[at-l] what are you reading?

South Walker southwalker at windstream.net
Sun Mar 11 19:31:15 CDT 2012

My reading has taken a turn from the normal. I usually don't enjoy such
"dark" books.


I finished The Passage by Justin Cronin. Followed it with the trilogy of
Steig Larsson; The girl with the dragon tattoo, The girl who played with
fire and The girl who kicked the hornet's nest. It is a shame Larsson died.
He was a good story teller.


From: at-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:at-l-bounces at backcountry.net] On
Behalf Of RockDancer
Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 11:14 AM
To: at-l at backcountry.net
Subject: [at-l] what are you reading?


Every couple of years I ask this group what you are reading, thinking that
we are like-minded in a lot of things. Here are the 8 books I've read since
Jan. 1:

The Sea Wolf (1904) by Jack London

The prose is tedious and flowery like a lot of Victorian novels, so it isn't
as exciting as I hoped it would be. But the topic of conversation between
the speaker and the captain  is an argument of man vs. superman and who is
more viable in the modern society. The character of Captain Wolf Larsen,has
become an immortal touchstone for those who valued individual strength as a
substitute for morality.


The Disappearing Spoon (2010) by Sam Kean

This reminded me of a lot of science that I once knew, and it taught me some
things as well. I leaned about the natural nuclear fission that occurred 2
billion years ago at Oklo, Gabon, Africa (near Franceville). It also made me
look up some information on mercury and what changes it to methylmercury,
the toxic form.


Galore (2009) by Michael Crummy

This is a novel about the colony of Newfoundland (up to 1907) and the early
Dominion period to about 1930, following the generations in a small village.
The characters are quirky, just like you'd expect for Newfoundland. The
defrocked priest is especially fun to follow, partly because he is more a
source of comfort than the legitimate replacement that Rome sends to drive
him away. Judah is the man cut from the belly of a whale, Mr. Gallery is the
ghost that haunts his wife while looking for forgiveness. It has some
touches of magical realism like "100 Years of Solitude". It also reminded me
of "The Shipping News" by Annie Proulx.


Johnny Appleseed (2011) by Howard Means

The NY Times favorably reviewed this one but as someone who has studied John
Chapman there isn't any new information here. Still it is a good
consolidation of his life & his times. The 1954 biography by Robert Price
(Man & Myth) contains more of the historical paperwork trail left by
Appleseed but that book is flawed as well, persisting in a glowing appraisal
of Appleseed's life.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) by Ken Kesey

I found this well-written, better than expected and more psychedelic too.
Some descriptions just hum with visual imagery, like the flashing colors of
waves seen from the boat on their fishing trip. This is Kesey's first
published book but I believe "Sometimes a Great Notion" was written long
before and published later in 1963.


The Devil in the White City (2004) by Erik Larson

Although this reads as a novel it is written by an historian, so each
paragraph has source attributions. I'd love to be able to research & write
history like Larson! The story contrasts the construction of the 1893
Chicago Columbian Exhibition with the perversions of America's first serial
killer: Herman Webster Mudgett, also known at Dr. Henry Holmes. He confessed
to 27 murders, most taking place in his "World's Fair" hotel less than 2
miles from the Exhibition. Frederick Law Olmstead is heavily featured, this
is the same time he was creating the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.


The Big Year (2004) by Mark Obmascik

The rest of the title is "A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession". I
found the writing a bit lacking but the content and pace of the book were
terrific. There is a nice summary of the earlier big year efforts to help
put 1998 into perspective. There are also hints of the scenes that were
developed and altered to create the 2011 movie "The Big Year". If you ever
want to find an Elf Owl for your birding  Life List this book can tell you
where to go. Attu is still a birding destination, birdtreks.com is offering
a 2 week trip this year for $7650. 


In the end my enthusiasm for doing a big year was diminished, that feeling
crept in with the pursuit of the Himalayan Snowcock in the wrenching
helicopter scene. On the other hand the story of the snowcock and how it got
to Utah was very interesting.


Ivorybill Hunters (2007) by Dr. Geoffrey Hill

The rest of the title is "The Search for Proof in a Flooded Wilderness" and
summarizes the Florida panhandle investigations for 2005-2006. Another book,
"The Grail Bird" focused on the search in Arkansas in 2005. Hill is an
honest observer but his book raises the question of whether he was the right
person to perform this investigation. His low-skill crew, and small budget
meant that they made a lot of mistakes in looking for the birds. Still I
appreciate his candor for showing his flaws and his insistence on sharing
information. The Arkansas study was criticized for being too secretive. I'm
certain that ivorybills are out there, somewhere. Hill continued his search
in 2007 but I think he has gone back to his own bird evolution studies.
Cornell is conducting surveys of previously dismissed watersheds in Florida
and South Carolina.



Arthur D. Gaudet

RockDancer on the Appalachian Trail

Rockdancer97 at comcast.net



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