Perfect Storm as the captain of the Hannah Boden, sister ship to the Andrea Gail, Linda Greenlaw is also known as one of the best sea captains on the East Coast. Here she offers an adventure-soaked tale of her own, complete with danger, humor, and characters so colorful they seem to have been ripped from the pages of Moby Dick.

Seeds of HopeJane Goodall – In her wise and elegant new book, Jane Goodall blends her experience in nature with her enthusiasm for botany to give readers a deeper understanding of the world around us.

The Pine Barrens – John McPhee – Most people think of New Jersey as a suburban-industrial corridor that runs between New York and Philadelphia. Yet in the low center of the state is a near wilderness, larger than most national parks, which has been known since the seventeenth century as the Pine Barrens. The term refers to the predominant trees in the vast forests that cover the area and to the quality of the soils below, which are too sandy and acid to be good for farming. On all sides, however, developments of one kind or another have gradually moved in, so that now the central and integral forest is reduced to about a thousand square miles. Although New Jersey has the heaviest population density of any state, huge segments of the Pine Barrens remain uninhabited. The few people who dwell in the region, the “Pineys,” are little known and often misunderstood. Here McPhee uses his uncanny skills as a journalist to explore the history of the region and describe the people—and their distinctive folklore—who call it home. 

Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature  – Mark R. Tercek, Jonathan S. Adams – In Nature’s Fortune, Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy and former investment banker, and science writer Jonathan Adams argue that nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make. The forests, floodplains, and oyster reefs often seen simply as raw materials or as obstacles to be cleared in the name of progress are, in fact as important to our future prosperity as technology or law or business innovation.

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation – Elizabeth Letts – Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a truck bound for the slaughterhouse. The recent Dutch immigrant recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up nag and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, he ultimately taught Snowman how to fly. Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd – When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it’s time to spring them both free. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, toward a town called Tiburon, South Carolina – a name she found on the back of a picture amid the few possessions left by her mother. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters named May, June, and August. Lily thinks of them as the calendar sisters and enters their mesmerizing secret world of bees and honey, and of the Black Madonna who presides over this household of strong, wise women. Maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness entwine in a story that leads Lily to the single thing her heart longs for most.

The Life of Pi – Yann Martel – The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them “the truth.” After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional—but is it more true?

We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever – Benjamin Mee When Benjamin Mee decided to uproot his family and move them to an unlikely new home—a dilapidated zoo where more than 200 exotic animals would be their new neighbors—his friends and colleagues thought he was crazy. Mee’s dream was to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. The grand reopening was scheduled for spring, but there was much work to be done and none of it easy for the novice zookeepers. Tigers broke loose, money was tight, the staff grew skeptical, and family tensions reached a boiling point.

Then tragedy struck. Katherine, Ben’s wife, had a recurrence of a brain tumor, forcing Benjamin and his two young children to face the heartbreak of illness and the devastating loss of a wife and mother. But inspired by the memory of Katherine and the healing power of the incredible family of animals they had grown to love; Benjamin and his kids resolved to move forward, and today the zoo is a thriving success.

 

3 thoughts on “Suggestions for May Reading

  1. and here are the titles that we talked about at the May meeting (aside from the ones above).
    The Quickening by Michelle Hoover – a story set in the early 1900’s about two farm families in the upper midwest with their struggles that take them through the dust bowl depression. This led us to a chat about Ken Burn’s Dust Bowl on PBS and a mention of The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.

    Four Wings and a Prayer by Sue Halpern – a book about the flight of the Monarch butterfly. (this author has also written books about illness – Can’t Remember What I Forgot, The Etiquette of Illness, Migrations to Solitude, and A Dog Walks into A nursing Home.)

    The 3,000 mile Garden: From London to Maine – A correspondence on Gardening, Food, and the Good Life – Leslie Land and Roger Phillips

    The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey Through a Century of Biology – Bernd Heinrich (author of a number of nature books including Mind of the Raven and A Year in the Maine Woods)

    The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden. – very funny

    Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterowd – essays on gardening, flower by flower

    Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katherine S. White – a collection of her columns from The New Yorker

    1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die – editor Rae Spencer-Jones – just what it sounds like – descriptions of some of the most beautiful gardens in the world (with pictures).

    Annals of the Former World – John McPhee – his collected works on North American Geology – all 660 pages of them complete with charts and maps.

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