Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Snoring Bird Will Keep You Awake All Night

The selection for October through December 2014 is Bernd Heinrich's The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey Through A Century of Biology. This is the fourth time we so honor Mr. Heinrich, he is at the top of his game as an author here. Don't be intimidated by the book's sheer size, you won't want it to end!

From Amazon:
Although Gerd Heinrich, a devoted naturalist, specialized in wasps, Bernd Heinrich tried to distance himself from his "old-fashioned" father, becoming a hybrid: a modern, experimental biologist with a naturalist's sensibilities.
In this extraordinary memoir, the award-winning author shares the ways in which his relationship with his father, combined with his unique childhood, molded him into the scientist, and man, he is today. From Gerd's days as a soldier in Europe and the family's daring escape from the Red Army in 1945 to the rustic Maine farm they came to call home, Heinrich relates it all in his trademark style, making science accessible and awe-inspiring.

“A remarkable story.” (Portland Press Herald)

“...beautifully written story of a man’s efforts to reconstruct posthumously the life of his father...” (Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse)

“...scientist and naturalist of the first rank and a nature writer of uncommon talent...” (Edward O. Wilson)

“...amazing saga, full of twists and turns...his magnum opus...vividly descriptive...he has produced his best book ever...” (Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy)

“...I couldn’t leave its has joined the small collection of my most favorite book...” (Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, anthropologist and author of the bestseller The Hidden Life of Dogs)

“...extraordinary...a memoir of fun, daringness and intellectual curiosity, the heartwarming evolution of a modern biologist.” (Jean Craighead George, award-winning author of Julie of the Wolves)

“ one of the premier naturalists of our time...a splendid book, truly compelling, and bound to endure.” (Thomas Eisner)

“Heinrich’s stunning family saga...his magnum opus...vividly descriptive...he has produced his best book ever...” (Alice Calaprice, award winning editor; author of the Quotable Einstein books, The Einstein Almanac, and Dear Professor Einstein)

“...You will not want to put it engrossing and powerful narrative of human achievement...” (Samuel W.F. Wolfgang, author of German Boy and The War of Our Childhood)

“One of the finest living examples of that strange hybrid: the science writer.” (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

“Heinrich, who combines his keen scientific eye with the soul of a poet, enthralls.” (New York Times Book Review)

“The Snoring[s] readers why the work of an observant field biologist still matters.” (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

“Arguably today’s finest naturalist author...our latter-day Thoreau.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Some of Heinrich’s most lyrical writing...the future scientist as a footloose nature boy.” (New York Times Book Review)

“...brilliant...there is in Heinrich’s every page, wonderment.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“...splendid nature writing...a fascinating glimpse of the growth of one scientist’s mind. Heartily recommended.” (Library Journal)

Friday, July 4, 2014


Our gaze turns skyward to Carl Sagan's COSMOS, written to accompany the groundbreaking COSMOS television series. The book is the biggest selling science book of all time, surpassed only by Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. Although some of the science explored in this book has since progressed to new insights, Sagan's personality, humanity and unique perspective makes this still a very worthwhile and illuminating read.  At the time it was written, the cold war and the prospect of nuclear annihilation permeated everyone's subconscious, and this theme is repeatedly touched on in the book. Now we face a different type of end time scenario due to climate change, so this may be a very timely selection to follow Apocalyptic Planet.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Singing in the Wilderness of an Apocalyptic Planet APR/MAY/JUN 2014

For April, May and June, we combine voices from the past and present.  Our selections are The Singing Wilderness by Sigurd Olson and Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth by Craig Childs, winner of the 2013 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. For information on Mr. Olson, one of our most revered authors and environmentalists, check out The Listening Point Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving his wilderness retreat and advancing his legacy of wilderness education. See Mr. Child's website here for details on his book. It will be interesting and to contrast these two writers and their perspectives.

Note: Google now will not allow me to upload photos unless I download their improved surveillance browser Google Chrome, so until that time, this blog will be unadorned with images, unfortunately. Please go to the websites listed for images of the authors and their books.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


“Jon Young is one of the heroes of the new nature movement, an expansion of traditional environmentalism.
With What the Robin Knows, he opens a door to a universe that overlaps modern life, a world lost to most, but found by some—because of teachers like Jon. This elegant book will deepen the kinship between humans and other species. It decodes our common language.”
—Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods
“Here is the ancestral wisdom passed down from Apache elder Stalking Wolf to renowned tracker Tom Brown to Jon Young himself, who in turn passes on to the reader the art of truly listening to the avian soundscape. With all senses more finely tuned, you’ll find yourself more aware of your surroundings, slowing down, and reconnecting with a native intelligence and love of the natural world that lies deep within each of us.”
—Donald Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds and Birdsong by the Seasons
What the Robin Knows is a fascinating introduction to nature study beyond putting names on what we see, not just a guide to paying attention outdoors but full of tips on how to do it. It should help us discover the world of nature around us, often glimpsed but too often overlooked. This is less a book to read than one to use, one that will enrich our hours outdoors.”
Thomas R. Dunlap, author of In the Field, Among the Feathered
“Jon Young knows birds, and you will, too, after reading his marvelous book. You’ll discover a universal bird language that will speak to you wherever you go outdoors. Every nature lover should read this book.“
Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children and John Muir: My Life with Nature.
“This book turns us inside out, opening our minds onto the wider mind of the land itself. It’s a brilliant work, born of a lifetime of listening, teaching, and tracking what really matters. By waking our animal senses, Jon Young’s work replenishes our humanity.”
David Abram, author of Becoming Animal and The Spell of the Sensuous
“Naturalist Young (co-author: Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, 2008) explains how to understand the language of birds.
Trained in anthropology at Rutgers, the author’s passion for bird-watching began in the salt marshes of southern New Jersey where he was raised, but he attributes his real learning to a series of mentors who trained him in Native American traditions.
Young believes that native and scientific knowledge about nature are complementary, and that animal communication is “never just the robins communicating with other robins”—they transmit information to other species, which follow their calls. In his wilderness-training classes, Young teaches students how to listen and understand these communications. However, he notes, it’s a skill that can be practiced by anyone in the backyard or a local park, by choosing a “sit spot” and quietly observing what is happening in the same area every day.
Young stresses the need to sit quietly, allowing the birds to accept our presence; after first flying away in alarm, they will return to their territory. “If we learn to read the birds…we can read the world at large,” he writes.
“The types of birds seen or heard, their numbers and behaviors and vocalizations, will reveal the locations of running water or still water, dead trees, ripe fruit, a carcass, predators, fish runs, insect hatches, and so much more.”
This information, shared by all the birds and animals living in a habitat, was crucial to the survival of hunter-gatherer societies. A trained tracker can learn to recognize how the variations in birdcalls and their behavior when alarmed can identify different predators such as hawks, crows and cats.
A sophisticated guide for amateur bird watchers and a door-opener for newbies.”
-Kirkus’ Reviews