It's a sunny day in Connecticut this Sunday, and I am confident that Spring is coming! I say that as a dare more than a statement as we actually did have SNOW yesterday. But no matter the weather, my soul is stirring and I'm ready to awaken from my 4 month hybernation to enjoy the outdoors once again. Getting back to nature, that's what it's all about this week as we look at "dirty books" or books about nature. What are some of the things that you enjoy when the weather turns a little warmer and getting outside isn't a major ordeal? I enjoy getting back to nature... Look in the trees and bushes for our feathered friends, looking into the sky and night and seeing the stars, and watching the seeds I plant grow into what nature promised (and the seed pack packaging promised too!). Here are some new books to help welcome the spring with and aim your reading in a different direction...
One Wild Bird at a Time by Bernd Heinrich... The acclaimed scientist/writer's captivating encounters with individual wild birds, yielding "marvelous, mind-altering" insights and discoveries.
Heinrich returns to his great love: close, day-to-day observations of individual wild birds. There are countless books on bird behavior, but, writes Heinrich, “some of the most amazing bird behaviors fall below the radar of what most birds do in aggregate.” Heinrich's “passionate observations [that] superbly mix memoir and science” (New York Times) lead to fascinating questions — and sometimes startling discoveries. A great crested flycatcher bringing food to the young acts surreptitiously and is attacked by the mate. Why? A pair of Northern flickers hammering their nest-hole into the side of Heinrich's cabin deliver the opportunity to observe the feeding competition between siblings, and to make a related discovery about nest-cleaning. One of a clutch of redstart warbler babies fledges out of the nest from twenty feet above the ground, and lands on the grass below. It can't fly. What will happen next? Heinrich “looks closely, with his trademark ‘hands-and-knees science' at its most engaging, [delivering] what can only be called psychological marvels of knowing” (Boston Globe).
Bernd Heinrich is a wonderful writer. I have enjoyed other books he has written about birds and nature and am so looking forward to reading One Wild Bird at a Time. Even if you're not a "birder", I am confident that Bernd Heinrich's writing will draw you in! This is on my wishlist! Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, it will be available April 12th at your local bookstore!
She appeared on TV with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter, and on the pages of Sports Illustrated. The public attention she brought to the little-known footpath was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction. Author Ben Montgomery was given unprecedented access to Gatewood’s own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence. He also unearthed historic newspaper and magazine articles and interviewed surviving family members and hikers Gatewood met along the trail. The inspiring story of Emma Gatewood illustrates the full power of human spirit and determination.
Who can resist a story about a 65 year old grandmother hiking the entire Appalachian Trail! After reading other "walk" books (Wild by Cheryl Strayed!) I'm thinking this will be interesting in its own right. Not directly written by Grandma Gatewood. On my TBR list! Published April 1st by Chicago Review Press, Inc.
The Abundance reminds us that Dillard’s brand of “novelized nonfiction” pioneered the form long before it came to be widely appreciated. Intense, vivid, and fearless, her work endows the true and seemingly ordinary aspects of life—a commuter chases snowball-throwing children through neighborhood streets, a teenager memorizes Rimbaud’s poetry—with beauty and irony, inviting readers onto sweeping landscapes, to join her in exploring the complexities of time and death, with a sense of humor: on one page, an eagle falls from the sky with a weasel attached to its throat; on another, a man walks into a bar.
I'm not really a reader of essays, but when I pick up a book of essays or read something that is considered an essay in a journal or newspaper, by a good writer, I enjoy them. Why don't I read more essays?! Maybe for the same reason people shy away from poetry-- the unfamiliar territory. But in any case, Annie Dillard is a wonderful writer and she writes essays. I checked her book, The Abundance, out from the library this weekend and have enjoyed her writing. Not really a "nature" book per say, but her observations of the world around us. Among her body of work is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which won her a Pulitzer Prize and has been reissued...
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Roanoke Valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "beauty tangled in a rapture with violence."Both of these Annie Dillard books published by Harper Collins and are available now.
From Kirkus Review: Comprised of equal portions of knowledge, delight, and surprise, Mabey’s botanical history advocates for elevating the status of plants within the natural world. Rather than being taken for granted as passive vegetation and viewed as merely “the furniture of the planet,” the author recounts “a story about plants as authors of their own lives and an argument that ignoring their vitality impoverishes our imaginations and our well-being.” Each section opens with a brief essay presenting a theme—e.g., “How To See A Plant,” “The Shock of The Real: Scientists and Romantics,” “The Victorian Plant Theatre”—followed by an exploration of specific plants. For those unschooled in botany, these preliminary excursions are nifty gateways into the unknown. Mabey artfully combines historical and contemporary scientific writings, literary musings, and his personal recollections concerning his plant subjects. The author ranges across time from the interest showed by Paleolithic cave artists and the vegetation in their environment to how both Neolithic farmers and 18th-century scientists attempted to understand the mysteries of agriculture and plant cultivation. Though many of the individuals and a handful of the plants Mabey discusses may be unfamiliar to some American readers, the author skillfully melds together this bounty of insights, opinions, and scientific facts into a coherent and intelligent narrative, overcoming any initial unfamiliarity readers may experience. Numerous drawings and photographs enhance the book. What Mabey does best is invite readers to think about plants in a radical new way, even posing the question as to whether a plant’s sensory abilities—electrostatic charges, chemical communication through pheromones and bio-acoustic sound waves—actually constitute intelligence.
Richard Mabey is a well known British nature writer that I was not familiar with, but while at the library this weekend I happened to pick his book (this book) up and found it so interesting. This book got a star review from Kirkus, and I checked it out to read it more in depth. Published by W.W. Norton & Co., it is available now.
*Wednesday I reviewed Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift, you can find my review HERE if you missed it. Loved the book!
*It's still National Poetry Month! Read all about it HERE!
*Friday I posted a video of poet Rachel Zucker reading her poem "Please Alice Notley..." Click on the poem to hear Rachel read it.
So, that wraps up our "dirty books" for this week! I'm looking forward to getting outside and enjoying the sun and the abundance of nature! Reading about nature is not my main type of reading, but when the urge strikes I do enjoy it. Hope you find something to spark your inner "nature girl" or boy. And if you do read these types of books, please share your favorites! I'd love to have more books to explore!