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1. Robbing the Bees : A Biography
$6.29 $4.27 list($6.99)
2. Desert Solitaire
$16.32 list($24.00)
3. Nature Noir : A Park Ranger's
$32.97 list($49.95)
4. The American Woodland Garden:
$9.75 $4.42 list($13.00)
5. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
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6. A Natural History of the Senses
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7. Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who
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8. The Sense of Wonder
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9. Refuge : An Unnatural History
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10. Kinship with All Life : Simple,
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11. Letters from the Hive : An Intimate
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12. The Only Kayak : Journeys into
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13. Coming into the Country
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14. The Big Year : A Tale of Man,
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15. The Spell of the Sensuous : Perception
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16. The Hopes of Snakes : And Other
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17. A Land of Ghosts : The Braided
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18. The Snow Leopard (Penguin Nature
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19. The Solace of Open Spaces
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20. Never Cry Wolf : Amazing True

1. Robbing the Bees : A Biography of Honey--The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World
by Holley Bishop
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.80
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Asin: 0743250214
Catlog: Book (2005-04-04)
Publisher: Free Press
Sales Rank: 855780
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2. Desert Solitaire
by EDWARD ABBEY
list price: $6.99
our price: $6.29
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Asin: 0345326490
Catlog: Book (1985-01-12)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Sales Rank: 2561
Average Customer Review: 4.66 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

With language as colorful as a Canyonlands sunset and a perspective as pointed as a pricklypear, Cactus Ed captures the heat, mystery, and surprising bounty of desert life. Desert Solitaire isa meditation on the stark landscapes of the red-rock West, a passionate vote for wilderness, and a howlinglament for the commercialization of the American outback. ... Read more

Reviews (90)

5-0 out of 5 stars Thank you, Mr Abbey !
When he wrote this book, Cactus Ed did such a great job in describing the canyon country of southern Utah that you can recommend it to everyone who likes widerness. Not the pseudo-one we have today, no, the real one, where you can truly be in touch with the universe. I live overseas and, each time I miss the colourful landscapes of Utah, I read this book and the desert appears before my eyes. But there's not only descriptions, Abbey also try to find solutions to preserve this unique region from all the dam and road builders only looking for profit, and that's not the least interesting part ! Well, if you prefer action, read "The Monkeywrench Gang". Oh yes, Ed's sometime contradictory, but who's not ? And that's also why Desert Solitaire is so powerful : Abbey didn't try to hide the good nor the bad aspects of his life there. It's a book live from the desert !

5-0 out of 5 stars you can't see anything from a car...so start walking!
Best to read if you are visiting Arches, the Grand Canyon, or Lake Powell, or if you have been there, or even if you just wish you were there...
After reading Abbey's incredible illustration of "his" country, you might as well have been there yourself in spirit, if not in body. Desert Solitaire is part memoir, politics, opinion, beauty, myth, journal, eulogy, ravaging accusation of modern society, and general ramblings on the Southwest. There is very little structure, except that the book opens with Abbey entering Arches in the spring as a ranger, and ends with him leaving in the fall. He touches almost every subject under the desert sun. My favorite chapters were:

-"Down the River": on Glen Canyon before the dam
-"Polemic Industrial Tourism and the National Parks": scathing and sarcastic, belittleing the American automobile tourist
-"Rocks": a disturbing legend of the uranium boom in Utah
-"Episodes and Visions": general desert musings and tangents

The best way to describe the feel of this book is the blurb on the back: "rough, tough, combative [...] this book may well seem like a ride on a bucking bronco."

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but uneven...
Edward Abbey's collection of essays about his work at the then Arches National Monument(which he calls National Moneymint to mock the villains who wish to pave over everything). Abbey does have some good points, like we should stop trying to pave over things to make it more convineat to see nature. The whole Glen Canyon tragedy is told, foreshadowing the novel "Monkey Wrench Gang". I did like his wide knowledge of philosophy and the desert fauna and flora, and I relate to his love of the desert, but his prose is a bit(forgive the pun) too arid, and I had to slog through parts of the book. On the whole, I recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Desert Solitaire
This book is awsome. It is hard to believe that 30 years later some of the same problems exist for the NPS. Abbey definitely was a visionary. This book is the best account of real life in a fabulous place. It takes you back to those National Park visits when life was simple and people didn't mind getting out of their car and walking. Today everyone thinks they can "experience" a park from their car, Abbey understood this was coming and didn't mind giving his idea's on the subject. The descriptions of wildlife, flora and fauna are fantastic. You can almost smell the wild flowers. If you really want to experience the canyonlands of Utah, read this book!

3-0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and entertaining but not much Natual History
You've got to admire a man known as the quintessential evironmentalist who writes so gleefully about trashing nearly everyplace he goes. This book is above all humorous and that alone makes this book enjoyable. Abbey is also a good story-teller.

The book chronicles a few seasons Abbey spends as a seasonal ranger in Arches National Monument (now a Park). Abbey describes the environs adequately but in no great depth. What is fascinating is how Abbey relates to the environment and how he interacts with it. Also included are a few other excursions like his float trip down Glen Canyon prior to its flooding by the dam.

My favorite parts are the dumb things Abbey does in the environment. Maybe Abbey is saying that is why we need wilderness. We need someplace to lay naked in the sun, burn down, carve initials into trees, or to get away from tourists. My favorite story is when Abbey lights a wildfire in Glen Canyon with his careless bumbling and runs and jumps on his raft just as the flames roar up to the beach. And Abbey seems to enjoy trashing the environment whenever possible doing stunts like rolling old tires into the Grand Canyon (through a mule train) and continually laying naked out in the boondocks somewhere. He also likes carving his initials in various places. His antics with the tourists who seem to bother him in spite of his job being to help them. There is also a humorous account of being a part of a search for a missing (and dead and bloated) tourist.

All in all, an amusing read more for the insight into Abbey than into the places he visited. And let me also throw in a quote from Abbey's intro. "The time passed extremely slowly, as time should pass, with the days lingering and long, spacious and free as the summers of childhood. There was time enough for once to do nothing...". Anyone who can think and write like that deserves to be read. ... Read more


3. Nature Noir : A Park Ranger's Patrol in the Sierra
by Jordan Fisher Smith
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
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Asin: 0618224165
Catlog: Book (2005-02-08)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 193661
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Book Description

Nature Noir is the story — part Barry Lopez, part James Ellroy — of Jordan Fisher Smith"s fourteen years as a park ranger on a huge tract of government land in the Sierras. As Fisher Smith learns on his first patrol, the wildness in this place tends toward the human kind: desperate miners who scour canyons for gold, bad guys who look like armed rock-and-roll musicians, extreme recreators who enjoy combining motorcycles, parachutes, and high bridges.
This gorgeous land along the American River is destined to be drowned by a huge federal dam, a paradox that colors every day of Fisher Smith"s patrol. The story of life here becomes, among other things, an extraordinary litany of violence and death; dozens of people lost their lives in the canyons of the American River on Fisher Smith"s beat. In one surreal, heart-stopping scene, he comes across the corpse of a woman jogger, killed and partly eaten by a mountain lion — the first Californian to die in that way since the nineteenth century.
Nature Noir illuminates some startling truths about America"s wild lands. And, like Terry Tempest Williams"s Refuge, it feels like the most original new western voice and story to appear for some time.
... Read more


4. The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest
by Rick Darke
list price: $49.95
our price: $32.97
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Asin: 0881925454
Catlog: Book (2002-08-01)
Publisher: Timber Press (OR)
Sales Rank: 12437
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

North America's eastern half, roughly from the Midwest to the Atlantic, was once a great deciduous forest. Although centuries of human intervention have cleared much of the land, the timeless forest remains in the spirit of the place. Today, even the shortest period of human neglect allows for the resurgence of the process of forest creation. The greatest gardens --- and happiest gardeners --- in this area will be those that take into account the nature of the land.

In his unique and often thought-provoking new book, award-winning author Rick Darke promotes and stunningly illustrates a garden aesthetic based on the strengths and opportunities of the woodland, including play of light, sound, and scent; seasonal drama; and the architectural interest of woody plants.

An alphabetical listing of woodland plants offers useful advice for every garden, emphasizing native trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, grasses, sedges, and flowering perennials that fit the forest aesthetic. More than 700 stunning photographs, taken by the author, show both the natural palette of plants in the wild and the effects that can be achieved with them in garden settings.

The American Woodland Garden is a clarion call to a new awareness of our relationship to the natural world. This book will take its rightful place among the classic works that have influenced our concept of the American landscape. ... Read more

Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars beautiful book
This book has a wealth of information and beautiful photographs for inspiration.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Addition to Your Garden Library
I LOVE this book! I have a pretty extensive library of gardening books, but after relocating to the Northeast and starting landscaping projects here on our wooded lot, I felt I needed more references before going any further. Very few books I've looked at do an adequate job of dealing with shade and woodland gardening with the focus on planting native species. There are a great many very pretty books, with boring, dry or even worthless text, but this book utilizes very readable material and photographic compositions that are helpful AND beautiful. The use of photos of grouped plantings, as opposed to individual specimen photography made it far easier visualize possibilities in my own landscaping projects, and I especially liked his photos contrasting various garden views from one season to the next, emphasizing the idea that the beauty of our woodland landscapes aren't just about the obvious drama of spring or fall, but the unique structure and color of each phase of the year. I feel Mr. Darke did a fantastic job with both his text and photography, providing the ideal balance between beauty and practicality, creating a lovely, readable book that also serves as a great gardening reference.

5-0 out of 5 stars This one's a keeper
The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest. Rick Darke

This is one of the most powerful books about our natural world that I have read in a long time. When I picked it up I expected nothing more that a pleasant read and some attractive photographs. This book contains far more. The author manages to combine science-based knowledge of forest ecology with the eye of the artist and the insight of a philosopher. I haven't enjoyed a tree or garden book in years and I don't even live on that side of the continent.

More than half the population of the U.S. lives on land that used to be one vast deciduous forest. Only a patchwork of remnants remains. Rick Darke, author of "The American Woodland Garden" has attempted the difficult task of writing and photographing a portrait of this forest and offering a guide for those who consider creating a woodland garden both for beauty and for their conservation value.

The photographs alone make this book a worthwhile purchase, especially those of the photographic study of one stretch of Red Clay Creek in Pennsylvania. The author portrays, in photographs and notes, the natural patterns and processes of this tiny section of creek that he passed daily on his way to work. He writes "What began as a simple exercise in observation has proved to be one of the most essential elements in my education as a gardener." The resulting series of photographs is both simple and profound. Most of us know little stream beds like this; often we pass them routinely in our day-to-day commuting. We seldom pause to record the details - a flower is in bloom, a branch has fallen, the way one tree's foliage complements another. But for the author there were complex lessons to be learned, not least of which was the inevitability of change in the forest. Not only seasonal changes, but the effects of high winds, heavy rain and, of course, the hand of man.

Make sure to read the preface to understand the author's frame of reference (I often skip it, thinking 'same old, same old') but this one conveys you comfortably into the realm of the forest and into the author's world view. His first chapter "A Forest Aesthetic - The Eye of the Artist" shows you the colour cycles and architecture of the forest, while the second chapter is the aforementioned study of the woodland stream. The third and fourth chapters relate the spirit of the forest to the spirit of a woodland garden. The final, and longest, chapter details the plants of the woodland.

For the gardener or designer the lesson, beyond a deeper understanding of the woodland itself, is not to copy the forest but to reflect it, to make the most of colours, patterns and processes and to celebrate the spirit of the forest and bring it closer.

It would demean this book to call it a coffee table book, although the large format and superb illustrations would earn it a place on any coffee table. But by all means put it on your coffee table, because you will want it handy to pick up again and again as you keep returning to take this spiritual journey again and again with the author.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wow!
This is a terrific book. First, it's a beautiful book to look at and peruse. Second, Rick Darke's message is powerful and is defining a modern view of gardening that is reminiscent of Emerson and Thoreau. Darke integrates gardening into the natural world, using natural forms and blending man-made landscape into the forest from which many of our homes were carved. If you have the chance to hear Rick Darke speak, don't miss it!

5-0 out of 5 stars A Personal Look at the Northeastern Forest
Rick Darke has produced another gem. Darke's approach is unique; part Edwin Way Teale and part Gertrude Jeckyl, he looks at woodland beauty from many aspects; both for the love of it and in order to reproduce it in the garden. The book has four main sections, an appreciation of natural plant arrangements in the forest, a study of a small section of a woodland creek over many years, application of natural design principles in established gardens and a description of horticulturally useful forest plants. Each section is lavishly illustrated with beautiful and well-reproduced photographs.

In the first unit, the author looks at natural woodlands and natural gardens from the point of view of an artist and gardener. His goal is to define those natural combinations that are pleasing and translate them to culture. His discussion of color was particularly novel and helpful.

The second section follows the changes wrought by nature in a section of the Red Clay Creek in SE Pennsylvania. Not merely a catalog of events, this exercise in observation reveals how natural beauty evolves over time and through the seasons.

In the third section, a number of public and private gardens are used to illustrate the authors vision of the narural garden.

Finally, the last part of the book describes the main plants in the northeastern forest. It contains a wealth of cultural and aesthetic information.

Each section alone is worth the price of this handsome volume. This is a garden book to savor and to learn from. ... Read more


5. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
by Annie Dillard
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0060953020
Catlog: Book (1998-10-28)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 12217
Average Customer Review: 3.85 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

An exhilarating meditation on nature and its seasons-a personal narrative highlighting one year's exploration on foot in the author's own neighborhood in Tinker Creek, Virginia. In the summer, Dillard stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she collects pond water and examines it under a microscope. She unties a snake skin, witnesses a flood, and plays -King of the Meadow' with a field of grasshoppers. ... Read more

Reviews (163)

5-0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting and fun to read
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is an exceptional book. It is like a modern day version of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. The deep thoughts and intricate details bring to life images that have not been experienced before. For example, when Dillard tells about the water bug sucking the frog, it brings to mind a very gruesome image that the reader just cannot get rid of. Yet, this image also sucks the reader in for more. Also, the exotocally intense descriptions make grotesque actions more beautiful, such as when the praying mantis lays its eggs. While writing about the praying mantis laying its eggs, Dillard seems almost frantic to get it all down. It is almost childlike, like a child who is to agitated by the sunlight and all of the beautiful things outside to stay inside and do their work. This technique makes the book more playful,fun, and attractive to young readers.

Dillard's paragraphs are woven together into tightly knit chapters by the nice transitions. The full circle effect ties up all of the loose ends at the end of each chapter and then again at the end of the book. The similes that are throughout the book make the book very poetic and intriguing. Dillard's obsessiveness with nature is intriguing because the reader does not know what she is goint say or do next.

Dillard's Actions bring the book to life. When she is describing running from tree to tree so that she would not be seen, the reader gets a sense of how full of life she is and how happy she is just doing simple things out in nature. Also, when she is less then four feet from the snake, she just sits there amazed by it like a child.

I never thought that I would read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but as a part of a class I had to. Now that I have read it, I am glad that I did read it because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend it to everybody.

3-0 out of 5 stars Tinkerin Around
Upon receiving the assignment of posting a review for a piece of nature-related literature in my AP Language and Composition III class, my stomach did cartwheels while my brain collapsed in desperation. Had I not suffered enough? We had finally accomplished the miraculous feat of Thoreau's Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. The looming title, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, sent shudders down my spine. There was no way this high school junior could withstand anymore elaborate descriptions of creeks or lakes or ponds or wherever this Dillard woman chose. I dreaded the return from spring break when we would begin another punish....err, I mean assignment.

Surprise. Annie Dillard writes with the knowledge of Thoreau, but updates and modernizes his transcendental writing skill. At times, I had to do a double take and reread about the wolf slicing his tongue open and bleeding to death, or the poor frog sipped like a kid's slurpee on a sweltering July day. From the world of Eskimos to the mating of luna moths and sleeping with tons of fish in the bed, Dillard's book comes alive with Jeopardy-worthy trivia, up close and personal descriptions, and poetic completions. She employs telegraphic sentences throughout the work, adding spunk and playfulness as well as giving way to awesome transitions. Cramming allusions into every nook 'n cranny, she often questions "the Creator," but ends in praise.

Can I praise Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek? Although she tosses in a little more Latin and gross observations than I prefer to sink my teeth into, it is a well-written book deserving of your attention. Her spirit is contagious; now will you see the light in the trees?

4-0 out of 5 stars She flies her sentences like a kite.
I enjoyed it immensely, even if its sentences are overwrought often to an annoying degree. I appreciate how she looks at the world in poetry: the world is a painting, and we are the poets charged with understanding it. The thing about Dillard is that in spite of the fact that her uber-emotive imagination stands in that place in her brain where my philosopher/mathematician stands in mine, she can still ask brilliant--even terrible--questions without all of the normal dillusions about what the alternative answers really are.

There are downsides: the overdone sentences, the fact that not every chapter drove forward toward the point--or even manifested her goal. But one reads her and agrees, at the end of it, that yes, she earned that Pulitzer after all.

And to all of the "bright AP English" students out there, for goodness sake put the book down and leave the book reviews alone. It just isn't for you. Pick it up again once you've lived some more of life.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Read from an Interesting Author
Overall, a very interesting read. The adjective "interesting" can be taken in more than one sense, however. For example,
A. The subject matter found within is unique and intriguing, revealing tidbits about nature one would not discover in a normal lifetime.
B. Writing styles and techniques change throughout the book. At times Dillard is darkly pessimistic, while turning around a few sentences later to include some light wit. There is a lot of imaginative figurative language found that augments the writing a good deal.
C. The author herself is an ... amusing person. I never would have thought one person could be so thoroughly interested in nature, at least if I had not read Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, before.
And since the topic of Walden comes up, a comparison of the two would be appropriate. Dillard is much more appropriate for a modern audience. Both contain many insightful thoughts about nature and its relation to life, but you have to sift through a good deal of gunk to get to those points in Walden.
So, I would recommend this book, along with Walden, to anyone willing to take it seriously and probably get grossed out a few times. The time and mental strain will be worth it in the end.

3-0 out of 5 stars Conent or Creation
As a part of our AP Language and Composition Class, I was given the task of reading two books I ordinarly would have never even pulled off the shelf, much less read cover to cover. The two books were Walden by Henry David Thoreau and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I must say I was dredding reading them both, but now, five hundred and some odd pages later, I must say I am glad I was made to experience them.
The books themselves are compared most often, many say the message is the same and both Dillard and Thoreau were on the same journey; I however found they were entirely different and unique in their own ways.
Dillard uses all forms of rhetorical techniques to appeal to all of the reader's senses. The use of similes (on almost every page I might add) shows both a crisp sense of detail and a beautiful poetic style. The many allusions to books, including the Bible, shows Dillard is well read and knowledgeable about the many interesting subjects she discusses within each chapter. Her keen sense of detail, both beautiful and disgusting at times, allows the reader to truly connect with nature and begin to see life from her perspective. The description of the people with newly restored sight has lead me to look at my own life in a new patch of color.
Dillard has also clearly mastered the full circle effect and the use of telegraphic sentences and transitions at the percise time. Her use of ancedotes and scientific facts show her book is definitely a well construction piece of art.
The most enjoyable part about the book is not for me was not the content, but the way in which Dillard arranged the chapters and paragraphs so carefully that the book flowed like a river from beginning to end.
If nature and nonfiction is you thing then I would definitely recommend the book. As for Walden, good luck. ... Read more


6. A Natural History of the Senses
by DIANE ACKERMAN
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679735666
Catlog: Book (1991-09-10)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 5887
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

"One of the real tests of writers," notes Ackerman in this liveliest of nature books, "is how well they write about smells. If they can't describe the scent of sanctity in a church, can you trust them to describe the suburbs of the heart?" Ackerman passes the test, writing with ease and fluency about the five senses. Did you know that bat guano smells like stale Wheat Thins? That Bach's music can quell anger around the world? That the leaves that shimmer so beautifully in fall have "no adaptive purpose"? Ackerman does, and she guides us through questions of sensation with an eye for the amusingly arcane reference and just the right phrase. ... Read more

Reviews (40)

5-0 out of 5 stars Poetry and Science
When I first read Diane Ackerman's book it opened my eyes, just as these other reviews testify. It does seem to be a book people either love or hate (I have some friends who thought it was sentimental babbling) but that doesn't change how extravagantly Ackerman uses language itself to convey the lush world of the senses. I teach a creative writing course at SFSU and I use the book to promote both that poetic description and the possibilities for experience and awareness the book evokes. An excellent example of the ways poetry can be used to explain science and experience.

5-0 out of 5 stars A cultural, creative, and sensory delight
After reading a few of Ackerman's New Yorker pieces, as well as The Moon by Whale Light and her contribution to Sisters of the Earth, I knew I would eventually read all of her books. A Natural History of the Senses does not disappoint. It flows like cool water through literature, history, music, politics, philosophy, and poetry. As a writer, I appreciate this book as a resource of my own, a way to deepen my understanding of our sensory appreciation of the world - but also as an example of beautiful writing by a master of the craft.
In a nutshell, I wish Diane Ackerman lived next door to me.

5-0 out of 5 stars This book changed my life...
I read "A Natural History of the Senses" about ten years ago just a few months out of art school. I thought that I was fully engaged in the world and was aware of all that was around me. I soon learned that I was mistaken. I had been moving through the world virtually half-asleeep, just pushing my way through crowds and not really paying attention. I began opening myself fully to all experiences (through my senses) and I started to feel alive in a new way. I began a slow but steady transformation that has meant everything to me. Touch moved me most and eventually I went back to school and became a Massage Therapist. I am able, not only to experience my world in a new way; but I am also able to share something as comforting as massage with someone else. That is truly amazing!!

Diane Ackerman's style is enlightening and poetic. A Natural History of the Senses is one of those books that you share with good friends and read over and over again. I still have my very first paperback copy (now autographed and a bit tattered) and it inspires me to be aware every day!

4-0 out of 5 stars Delightful prose and broad brush strokes of wonder!
DA has a wonderful writing style that makes reading her book a sensory pleasure in its own. At the risk of sounding sexist, it must be mentioned that the power of this book lies in the wonderfully delicate and detailed descriptions of the various senses and their experiences. While DA has chosen a subject that is reasonably biological, it is her descriptive flair for the minutiae, her almost artistic way of writing and her sense of joy and wonder which she conveys; all make this book a wonderfully engrossing tale about our sense organs.

While DA succeeds at opening our eyes (and ears, nose.... etc) to the world around us, perhaps the only shortcoming of the book lies in creating expectations in the reader of a rigorous treatment in the biological/evolutionary development of the sense organs. The reader seeking such a detailed analysis of the senses and their development would be served better by looking elsewhere. However, this book is a tasty little morsel and food for thought.

Definitely worth a read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Adventures in sensuality.
Diane Ackerman not only explains why the fall leaves are changing colors outside my window (p. 257), but why the prairie dogs also living here are color-blind to the change of seasons (p. 265). In her fascinating study of the human senses, Ackerman, a poet and naturalist, demonstrates her talent for blending art, history, anthropology, psychology, literature, and natural science to define one of life's biggest questions: what it means to be human and fully alive. In understanding "the gorgeous fever that is consciousness," she explores the origin and evolution of the five senses, how they vary culturally, their limits and taboos, their folklore and science, and "what they can teach us about the ravishing world we have the privilege to inhabit" (p. xix). Along the way, obviously in love with the mysteries of life, Ackerman explains such things as why eating chocolate reproduces the sense of well-being we feel when we're in love (p. 154), why eating $500-a-pound truffles "make one's loins smolder like those of randy lions" (p. 161), why we close our eyes when we kiss (p. 230), and why we spend forty-nine million dollars on a van Gogh painting (p. 268). Reading A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES brought me to the edge of my senses. This book is among the best books I've ever read.

G. Merritt ... Read more


7. Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
by Laurence Gonzales
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393326152
Catlog: Book (2004-10-30)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 4998
Average Customer Review: 4.26 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"Unique among survival books...stunning...enthralling. Deep Survival makes compelling, and chilling, reading."—Penelope Purdy, Denver Post

After her plane crashes, a seventeen-year-old girl spends eleven days walking through the Peruvian jungle. Against all odds, with no food, shelter, or equipment, she gets out. A better-equipped group of adult survivors of the same crash sits down and dies. What makes the difference?

Examining such stories of miraculous endurance and tragic death—how people get into trouble and how they get out again (or not)—Deep Survival takes us from the tops of snowy mountains and the depths of oceans to the workings of the brain that control our behavior. Through close analysis of case studies, Laurence Gonzales describes the "stages of survival" and reveals the essence of a survivor—truths that apply not only to surviving in the wild but also to surviving life-threatening illness, relationships, the death of a loved one, running a business during uncertain times, even war.

Fascinating for any reader, and absolutely essential for anyone who takes a hike in the woods, this book will change the way we understand ourselves and the great outdoors. ... Read more

Reviews (23)

2-0 out of 5 stars Restates The Obvious..
After reading many glowing reviews of this book by self-proclaimed survival experts and others, I was looking forward to my copy. Unfortunately, I don't think this book brings anything new or astounding to the survival literature genre.

Many critics have painstakingly noted that Deep Survival does not deal with the mechanics of 'how to' survive, but rather the psychological mindset of how successful survivors dealt with their situation - it's almost as if they believe this element hasn't been dealt with by others (nonsense, of course). Indeed, many people celebrating this book seem to ridicule the idea of actually acquiring survival skills or planning for unforseen situations, as Deep Survival doesn't focus on this aspect. Despite this, some of the book's own survival stories, such as Steve Callahan's lifeboat ordeal, pay testament to the importance of someone who not possessed the correct mental attitude, but ALSO pre-acquired survival knowledge such as knowledge of edible fish and improvised sea navigation AND carried emergency equipment (three solar stills) that proved to be instrumental in his survival.

In a nutshell, the book takes 300 pages to deliver what should be three very self-evident messages: Don't bite off more than you can chew, know when it's time to quit, and don't be afraid to call for help when you're in trouble. I think most mature people can understand and practice that advice. But if you're the type of person that needs repeated examples of survival stories for this to sink in, then you need this book. Otherwise, forget it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful
Those who are focusing on whether or not Gonzales is actually instructing you on how to survive in the wild are completely missing the point of Deep Survival. As a totally urban chick who'd rather die than hike, I bought the book not because I wanted to learn about mountaineering, but to investigate why I've survived a blood disorder that has killed others. And thanks to this book, I've gotten my answer. Gonzales beautifully explains and explores the paradox that must be absorbed completely if one is to live through a catastrophe--which is that to survive something, you must surrender to it, basically fall into it, accepting all the pain and suffering, if you're ever going to get out of it. When you're able to quickly adapt to a new reality and make this new place--however frightening--your new home, you've a much better chance of surviving than the person who's in denial. For one thing, your sense of spirituality and wonder deepens, and this is a tremendous life force in and of itself. It helps you enjoy where you ARE, instead of frantically trying to get to where you think you should be. This is simply a great life lesson, whether you're lost in the woods, or just trying to live a happier existence.

He explains the paradox so well--that in order to survive, one must surrender, yet at the same time not give in. There must be a sheer raw determination to win the game, yet an acceptance of possibly losing it as well, which paradoxically, gives you an edge. And if you can muster a playful spirit on top of it all, well--then you're just golden. A *great* read.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Most Important Book You Will Ever Read
As a person who spent 23 years in the military and many days in dangerous environments, I have to say, you must read this book slowly and memorize the lessons. Whether you are a city person or a country person, this book contains information you may need in an instant. This book explains many of the lessons I learned thought the great college of hard knocks. Had I read this book I would have been so much better prepared to face the many of the challenges I have survived. I made many decisions that lead to my survival. This book would have made that easier. Many times I was in for more danger than I understood. This book would have made my life safer. It will make your life safer. The first chapters are difficult. The end is exciting. The whole book is essential both to your knowledge and your library. Buy it here now.

2-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I was very excited when I first started reading this book because the concept is so promising. I was expecting story after story of outdoor adventures gone bad along with an analysis of why the people did (or didn't) survive. Whatever this book is, it definitely isn't that.

I gave up on this book after four chapters, so maybe it gets better later on, but the parts I read were very haphazardly put together. Accounts from real life survival stories are intermixed with the author's philosophy on survival physiology. In addition, the author often makes back references to small facts from earlier scenarios, which is very disrupting to the rhythm of the story.

I would recommend reading the annual "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" series instead.

5-0 out of 5 stars Survival skills for the wilderness and life.
Deep Survival Review

Last year my family visited the west (Sedona, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Lake Powel). Upon arrival at Bryce I walked from the lodge to the canyon. Despite warning signs and the fact that I had all the information I needed right before my eyes if it had not been for a lady sitting on a bench at the edge of the canyon I warning me I would have walked right off the edge of the canyon and fallen surely to my death. I was about thee inches from the edge when she spoke to me and I 'perceived' that I was about three inches from the edge and the next step would be my last.

I thought a lot about that experience as I read Deep Survival. The author's discussions about perception of danger and the lack of it leading to deep trouble in the wilderness, on you home street or in business was invaluable. This is a wonderful thought provoking book. It caused me to think back over several trips into the wilderness I have taken and I now view them quite differently. It will also affect future explorations. This book kind of reminds me to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

My recommendation: Get this book. I originally read a library copy but I have ordered my own copy so I can mark it up and highlight important passages. If you love the adventure of life get this book so adventure does not turn into tragedy. ... Read more


8. The Sense of Wonder
by Rachel Carson
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 006757520X
Catlog: Book (1998-05-11)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Sales Rank: 27274
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Not long before she died in 1964, the noted environmental writer Rachel Carson wrote an essay for Woman's Home Companion magazine called "Helping Your Child to Wonder." In that essay--reprinted here, with photographs of natural subjects by Nick Kelsh--Carson urged parents to take their children to wild places in order to introduce them to the astonishing variety of life that exists all around us: to study birds, listen to the winds, and observe the stars. Too much of the child's subsequent education, she warns, will be devoted to dimming that "clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring" with which children are born; it is the parent's task to be an adult guide who can in turn rediscover the "excitement and mystery of the world we live in." Carson's words are timely, and this beautifully illustrated edition makes a fine gift for new and prospective mothers and fathers. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Renew your Sense of Wonder
I loved this book. Not only was Carson's essay wonderfully thought-provoking, but it was poetic as well. Her message is simple, if you love nature, share that love with a young person...so that they, too, might one day pass it along. By sharing your love of nature, you help carry hope that we will begin to take a little better care of our mother earth.

The book includes photographs which compliment Carson's words. Thank you for reminding us to share our love of the natural world.

This would be a wonderful gift for a new parent or new grandparent.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonder, marvel, admire, dream
I'm a 78 year old grandmother. This book opens doors to nature and humanity in a gently subtle magical, mystical way. It's a book to read, and to EXPERIENCE. If you are fortunate enough to be living with children it is a chance to open new doors of wonder. All of you will be enchanted! What a joy. A great gift book!!!

5-0 out of 5 stars A treasure of a book
This book was recommended to me by a friend some years ago. She told me that she had read this book in her youth and it had changed her life. At the time, the book was still out of print, but I managed to find a well-read copy through inter-library loan. After reading it, I can well understand how this little book can transform a person's way of thinking. In a very personal and lyrical remembrance, Rachel Carson shares her vision of the natural world and the wonder it inspires. "A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood," Rachel Carson writes. And this book, filled with its sage and poetic insight, and illustrated with luscious photographs of the natural world is a first step toward rediscovering that amazing sense of wonder within. I particularly love her thoughts about one starry summer night when she muses, "if this (the starry sky) were a sight that could be seen only once in a century...this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they will never see it." This wisdom is both a gift to the young and the old alike. I only wish I had read it sooner. When I found the book in print again, I promptly bought it, and have read it over and over. It is a treasure that will be enjoyed for years.

5-0 out of 5 stars This essay is a gift for the future, for the next generation
Few people in English speaking countries do not know the name, Rachel Carson, the author of "Silent Spring", which shocked the world and made her a pioneer of environmental protection in the 1960's.@You may find her name on the White House official home page, where vice-president Gore warns of environmental crisis, quoting extracts from Carson, and notes her important contributions in this connection.@ She already knew of her coming death from cancer while writing the book.@"The Sense of Wonder" is an unfinished essay dedicated to her orphaned nephew Roger, and written while struggling with her deadly illness.@In contrast to Silent Spring, which has been translated into many languages and is a best seller throughout the world, this essay has been out of print for a long time, even in the United States. I think it is meaningful to publish this essay again at this point in history.@More than 35 years have passed since "Silent Spring", however, I wonder if we've listened to her warnings.@There has been a massive increase in the effects of garbage, air pollution, global warming, and chemicals which markedly affect our eco-system, including the human beings.@ This essay is a gift for the future, for the next generation of people who will have to discover their human nature in a world where nature has been diminished and degraded. ... Read more


9. Refuge : An Unnatural History of Family and Place
by TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0679740244
Catlog: Book (1992-09-01)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 8574
Average Customer Review: 4.68 out of 5 stars
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The only constants in nature are change and death. Terry Tempest Williams, a naturalist and writer from northern Utah, has seen her share of both. The pages of Refuge resound with the deaths of her mother and grandmother and other women from cancer, the result of the American government's ongoing nuclear-weapons tests in the nearby Nevada desert. You won't find the episode in the standard history textbooks; the Feds wouldn't admit to conducting the tests until women and men in Utah, Nevada, and northwestern Arizona took the matter to court in the mid-1980s, and by then thousands of Americans had fallen victim to official technology. Parallel to her account of this devastation, Williams describes changes in bird life at the sanctuaries dotting the shores of the Great Salt Lake as water levels rose during the unusually wet early 1980s and threatened the nesting grounds of dozens of species. In this world of shattered eggs and drowned shorebirds, Williams reckons with the meaning of life, alternating despair and joy. ... Read more

Reviews (28)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent weaving together of place and heart
Now that I have read Terry Tempest Williams' excellent book on finding refuge in the areas around the Great Salt Lake, I find I want to visit, to see for myself the stunning landscape and myriad of birdlife. I also find myself drawn to this courageous woman who lets us into this difficult part of her life, as her mother passes into the shadow of cancer. Not for the first time, we learn, and not such a rare occurrence in her family, we discover; a discovery that, for me, evoked anger at the unfairness of exposing human beings to atomic bomb test fallout. There is so much in this book: the detailed descriptions of the birds and their habits, the extraordinary unfolding of the progression of cancer and its effect on the family, the interplay of three women -- grandmother, mother, daughter -- and through it all, the gentle and exquisite writing carried me nearly effortlessly, yet with great strength. I can find no fault with the writing, the evocative images, the revelation of relationships, and the treatment of this undoubtedly amazing place. Thank you, Terry, for writing this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A refuge becomes a sanctuary
As the Great Salt Lake rose to submerge and destroy the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, grief rose and submerged Terry Tempest William's spirit with the destruction of her mother and grandmother by cancer. The gradual regeneration of the Refuge with the subsiding of the lake parallels the regeneration of her spirit and the subsiding of her grief. But the pain and the scars remain and transform. Terry is no longer an accepting trusting Mormon daughter but a searching questioning activist after her tumultuous emotional experience. One wonders if the gifts of awareness and sensitivity are worth the price of the pain endured. The Refuge becomes a sanctuary for the returning birds and Terry's returning spirit. No more moving piece has been written about the folly and ultimate tragedy of human intervention in the environment. From the nuclear testing of the 1950s to the manipulation of the level of the Great Salt Lake, there is much to learn about the long term consquences of our short sighted acts. Everyone should read and reread and pass on this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars admirable
I give Ms. Williams points for her honesty. The book is at times insightful. Her relationship to the environment is admirable and her use of the Great Salt Lake as metaphor is quite poetic. Ms. William's ideas on solitude and our place in the landscape are something that I can relate to and appreciate. I too lost my mother to breast cancer in Utah. There is much about Ms. Williams that I admire.

I believe that this was her first book and it is often pretentious which is excusable in a first work. She over uses simile, as new writers often do, which only trivializes the piece. It is often disjointed which I am certain is how life felt to Ms. Williams as she lived through these simultaneous life changing events.

I recommend it as a loving tribute to Ms Williams's mother and the Utah landscape and as an honest portrayal of her personal growth in relationship.

2-0 out of 5 stars I tried to like this book, but just couldn't -and here's why
Living in Utah, having a Master's Degree in Aquatic Ecology from BYU, being a physician, and LDS, I get given a copy of this book every year or so from someone who admires this book. Having read this book several times (There are well-written and interesting parts), I usually then ask them what they think about some aspect of the book like the anti-male stance of the author. Most people look puzzled and then admit they have never really read the book, they just heard from someone else that it was really good.

Since this book deals with Utah, aquatic ecology, medicine, and Mormonism and most of the reviewers of this book gloss over the nuts and bolts of this book, I thought I would share my impressions of this book since I have some expertise in all these areas.

First of all, it really isn't that interesting. It took me several aborted attempts before I actually finished the thing and I love reading. Yes, portions of it are good prose, but I would usually finish 10 pages or so and be unable to say what exactly it was that I had just read. The writing reminds me of Annie Dillard - confusing and over-rated in general. There are other writers who have joined personal and family travails with nature much better. Read Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It" after reading "Refuge" and you will see that there is really no comparison; Maclean is so obviously superior that you wonder why anyone ever told you "Refuge" was that good.

Williams attempts to tie together her mother's and grandmother's breast cancer possibly caused by radiation exposure to 1950's nuclear tests to the flooding of a bird refuge in the 1980's. She really doesn't do this that well and this lack of similarity makes the whole book choppy at best and disjointed and irrelevant at worst. Throwing in a little tiresome male-bashing, church-bashing, and anyone-that-doesn't-think-like-me-bashing really grates on the reader after a while and you finish the book feeling like you need to take a long shower to remove the grime from your mind.

That said, the strength of this book is the account of how the female family members cope with breast cancer that runs through the generations. This is also the weakness of the book because the author has such a glaring lack of insight of the male members of the family and their feelings. Yes, Ms. Williams, men have feelings too!

The last portions of this book are laughable with some mystical feminist eco-worshippers sneaking onto some government test range. Apparently because these women chant and sway and have uteri, there is some mystical significance to this act of pointless civil disobedience. Well anyway, I don't recommend reading this book for anything other than the accounts of breast cancer coping. The anti-Utah, anti-Male, anti-Mormon aspects, and the real lack of anything meaningful regarding ecology makes this book not worth the effort, in my opinion.

1-0 out of 5 stars read Edward Abbey instead
This book is overrated and self-indulgent. If you do read it, don't feel compelled to like it just because you've heard so many good things about it. ... Read more


10. Kinship with All Life : Simple, Challenging, Real-Life Experiences Showing How Animals Communicate with
by J. Allen Boone
list price: $12.95
our price: $9.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060609125
Catlog: Book (1976-01-28)
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco
Sales Rank: 106699
Average Customer Review: 4.57 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Is there a universal language of love, a "kinship with all life" that can open new horizons of experience?

Example after example in this unique classic -- from "Strongheart" the actor-dog to "Freddie" the fly -- resounds with entertaining and inspiring proof that communication with animals is a wonderful, indisputable fact. All that is required is an attitude of openness, friendliness, humility, and a sense of humor to part the curtain and form bonds of real friendship.

For anyone who loves animals, for all those who have ever experienced the special devotion only a pet can bring, Kinship With All Life is an unqualified delight. Sample these pages and you will never encounter "just a dog" again, but rather a fellow member of nature's own family.

... Read more

Reviews (21)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the BEST I've read
This is a GREAT book! The fact that it was written a number of years ago, only adds to the fact that it is also rational. Written in a time where not many people believed or cared about animals feelings, it describes how the author's life is touched by an exceptional animal. He considers himself rational, but realizes-through teachings from Strongheart-that he needs some work. Far fetched?. . . Not at all. When you read the book in it's entirety, you'll experience Boone's life with Strongheart as if you were there. His chapters about energy being the common thread in all living things is not to be missed. It is one of the clear explanations as to how and why animals (including us)communicate the way we do. Perhaps if (reviewer) scoval300 would open his heart to a non-human friend he'd realize there is much more to that unconditional love they send to us all. Need glasses?

5-0 out of 5 stars What a mind-opener
This is a small book, easily read in a couple hours. Yet its impact is enormous. The author receives his new understanding of animals by babysitting a famour Hollywood dog actor, who ends up becoming his teacher. By sincerely and unreservedly acknowledging animals as equal to man, he learns that they too communicate and share this world as expressions of the Creator. From his beginnings with the dog Strongheart he builds relationships with a skunk, ants invading his home who leave the next day at his request, and he even befriends a fly for a short time who teaches him many things about man and his arrogance, prejudices and cruelty.

If I take this book to heart, I will have to treat my own "pets" (companions) in a new light. How can I pick my cat up and hug her when she makes it so clear to me she doesn't like being confined in this way? I will no longer be able to think of them as a subspecies, below humans, deserving our condescension and care. I hope some day I can bridge that gap between my species and theirs and hear what they have to think about the world and their place in it. I believe it's possible.

5-0 out of 5 stars Petting a Fly
This is my all-time favorite book, and I am a voracious reader.

I have taken its teachings to heart, and it has changed my life, along with the Kamana program (www.kamana.org). On June 24, 2004, I was sitting outside, and noticed a large fly sunning herself nearby. She was beautiful! (I am guessing female, because females are larger than males.) After admiring her a few minutes, I examined her from about 6 inches away. She had beautiful orange eyes with silver markings along the inside edges, four serrated/veined stripes down her back, transluscent wings, mottled/checkered abdomen, hairy legs, and definite feet. I later found it was Musca domestica. Recalling this "Kinship with All Life" book, I invited her to climb onto my hand. She did! I asked her if she wanted to play "Toss Up". Then I jerked my hand up, she flew off, and before my hand came down she had flown back down onto my finger. I tried again, even harder, but she firmly grasped my finger. I figured she didn't want to play any more. I asked her if she wanted me to pet her. She crawled off my finger onto the lid of lawn trimmings bin. I petted her three or four times with my left index finger. Then she crawled 2 inches away, sat a minute, then flew to a nearby flower. Overall, an amazing experience, and one I would not have thought to try if I had not read this book.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Bit Far Fetched, I'd Say
A weird book, written many years ago. I really think the author is a bit delirious---friendship with a fly..........? Judge for yourself. It has its good points, is easy and fast reading--makes some valid points about how humans should treat animals, that is true, but the whole book is just a bit far fetched. I would not recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Delicate and profound, way ahead of its time
Someone I know received an old copy of this book from the estate of an elderly English lady. What a gift! It is a series of stories about how a man learns to treat other living beings as his fellows rather than his inferiors. Sounds simple, but is it? Reading this book, one feels in contact with an open-minded and open-hearted individual, gifted with a rare willingness to be taught by life, who was rewarded richly for it. This book is both about animals and about the spiritual lessons the author receives from them. He emphasizes that it is on a spiritual level, and not the intellectual one, that "kinship with all life" is real. Certainly this book is in harmony with the great mystics of all religions, of whose teachings Boone appears to have been well aware. To think that these writings date from the 1940s and 50s! One can only admire such an individual. I finished the book with the impression that it was not only decades but perhaps centuries ahead of its time, and that it will someday be regarded as a lost classic, standing far apart from and above its age. ... Read more


11. Letters from the Hive : An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind
by STEPHEN BUCHMANN, BANNING REPPLIER
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0553803751
Catlog: Book (2005-04-26)
Publisher: Bantam
Sales Rank: 673177
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12. The Only Kayak : Journeys into the Heart of Alaska
by Kim Heacox
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 1592287158
Catlog: Book (2005-05-01)
Publisher: The Lyons Press
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Book Description

"I live in the sunshine of friends and the shadows of glaciers. I suppose I will die there too, if all goes well. No hurry though. The hardness of water, the ebb and flow of ice, the once and future glaciers of America, they created my home and they will destroy it. My winter is only a heartbeat to them. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't born in a cave or raised by wolves. I grew up on pavement and the soft seat of a Schwinn Red Racer, gripping the handlebars with everything I had. Then I let go. Somewhere along the way I let go and found something new, but also something ancient. I moved to Glacier Bay, Alaska, the last wild shore, nine hundred miles north of Seattle and nine hundred years in the past, and I never came back." --from The Only Kayak

So begins a coming-of-middle-age memoir by Kim Heacox who writes in the tradition of Edward Abbey, John McPhee and Henry David Thoreau, his voice at times tender, irate, funny,and deeply humane. What he finds in Alaska is a land reborn from beneath a massive glacier (one hundred miles long, five thousand feet thick), where flowers emerge from boulders, moose swim fjords, and bears cross crevasses with Homeric resolve. In such a place Heacox finds that people are reborn too. Friends become family in a land of risk and hope. Lives begin anew with incredible journeys, epiphanies, and successes. All in an America free of crass commercialism and over-development.

Braided through the larger story are tales of gold prospectors and the cabin they built sixty years ago, a cabin that refuses to fall down; plus tales of John Muir and his intrepid terrier, Stickeen; and a dynamic geology professor who teaches earth science "as if every day were a geological epoch."

Nearly two million people come to Alaska every summer, some on large cruise ships, some in two-seater planes, some in single kayaks--all in search of the last great wilderness, the Africa of America. It is exactly the America Heacox finds in this story of paradox, love and loss, the conflict between idealism and learning to accept that some things can never quite stay the same.
... Read more

13. Coming into the Country
by John McPhee
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0374522871
Catlog: Book (1991-04-01)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 7806
Average Customer Review: 4.83 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Residents of the Lower 48 sometimes imagine Alaska as a snow-covered land of igloos, oilpipelines, and polar bears. But Alaska is far more complex geographically, culturally, ecologically, and politically than most Americans know, and few writers are as capable of capturing this complexity as John McPhee. In Coming into theCountry, McPhee describes his travels through much of the state with bush pilots, prospectors, and settlers, as well as politicians and businesspeople who have their eyes set on a very different future for the state. ... Read more

Reviews (18)

5-0 out of 5 stars Still the Best on Alaska
Lots of writers have tried to convey Alaska to non-Alaskans. Few have succeeded. Those who have are the ones who have chosen to illustrate small parts of the larger whole, and selected the right parts. Margaret Murie comes to mind. But 16 years on, Coming Into the Country is still the best.

I own and have read everything McPhee has written. I subscribe to New Yorker mostly for the annual or biennial piece by McPhee. I like the geology series very much, and parts of Birch Bark Canoe still make me laugh out loud, but Country is his best book.

McPhee's many gifts including finding and understanding interesting, compelling people, and writing about them eloquently and non-judgmentally. He uses those people and what they say to convey his larger themes. Stan Gelvin and his dad, Willie Hensley and, of course, the folks in and around Eagle. He somehow wrangled a seat on the state capital relocation committee's helicopter. He somehow charmed the irascible Joe Vogler into candor. I talked with Vogler - who has since been murdered in a gun deal gone bad - about McPhee's interview, and he told me that McPhee took no notes during interviews over a week, and yet "pretty much got it right."

I've lived in Alaska most of my life. I've read the gushy stuff (Michener, for example), the political diatribes (Joe McGinnis, for example), and the gee-whiz tourist fodder. McPhee, instead of trying to paint the whole state, paints a series of miniatures which give you a much accurate glimpse than the writers and hacks who try to "describe" Alaska.

Maybe it's that America's best non-fiction writer brought his special tools and skills to the right opportunities; maybe it's just luck. It all came together in this book. The last bit, his walk down to the river and the growing worry, verging on panic, that this is wilderness, that a bear could be around the next corner, that he is not in control and can never be in control; the eloquence and the message are what makes Alaska. No one has described it better.

If you want to try to understand Alaska, its people, its politics and why I live here, this book is the best place to start. This book is a great writer's greatest book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Growing Up in the Country
In the late 1970's my mother and father were inspired by John McPhee's Coming Into the Country to the point of venturing out onto the open highway. I was but two years old, headed across America, from Georgia to Alaska, towards Eagle, the tiny community that McPhee discusses with a keen eye in the third section of his book. I spent my childhood in that community and it would not be until I was fully grown that I would actually read his book. Just a couple of years ago, when I was attending college in Georgia, I became homesick for Alaska and decided to read the book that had been so impressive to my parents. I was amazed by McPhee's way of seeing the truth in something foreign to him -- how he described the people of Eagle. I highly recommend this book to all those who wish to venture into the land of Alaska, whether in their actual travels or in their imagination.

4-0 out of 5 stars Taming the Wild
Having formed my impression of Alaska by reading Jack London stories and Into the Wild, I expected Coming into the Country to describe a harsh, brutish and often deadly land. Instead, it highlighted many of the virtues of Alaska--the diverse people who reside there, the unsettled countryside and sense of freedom. He doesn't avoid the topic of people who froze to death in their shacks or disappeared on flights through the bush, but these are just used as entertaining anecdotes to remind the reader that Alaska is still wild. This is a very well written and entertaining book and it does an excellent job of describing the complex politics and ecology of Alaska as well as the incredible beauty of the state. If you are hoping to travel to Alaska or simply want to learn more about the state and its residents who choose to live in the middle of no where in one of the harshest climates on earth, this is an excellent book. It is good pleasure reading as well, but perhaps not beach reading so much as a good bed time or lunch hour book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating reporting on an Alaska that no longer exists
In the mid 1970s, John McPhee turned his powers of description toward Alaska at a time when the "Alaskan way of life" was under siege. Alaska had been a state less than 20 years. The claims of natives to the land had been resolved by putting millions of acres in the hands of native corporations. The old "tradition" of immigrants to the land being able to plop down and build a cabin almost anywhere was disappearing under the burden of new regulations. Huge new national parks were designated, and at the same time the pipeline was being constructed, highlighting the old conflict between development and ecology, between preservation and self-determination.

Sadly, the Alaska that McPhee wrote about no longer exists. In the first segment, he writes about the Brooks Range wilderness, and discusses the controversy around establishing the "Gates of the Arctic" National Park there. That park is now established. In the second segment, he writes about the aftereffects of the decision to move the state capital from Juneau to somewhere north of Anchorage. That move never occurred. In the third (and longest and most compelling) segment, he reports on the lives of the people of isolated Eagle, Alaska, a town that today boasts a fax machine.

The third segment is where McPhee's writing really shines: I don't think anyone has ever conveyed the personality of Alaska and Alaskans as well as McPhee has. My favorite was the story of how one man and his son managed to get an entire C9 Caterpillar bulldozer into the middle of nowhere, clearing their way through 70-foot winter drifts, to set up a gold dredging operation. McPhee conveys the extreme beauty and wildness of the place, and the fire and determination of the people to belong to it.

I was sad but impressed to find McPhee accurately foretelling the Exxon Valdez tragedy by predicting that an oil spill in Prince William Sound was the greatest threat to Alaska's environmental health. However, McPhee's account is remarkably balanced; if you're looking for polemic (either pro or anti-environmentalism, for example), you won't find it.

In sum, I give this book five stars for the quality of the writing and the insight, but four for being somewhat dated. If you want to learn more about what Alaska was like, you couldn't do better than this, but if you want to know what it's like NOW, you might prefer to supplement this otherwise wonderful book with something else.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
John McPhee is simply a great writer. His skill is the leading character of this novel which is full of intriguing individuals.

From characters like the author himself -- who changes and is challenged himself by the environment -- to fellow canoe riders, to grisslies, to yuppie suburbanites, to the self-made, this book delves into what makes people move to Alaska, to adapt, to stay, to survive, to be frustrated, and to not want to be anywhere else. ... Read more


14. The Big Year : A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession
by Mark Obmascik
list price: $13.00
our price: $10.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743245466
Catlog: Book (2005-02-09)
Publisher: Free Press
Sales Rank: 44925
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Every January 1, a quirky crowd storms out across North America for a spectacularly competitive event called a Big Year -- a grand, expensive, and occasionally vicious 365-day marathon of birdwatching.For three men in particular, 1998 would become a grueling battle for a new North American birding record. Bouncing from coast to coast on frenetic pilgrimages for once-in-a-lifetime rarities, they brave broiling deserts, bug-infested swamps, and some of the lumpiest motel mattresses known to man. This unprecedented year of beat-the-clock adventures ultimately leads one man to a record so gigantic that it is unlikely ever to be bested. Here, prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik creates a dazzling, fun narrative of the 275,000-mile odyssey of these three obsessives as they fight to win the greatest -- or maybe worst -- birding contest of all time. ... Read more

Reviews (28)

5-0 out of 5 stars A great people study book.
I think anyone who reads this book thinking they are going to learn about birding, or how to brid watch, are going to be very disappointed. This is a book about people, and their obsessions, rather than birds. I can just imagine me in a roomful of people, and then trying to figure out who is the avid, obsessed, birder. Try it. I dare you to. To be honest, I picked this book up, and layed it back down at least three times before I really got past the intoduction. I had a narrow minded view about the book going into it, and I knew I could not possibly be interested in a book about bird watching. But, once I got into the characters, I was hooked. What a great read.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great Bird Voyeur birding book!
I have to admit, before reading this book I was totally clueless about the "big year". I'd heard about life lists and scoffed. I watch birds because its interesting, I feed them because I feel guilty living on what used to be bird habitat. But I care not a whit whether or not I've seen all 600+ native species. I really enjoyed this story though. It's light reading, and very well written. I had no idea that those hummingbirds at my feeder had crossed the gulf of Mexico. I'm even more impressed. (by the birds, not the birders...)

But that Autu Alaska is now closed to birders who could at one time get to see non native species blown over by a storm, well I don't really care. It is great though that some people remember to live their passion. And that part is what makes this book a fun read.

4-0 out of 5 stars The most exciting book I've read this year.
No, I'm not being sarcastic. I mean it. Big Year is full of laughs, twists and yes, some touching moments. I love bird watchingand road trips but the guys in Big Year are hard core competitors who operate on an entirely different plain than the novices.

The book is so well written that you can almost see yourself sitting in the backseat of Sandy Komito's Skuamobile as he prowls down the highway looking for birds. In fact, it's so vivid that Big Year would actually make a darn good movie. While reading it I kept imagining James Cagney or Oscar Levant as Komito, Gregory Peck or Walter Pigeon as Al Levantin and a very young Jimmy Stewart as Greg Miller, the wonderful optimist who decides to do a Big Year on the cheap.

The things these guys encounter while pursuing their passion such asmountain lions, cowboys with potbellied pigs, the horrors of economy flight, crocodiles, frozen graves, and icy cold outhouses are the stuff of adventure novels with a good sized dollop of comedy thrown in.

The Big year is fascinating, fun, and daydream inducing. I and most of the readers of the book will probably never get closer to a Big Year than vicariously through the book but after reading it I have started thinking that maybe, just maybe I could survive a one county Big Day.I loved the book and even my non nature loving friends found themselves laughing out loud when I read sections of it to them.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great look at serious birding
Being a novice birder, I was very interested to read about what it takes to complete a Big Year, a calendar year of birding in which the participants try to see more species than anyone else.Apparently it takes an obsessive personality, a lot of money, and an unrelenting competitive spirit.Mark Obmascik captures all of this in his book which features the top 3 birders in the 1998 competition.The birders are as different as they are interesting.Sandy Komito is a former Big Year winner, Al Levantin is a retired CEO who lives in Aspen, and Greg Miller is a computer programmer who attempts to work full-time while doing a Big Year in his "spare time".Author Obmascik follows them all over North America, from the mosquitos of the Florida Everglades to the blinding snow storms of the remote island of Attu, and chronicles their successes, struggles, and failures.Adverse weather conditions, only an advantage to birders, allow these three men to tally huge numbers of birds.The book contains a lot of interesting birding history, insider practices, and a lot of laughs which make this a delightful read.

3-0 out of 5 stars Extreme Birdwatching! Yuck!
I have always harbored a fantasy where I retire with lots of money (yeah, right) and spend my remaining years traveling around the country looking for birds I have never seen. Forget that I am not a birder, have never been able to memorize the tiniest fact about species, and am bad at identifying bird calls: The truth is I just love birds, and love to watch them on my backyard feeders.

Well, any fantasy I may have harbored was killed forever with this strange and off-putting story of competitive birders striving to outdo each other in sightings in one Big Year (not my term or even the author's; a legitimate competitive birding term). Yes, the writing is sprightly, humorous, well done and competent--the author is a birder himself, although not in the same league as the three gentlemen he describes who take off at the beginning of 1998 to break the Big Year record.

It seems to me that the more grueling the trek to spot a rare bird, the more humorous and tall-tale-like the stories became, the more put off I was. Nowhere in the book did I sense any joy of seeing a bird for its own sake, but rather for quickly spotting it, jotting it down in one's "life list" or Big Year list, and moving on. ALL the birders in the book appeared to me to care more about the competition and the listing of the birds than the birds themselves. In fact, in one horrifying story, an anonymous person actually KILLS a bird in order to make an identification. Although this is not condoned, it happens...and it's disgusting.

I disliked the book so much for its subject matter, I would have given it one star, but the writing is great, and this world of competitive bird watching is certainly described well, whether I liked it or not. Apparently, due to el nino and a strange combination of weather factors, 1998 was the biggest birding year of all time vis a vis The Big Year counts. Good. I hope I never have to read about it again! ... Read more


15. The Spell of the Sensuous : Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World
by DAVID ABRAM
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679776397
Catlog: Book (1997-02-25)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 34422
Average Customer Review: 4.52 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

David Abram's writing casts a spell of its own as he weaves the reader through a meticulously researched work that gently addresses such seemingly daunting topics as where the past and future exist, the relationship between space and time, and how the written word serves to sever humans from their primordial source of sustenance: the earth.

"Only as the written text began to speak would the voices of the forest, and of the river, begin to fade. And only then would language loosen its ancient associations with the invisible breath, the spirit sever itself from the wind, the psyche dissociate itself from the environing air," writes Abram of the separation caused by the proliferation of the written word.

In writing The Spell of the Sensuous, Abram consulted an engaging collection of peoples and works. He uses aboriginal song lines, stories from the Koyukon people of northwestern Alaska, the philosophy of phenomenology, and the speeches of Socrates to paint a poetic landscape that explains how we became separated from the earth in the first place. With minimal environmental doomsaying, Abram discusses how we can begin to recover a sustainable relationship with the earth and the nonhuman beings who live among us--in the more-than-human world. --Kathryn True ... Read more

Reviews (27)

5-0 out of 5 stars I'm waiting for his next book
I read this and loved it. Afterward, it occurred on me that I wouldn't be able to find anything as good for quite a while so I immediately read it again. Sure its about the intertwined relationship of our perceptions, language and the environment. I expected that. What I didn't expect and was very surprised by was how, after reading 80 or so pages, I walked outside and the world looked very different, much more alive and involving than before. I think that maybe after a new kidney or heart for the sake of a transplant, this may be the best present I could get. Its a great primer for folks lost in the muck of analytic philosophy about the world they live in. And for the people that don't care about philosphy, its like a wonderful love letter to the earth. This book rocks. I am anxiously awaiting the next book from David Abram. I've been waiting for about 4 years now. Dave, are you listening? We want another book. Thanks.

5-0 out of 5 stars The spell of this book will refresh your mind, body and soul
The trite things people say to promote a book, such as, "It will change your life" and "You can't put it down", are amazingly true for a book which takes you to the depths of serious issues of philosophy, language, anthropology and the analysis of empirical scientific methods. Abram is a magnificent writer, carrying you along smoothly with the consistency and clarity of his vision and the perfectly fitting poetic expression of that vision. I bought this book for my son who studies philosophy, read it for myself as a long-time student of language and culture, decided my son the physicist must read it too and kept thinking of more and more people I know who should read it. Abram's ability to connect seemingly all fields of study attests to the depths or heights of his message. He often uses the metaphor of a spider's web which is useful in describing the elegant web he has constructed to rejoin us to our living universe. It is also useful to describe the elimination of cobwebs which clutter our overly abstract, mechanical non-lives and disconnect us from our natural instincts. In the hopes of saving our environment, Abram gives us a world view which can add richness and meaning to our everyday experiences.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dazzling. This book changes lives.
I heard the author in a spirited public debate between him and biologist E.O. Wilson a couple years ago, at the old Town Hall in Boston. The mutual respect between the two men was palpable (perhaps because they are both outspoken advocates for wild nature). Yet they hold richly contrasting views regarding human society and its relation to the earth. Abram's eloquence there moved me to order this book. Upon reading it I was, in a word, stunned. It's easily one of the most important works I've come upon in thirty years of serious reading.

A few of the reader reviews below are absurdly off the mark. One of them claims that the book is anti-science. That's simply inane; I'm a working biologist, and can avow that this book is entirely consonant with the best of contemporary natural science. Indeed "The Spell of the Sensuous" got a rave review in "Science" (the journal of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science). Here's a brief excerpt from that review: "A truly original work. Abram puts forth his daring hypothesis with a poetic vigor and argumentative insight that stimulate reconsideration of the technological commonplace...With Abram anthropology becomes a bridge between science and its others." (Science, vol. 275)

In any case, this is a book that NEEDS to be much more widely known. (I've just read it a second time, and I'm still reeling at the implications.) A bunch of other reviews by a range of well-known thinkers are printed in the paperback edition. I'll copy them here, since they give a fine sense of both the depth and the span of Abram's book:

"This is a landmark book. Scholars will doubtless recognize its brilliance, but they may overlook the most important part of Abram's achievement: he has written the best instruction manual yet for becoming fully human. I walked outside when I was done and the world was a different place."

~Bill McKibben, author of "The End of Nature"

"A masterpiece - combining poetic passion with intellectual rigor and daring. Electric with energy, it offers us a new approach to scholarly inquiry: as a fully embodied human animal. It opens pathways and vistas that will be fruitfully explored for years, indeed for generations, to come."

~Joanna Macy, Buddhist scholar and author

"Speculative, learned, and always 'lucid and precise' as the eye of the vulture that confronted him once on a cliff ledge, Abram has one of those rare minds which, like the mind of a musician or a great mathematician, fuses dreaminess with smarts."

~The Village Voice

"Long-awaited, revolutionary. . . This book ponders the violent disconnection of the body from the natural world and what this means about how we live and die in it."

~The Los Angeles Times

"The outer world of nature is what awakens our inner world in all its capacities for understanding, affection and aesthetic appreciation. The wind, the rain, the mountains and rivers, the woodlands and meadows and all their inhabitants; we need these perhaps even more for our psyche than for our physical survival. No one that I know of has presented all this with the literary skill as well as the understanding that we find in this work of David Abram. It should be one of the most widely read and discussed books of these times."

~Thomas Berry, author of "The Dream of the Earth"

"I am breaking a vow to cease all blurb-writing for three years, but Abram's Spell must be praised. It's so well done, well-written, well thought. I know of no work more valuable for shifting our thinking and feeling about the place of humans in the world. Your children and their children will be grateful to him."

~James Hillman, author of "Revisioning Psychology"

"The Spell of the Sensuous does more than place itself on the cutting edge where ecology meets philosophy, psychology, and history. It magically subverts the dichotomies of culture and nature, body and mind, opening a vista of organic being and human possibility that is often imagined but seldom described. Reader beware, the message is spell-binding. One cannot read this book without risk of entering into an altered state of perceptual possibility."

~Max Oelschlager, author of "The Idea of Wilderness"

"Read it and get your gourd rattled smartly."

~ Jim Harrison, author of "Legends of the Fall"

"Disclosing the sentience of all nature, and revealing the unsuspected effect of the more-than-human on our language and our lives, in unprecedented fashion, Abram generates true philosophy for the twenty-first century."

~Lynn Margulis, co-originator of the Gaia Hypothesis,

"When rumor had it that David Abram was writing a book, we expected it to be very special and very powerful. Those expectations were justified. This book has the ability to awaken us. . ."

~Arne Naess, University of Oslo, founder of "deep ecology"

"A tour-de-force of sustained intelligence, broad scholarship, and a graceful prose style that has produced one of the most interesting books about nature published during the past decade."

~ Jack Turner, in "Terra Nova"

"Nobody writes about the ecological depths of the human and more-than-human world with more love and lyrical sensitivity than David Abram. "

~Theodore Roszak, author of "Where the Wasteland Ends"

"This book by David Abram lights up the landscape of language, flesh, mind, history, mapping us back into the world..."

~Gary Snyder, author of "Turtle Island"

"David Abram's passionate knowledge of language, mythology, landscape and his meditations on the human senses - all make for highly-charged, memorable reading. Without sermon, dogma, or academic bluster, The Spell of the Sensuous deftly tours us through interior and exterior terrains of the spirit, right up to the present. This is a major work of research and intuitive brilliance, an archive of clear ideas. At the end of a century of precarious ecology, "The Spell of the Sensuous" strikes the deepest notes of celebration and alertness - an indispensible book!"

~Howard Norman, folklorist, author of "The Bird Artist"

"Brilliant in its own field of environmental philosophy, it is destined to change the way we think about linguistics, literature, anthropology, and comparative religion, as well as the living landscape around us. . . . Beautifully written, elegantly argued, immensely original, The Spell of the Sensuous is the kind of book that comes along once in a generation. Like Carson's Silent Spring, it will become the touchstone for environmental literacy in the years to come."

~ Christopher Manes, in "Wild Earth"

3-0 out of 5 stars Spell of the Sensous is a "Grade A " Intellectual Mythology
Spell of the Sensous is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.David Abram's book The Spell of the Sensuous would not be one of the best books I've read recently; I'm also quiet certain that I don't agree with some of Dr. Abrams' philosophical assertions or hermeneutical views. Both Dr.Abrams' philosophical and ecological visions seem themselves hopelessly rooted in an ancient form of mysticism that curiously resembles the same sort of manmade abstractions that he much maligns throughout the book and that he subsequently blames for our societies current disassociation and estrangement from nature. This "oral culture" sensibility that Dr. Abrams seems so inclined to champion lacks any real world objectivity, instead it relies heavily on the same purely subjective and primitive mental processes that gave us many of the erroneous myths, fables and superstitions that used to plauge early mankind's world view.
On a more positive note, I must however acknowledge the powerful argument he makes for reestablishing a participatory relationship with the "others", and I whole-heartedly endorse the common sense environmental activism that he promotes in his book. Abram's new age sensibility seeks to place humanity firmly enmeshed within a highly complex and mutually reciprocal relationship with the rest of creation.
Dr.Abram's book introduced me to a whole new way of looking at language and especially writing in relation to the sensuous earth, and for that I am grateful (and that is why i rated it a 3 out of 5). I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in the study of language, philosophy or the environment.

3-0 out of 5 stars HMMMM....
Dr.Abram's book introduced me to a whole new way of looking at language and especially writing in relation to the sensuous earth, and for that I am grateful (and that is why i rated it a 3 out of 5). I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in the study of language, philosophy or the environment. ... Read more


16. The Hopes of Snakes : And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape
by Lisa Couturier
list price: $23.00
our price: $15.64
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0807085642
Catlog: Book (2005-01-02)
Publisher: Beacon Press
Sales Rank: 81339
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A debut essay collection by one of the best new nature writers

"It"s been a while since I stopped being surprised by nature in New York City, which is, after all, simply a name we"ve given this landscape—a label meaningless to the birds, the turtles, the river."

As a child in suburban Maryland, Lisa Couturier spent all her time outdoors, playing with snakes and toads and exploring every inch of what nature offered. Her parents were convinced that she would head out West as an adult, in search of wild lands and animals. Instead, Couturier moved to New York City, and it was there that she began to see nature and all the creatures in it with new eyes.

In The Hopes of Snakes, Couturier brings together the best of her essays on urban and suburban nature throughout the Northeast, from Washington, D.C., to Boston. She writes of the things in nature that we typically love, like the power and beauty of the Potomac River or the majesty of a peregrine falcon soaring above a skyscraper, but she also celebrates the animals we either ignore or consider pests, such as geese, snakes, and crows. Nature is often invisible to people amidst the concrete and glass of dense urban life. But Couturier"s sharp eye and deep humanity have found what is so remarkable in city nature and illuminated it for readers like no one before her.

The Hopes of Snakes is an eloquent and powerful debut by one of the best writers exploring nature in the humanized landscape today.

"Lisa Couturier's essays shine with her candor, her perception, and her affection for the creatures of our world, especially with their difficult encounters on our endless roads and in our inhospitable towns and cities. Whether the subject is a snake or a falcon or a crow named Edgar, these essays will both enlighten and give much reading pleasure."
—Mary Oliver

"Lisa Courturier has crafted a collection of essays that is, quite simply, stunning. The Hopes of Snakes takes readers into the lives and hearts of city creatures---those animals who persist in spite of us, and who call us back to our wild souls again and again from the dustiest of ledges, the dirtiest of cracks, the murkiest of city waterways. With respect and deep sensitivity, Courturier has crafted out of her life stories a guidebook back to those relational roots that sustain us through the most paved-over aspects of human life. I loved this book---loved getting to know each pigeon, each turtle, each falcon along with a colorful human cast of characters wise enough to treat these creatures as relatives. This book is a keeper, a teacher."
—Susan Chernak McElroy, author of Animals as Teachers and Healers

"The Hopes of Snakes is a book full of rapture, mystery and surprise. I LOVE this book. Snakes DO have hopes, Lisa Couturier tells us, and that's just the first of her revelatory observations, many of which will take your breath away as surely as the glimpse of an owl in the city, or the voice of coyote in the backyard. Let this lyrical, extraordinary book lure you into the urban thickets and vales of foxes, vultures, coyotes, serpents and geese--and inspire you to recapture the wild heart that keeps us truly alive."
—Sy Montgomery, author of Search for the Golden Moon Bear

"In this brilliant new book, Lisa Couturier offers readers a resonant and uplifting meditation upon the natural landscape. The author and her publisher are to be congratulated for producing a book that belongs in any library, public or private, that aspires to be complete on the subject of nature writing. In her mastery of the essay as an expressive form, and in the power and sincerity of her thinking, Lisa Couturier has established herself as the literary equal of such contemporary luminaries as Linda Hogan, Diane Ackerman and Barbara Kingsolver."
—John A. Murray, editor of the American Nature Writing series
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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Living with our fellow creatures
Lisa writes about her experiences with wildlife that occupy cities and suburbia and how they interact with humans. As Lisa writes, some animals fare very well while others do not.

Lisa's ability to capture small details about the cirtters with whom she interacts make her essays all the more endearing and important. Although accused of anthropomorphising about the surivivors of the Human onslaught, her descriptions present an important understanding of urban wildlife and enable many otherwise unknowing citydwellers the opportunity to engage with nature's cast outs.

As Julie Warner said in Doc Hollywood: "Most people are merely on the Earth, not a part of it." Lisa Couturier gives us the opportunity to experience first hand those rare species that share their world with the Human invaders.

5-0 out of 5 stars Have You Ever Read a Book You Wished Would Never End?
The Hopes of Snakes is just such a book. From Manhattan to Washington, DC, Lisa Couturier takes her readers on an amazing journey by introducing us to things we may have taken for granted or may never have thought twice (or even once) about. As I have been reading the essays, my family and friends have had to endure my reading passages or quoting from the text, but none acted as though it were much of a struggle because the prose so ably draws one in.

Ms. Couturier not only writes with the beauty of a poet, she teaches along the way so that the reader comes away feeling thoughtful and enriched. I knew nothing about crows other than myths, but now, because I have read A Banishment of Crows, I look for them in the sky, count their numbers, am awed by and respect them.

In her essay, The Hopes of Snakes, she becomes the readers' hero because she does what we wish we could do in similar circumstances.

The essays reflect humor and sorrow and never shy away from the unpleasant. By the end, the reader closes the book, feeling fulfilled by the journey, and yet compelled to assert onself more fully in the environment so that not a moment is lost and the connection will remain.

I have hopes that this will be the first of many books by Lisa Couturier.

5-0 out of 5 stars MORE THAN NATURE: A GREAT AND TIMELESS READ
"THE HOPES OF SNAKES" is a great and timeless read.These essays may remind one of Edward Albee's tension provoking plays and of David Sedaris's dark humor.The essay 'Take the Long Way Home' can sit right next to that provocative genre of southern writers--right next to Faulkner's "AS I LAY DYING" or maybe "LIGHT IN AUGUST."You can roll Couturier's words and descriptive phrases over your tongue like a sweet mint julep.These essays tangle and weave classic coming-of-age tales through muddy swamps, over rocky shores, and into dark and scary woods to bring us to the point where an enlightened woman with an inclination for the wild can thrive in Manhattan and then return to Washington, DC, to enjoy the roots of an ancestral home and the blessings of motherhood. Couturier trades primeval forests for concrete canyons, but the message is an ancient and ongoing one.Anyone can read this book, but it will take a thoughtful reader to grasp and appreciate Couturier's depth.Don't pigeonhole this group of essays into a nice, neat urban nature read.It is so much more.The writing is likely to spring at you and bite you like a coiled and sleeping snake that's been poked and provoked. ... Read more


17. A Land of Ghosts : The Braided Lives of People and the Forest in Far Western Amazonia
by David G. Campbell
list price: $25.00
our price: $16.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 039571284X
Catlog: Book (2005-03-08)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 37051
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The western Amazon is the last frontier, as wild a west as Earth has ever known. For thirty years David G. Campbell has been exploring this lush wilderness, which contains more species than ever existed anywhere at any time in the four-billion-year history of life on our planet.
With great artistic flair, Campbell takes us with him as he travels to the town of Cruzeiro do Sul, 2,800 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. Here he collects three old friends: Arito, a caiman hunter turned paleontologist; Tarzan, a street urchin brought up in a bordello; and Pimentel, a master canoe pilot. They travel together even farther into the rainforest, set up camp, and survey every living woody plant in a land so rich that an area of less than fifty acres contains three times as many tree species as all of North America.
Campbell knows the trees individually, has watched them grow from seedling to death. He also knows the people of the Amazon: the recently arrived colonists with their failing farms; the mixed-blood Caboclos, masters of hunting, fishing, and survival; and the refugee Native Americans. Campbell introduces us to two remarkable women, Dona Cabocla, a widow who raised six children on that lonely frontier, and Dona Ausira, A Nokini Native American who is the last speaker of her tribe's ages-old language. These people live in a land whose original inhabitants were wiped out by centuries of disease, slavery, and genocide, taking their traditions and languages with them -- a land of ghosts.
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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary
If you enjoy armchair traveling, like superb writing and a good story - this is the book.Mr. Campbell's intimacy with this part of the world, it's history and the story of the people who live there, is beautifully told.A pleasure from start to finish.

5-0 out of 5 stars great book
This is a terrific book. And what a vocabulary! I had to refer to the Oxford English Dictionary at least once on just about every page.

5-0 out of 5 stars a land of ghosts: the braided lives of people and the...
This book should be listed as a book of poetry.Every word has been perfectly chosen.It reads like honey.Campbell captures what working and doing research in the Amazon is really like.He knows and understands the Amazon better than any person I know. ... Read more


18. The Snow Leopard (Penguin Nature Classics)
by Peter Matthiessen
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140255087
Catlog: Book (1996-06-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 12599
Average Customer Review: 4.56 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

In the autumn of 1973, the writer Peter Matthiessen set out in the company of zoologist George Schaller on a hike that would take them 250 miles into the heart of the Himalayan region of Dolpo, "the last enclave of pure Tibetan culture on earth." Their voyage was in quest of one of the world's most elusive big cats, the snow leopard of high Asia, a creature so rarely spotted as to be nearly mythical; Schaller was one of only two Westerners known to have seen a snow leopard in the wild since 1950.

Published in 1978, The Snow Leopard is rightly regarded as a classic of modern nature writing. Guiding his readers through steep-walled canyons and over tall mountains, Matthiessen offers a narrative that is shot through with metaphor and mysticism, and his arduous search for the snow leopard becomes a vehicle for reflections on all manner of matters of life and death. In the process, The Snow Leopard evolves from an already exquisite book of natural history and travel into a grand, Buddhist-tinged parable of our search for meaning. By the end of their expedition, having seen wolves, foxes, rare mountain sheep, and other denizens of the Himalayas, and having seen many signs of the snow leopard but not the cat itself, Schaller muses, "We've seen so much, maybe it's better if there are some things that we don't see."

That sentiment, as well as the sense of wonder at the world's beauty that pervades Matthiessen's book, ought to inform any journey into the wild. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Reviews (45)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Book, A Mountain
My brother casually lent me this book some years ago, but I only had the chance to read it recently. In a word I was stunned- in both Mathiessen's honesty and the force and beauty with which he renders all things he chooses to write about. Framing a period of great loss and confusion in his personal life, Matthiessen sets out on a scientific trip through Nepal with preeminent zoologist George Schaller. Their aim is to study and observe the Himalayan blue sheep, but in the back of their minds is the rare chance to see the mythic cat of the mountain cathedrals, the snow leopard. What makes Matthiessen's storytelling so rich is his ability to blend all his interests throughout the odyssey (philosophy, anthro, biology, history) in a way that magnifies the simple art of walking a path, observing. Throughout the book, we share that image with Matthiessen: walking a path surrounded by mountains ringing in light. With these surroundings he initiates an ongoing conversation with himself. Passing him and falling behind him on the path are a motley group of guides and sherpas. Some are quiet and resourceful, some opportunistic and cunning, and there is one who we never fully understand. This one, the enigmatic Tukten, is the one whom Matthiessen is the most drawn to. Perhaps because he feels he himself is a mystery, and that the world is a mystery. And to acknowledge this, is also a direction. After finishing the book, I called my brother to tell him how much I enjoyed the book. I mentioned a favorite passage, where George Schaller exchanges a haiku with Matthiessen, one that he had written during a long hike up to one of the villages. Unfailingly, my brother recited the haiku from memory after which must have been years since reading it. Maybe you too will find yourself saying it on a path of similar space:

Oh cloud trails I go Alone, with chatting porters. There is a crow.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Unforgettable Journey
I first read this book while in college but it still resonates for me today as well. What starts out to be simply a journey to far-off Tibet in search of the elusive snow leopard turns out to be also a journey towards understanding--of the death of his wife from cancer, the exotic culture and people of highland Asia, and his relationship to his mysterious guide and friend Tukten. No definitive answers are found to any of these questions but we learn that sometimes it's the quest and not the destination that's truly important.
It transports the reader to a faraway part of the planet but at the same time it shows how our journeys abroad can illuminate
our own lives and uncover parts of ourselves that we don't see
back in our tightly controlled worlds.
This is not a book for everyone's tastes but it is a true
classic in every sense of the word. Read it!

5-0 out of 5 stars will i ruin it for you
if I tell you it has little to do with the snow leopard? It is the quest itself, what it means to quest. "Seek and ye shall find." We're never told what we'll find. To me it is impossible to create a top ten list of books--I love so many--but this is way up there. I plan to read it again and again.

3-0 out of 5 stars 4th times the charm
After 4 tries I finally finished this book. I have to agree with the 3 other reviewers- there are just too many references to Budhism that left me befuddled. If I wasn't in a foriegn country without other reading material I don't think I would of finished it this time either. My reccomendation is to read it fast and don't even try to make sense of about 20% of the book. Despite this I did enjoy the book but only 3 stars worth.

5-0 out of 5 stars No Simple-minded Animal Story - It's an Adventure
If you're looking for a fifth grade narrative about really neat animals you'd better skip the Snow Leopard. However, if you are ready to take on a great author weaving the physical and the metaphysical together into one of the greatest adventure stories ever written you'll read and always remember this fantastic work of art. It's a tale of exploration that encompasses unbelievable off the map trekking, fascinating research by the greatest living large mammal zoologist, and enlightening insights into the very core of oriental religion. I have never read a book that successfully integrated so much intelligence into one superbly narrated tale. Without exaggeration, it's a classic. ... Read more


19. The Solace of Open Spaces
by Gretel Ehrlich
list price: $12.95
our price: $9.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140081135
Catlog: Book (1986-12-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 26847
Average Customer Review: 4.27 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

"Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still." Whether she's reflecting on nature's teachings, divulging her experiences as a cowpuncher, or painting vivid word portraits of the people she lives and works with, Gretel Ehrlich's observations are lyrical and funny, wise and authentic. After moving from the city to a vast new state, she writes of adjusting to cowboy life, boundless open spaces, and the almost incomprehensible harshness of a Wyoming winter:

"When it's fifty below, the mercury bottoms out and jiggles there as if laughing at those of us still above ground. Once I caught myself on tiptoes, peering down into the thermometer as if there were an extension inside inscribed with higher and higher declarations of physical misery: ninety below to the power of ten and so on."

After experiencing the isolated life of a sheep herder, she writes, "Keenly observed the world is transformed. The landscape is engorged with detail, every movement on it chillingly sharp. The air between people is charged. Days unfold, bathed in their own music. Nights become hallucinatory; dreams, prescient."

Ehrlich's gift is one of subtle precision. She writes beauty into the plainest of thoughts and meaning into the simplest of ideas: "True solace is finding none, which is to say, it is everywhere." --Kathryn True ... Read more

Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars The West seen through a filmmaker's eye
In these essays about Wyoming, the imagery of mountain and plain and weather calls to mind the sweeping landscapes of John Ford movies. Ehrlich, born and raised in California, retains her outsider's eye for detail, and is able to translate the perspective of someone trained in documentary filmmaking very effectively into the medium of words.

Her portrayal of the men who work in this environment is very different from the stereotypes we know from Marlboro ads, "Bonanza," and movie westerns. She finds cowboys often tender-hearted, quirky, and curiously courtly. Not to be outdone by the men in this world of extremes and hard work, the women she meets and befriends are tough-minded and independent. Completing her picture are the Native Americans, whom she portrays respectfully and with an ironic appreciation for incongruity, as they both recover and reinvent a lost heritage.

Hers is also a personal story. Beginning with the wrenching death of a close male friend, it recounts in her growing love for Wyoming and its people the discovery of a new life. And while her book is no heart-on-the-sleeve display of pain and recovery, one senses at almost every step the healing process that underlies the words. As slender as a book of poems, this volume of essays calls out to be read slowly and savored, word for word.

4-0 out of 5 stars An affirmation of life in a large landscape
My first images of Wyoming were formed as a boy, watching "The Virginian" on TV. It was a landscape of gently rolling hills and a mild climate where you could go around in shirtsleeves pretty much all the time. Well, of course, Wyoming bears no resemblance to a Southern California back lot, as I learned when I finally went there as an adult. The climate is not benign, and the land has a scale that can make you and your problems seem very small indeed.

Gretel Ehrlich writes about the true Wyoming of vast, lonely spaces, and brutal, bone chilling winters. In her book, it is a place to lose oneself and then find redemption in the rhythm of life lived in a hard place. She writes about the people that live in this place and their relationships.She writes of lonliness and endurance, friendship and new beginnings.

The highlight of the book, for me, is "The Rules of the Game", an appreciative essay on Rodeo. I've not read anything like it. Ms Ehrlich's description finds the beauty in this celebration of both individual skill and achievement, and the power and grace of teamwork. It's a lovely piece in a wonderful book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A love affair with Wyoming
Gretel Erlich was a poet and filmmaker when she first came to Wyoming in 1976. She was so taken with everything about the place that she became a cowherd, which gave her time to write about the American West. Reading her books, however, is very much like seeing a film, for her filmmaker's eye and awareness of nuance and gesture is evident in the way she chooses her words.
In The Solace of Open Spaces, Erlich presents us with an eclectic bunch of frontier characters that she met while working as a ranch hand. Almost unaware of what's been accomplished, we readers find ourselves shedding former stereotypes of these people in exchange for seeing them for what they are: unique, quirky, interesting, inexplicable men and women. The Weather (and the word deserves that capital letter, as you'll see upon reading the book) plays as large a role as the people in Ehrlich's book.
About the title: When she arrived in Wyoming, Erlich was grieving the death of someone important to her. As she works hard at physical labor, meets new people, falls in love with the land, and sheds her past like sweat running down her back, healing from grief occurs - although she doesn't exactly say this.
Altogether, a beautiful book and a wonderful read.

2-0 out of 5 stars Better Has Been Written
I'm going to catch flak for this, if only because looking at others' reviews I realized that this is the lowest the book has gotten. This is mainly because the people who read it are the people who want to read it, and so they like it, unless they're from Montana, in which case they like it but call it too one-dimensional.

The major problem with this book is that it takes a single theme and doesn't go anywhere with it. There is no progression or movement in its somewhat flimsy premise--to quote the opinion of a man I respect: "The book is in bits and pieces--some of these bits and pieces are good, others are just...bits and pieces. It feels all of her friends told her to write this book, she wrote some bits, showed them around, had somebody read and like them, and then a publisher gave her a check and said 'finish the book'."

The insight provided by this book is debatable, given that she approaches the reality of Wyoming with a desire to reshape this in literary form to fit her notions of theme. There is some good imagery. There is also some wasted space, some disjointed incompleteness, and a sense that the book, as thin as it is, is wasting space by refusing to allow for more complex and varied explorations.

-SLiGH

5-0 out of 5 stars Complexity of modern western life
Ms. Ehrlich has a fine sense of detail for the west of modern times. Those of us in the east tend to view "The West" as a continuous film festival at Aspen or Telluride, or the majestic mountain landscape of the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. What we don't see is that 99% of the people live as they always have, with modern tinges: raising animals, surviving the elements, maintaining human relationships and doing it one day at a time. The only difference, is that the pickup truck is handy, and town and clean sheets is never too far away. A good book; makes me want to move there and shut the door behind me! ... Read more


20. Never Cry Wolf : Amazing True Story of Life Among Arctic Wolves
by Farley Mowat
list price: $12.95
our price: $9.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316881791
Catlog: Book (2001-09-13)
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Sales Rank: 10922
Average Customer Review: 4.18 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

More than a half-century ago the Canadian Wildlife Service assigned the naturalist Farley Mowat to investigate why wolves were killing arctic caribou. Mowat's account of the summer he lived in the frozen tundra alone-studying the wolf population and developing a deep affection for the wolves (who were of no threat to caribou or man) and for a friendly Inuit tribe known as the Ihalmiut ("People of the Deer")-is a work that has become cherished by generations of readers, an indelible record of the myths and magic of wild wolves. ... Read more

Reviews (51)

5-0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly great book
The first time I saw,Never Cry Wolf, I thought I would not enjoy reading it. First, because it was an assigned literary book to read: secondly, it was not a book I would normally select to read. However, I was pleasantly surprised with this book, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Farley Mowat, the author, has an incredible vocabulary that he uses to tell the story. But, while he may use some scientific or big words it doesn't distract the reader too much. In his writing, Mowat has a lovable quality, sarcasm. This trait makes the book fun to read and easily relatable to real life and people.

Mowat takes the reader to the world of the Arctic Wolves in the Canadian wilderness. The narrator, a biologist, is sent by the government to explore the life of the wolf, and, more specifically, to find out more information on how the wolf is interacting with the other species of life. What the narrator learns through his study changes his views on the wolf and on the world. He realizes that things aren't always as they seem, and facts are not always simple to understand.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wolf Juice
I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and kept the reader thinking. I was continually wondering how many other things we, as a society, might have misconceptions about. I loved the style of writing. I could have read the book in one setting. It was funny, egotistical yet humble, and kept me enthralled. After reading Farley Mowat's story, I was ready to head out and live on the Alaskan tundra with wolves and eskimos. Who doesn't need a break from the world once in a while? Luckily, I was able to mentally visit the wolves and enjoy the comfort of my recliner at the same time. It was like Discovery Channel, only the narrator was hilarious. Great book!!!!

5-0 out of 5 stars wonderful book
All of Farley Mowat`s books are great.You will enjoy them if you are a nature or wildlife lover.

5-0 out of 5 stars Is it real?
While I can't speak to the veracity of the facts involved, I can say with certainty that I loved this story of a man in the wilderness making friends with a wolf pack. He lovingly dedicates the book to one of his wolf friends.

Mowat goes alone into the Alaskan wilderness to study the wild wolves, who are being exterminated because of a belief that they are eating livestock. Mowat tries as well as humanly possible to live as he sees the wolves living. He drinks gallons of tea so he can pee around his camp to mark his territory. He eats rodents to see if he gets his full complement of dietary needs. He takes "wolf naps" so that he can watch them interact with one another during all hours. He even notes baby-sitting habits.

Unusually, the movie that was made from this book keeps to the story pretty accurately. I would recommend that, also.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not Just for Naturalists
For me this book was a real page-turner. Mowat's writing has an exquisite simplicity to it. His entire experiences in the Arctic with wolves is facinating. I must admit that I did find some of the events unbelievable, but that could just be due to my preconceptions about wolves in general (the very types he is trying to dispel). However, for me, these unbelievable moments did not detract from the narrative in any way; I still found myself wanting to know what happened next. In my own mind while reading the book, I couldn't help but consider how our negative stereotypes of wolves are very similar to the negative stereotypes people often feel about other groups of people. In both cases, when one begins to truly know the other, he finds that there is really no basis for the negative sterotype. Mowat makes it point not to rely on anecdotal evidence when studying the wolf, and instead only gives merit to the anecdotal evidence after he has observed behavior that would back it up. It would seem that this should apply when judging people as well.

The only improvement I think could be made to this book is for Mowat to include whatever became of his report. I realize he is telling the story to reveal his own experiences with the Arctic Wolves, and not to reveal the post report offical government position; but it woud have been nice to have that included anyway.

Overall, I think this is a great book, and well worth the few hours it takes to read it. ... Read more


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