Books Read in 2013 by the Conservation Book Club

January:  “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey

Looking for some sunshine as we head into winter?  Join us in January for a discussion of Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire," which chronicles the time Abbey spent as a ranger at Utah's Arches National Monument in the 1950s.  Abbey starts "Desert Solitaire" by declaring the canyonlands and slickrock desert surrounding Moab, Utah as his "one true home."  For me, the coast of Maine and Utah's slickrock desert are the two places that always feel right.  What's your "ideal place" or "one true home"?  Or are you still looking for it?

February: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer chronicles the journey of Christopher McCandless, who travelled the West for two years before beginning a trek into the Alaskan wilderness.  Have you already read "Into the Wild" (or seen the movie)?  Share your thoughts here.

March: “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson

With two nominations from Book Club members, Bill Bryson's chronicle of his trek along the Appalachian Trail  (which he started on March 9th) seems like an appropriate choice for March.  The Appalachian Trail is the oldest of America's long distance trails and stretches 2,100 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt Katahdin, Maine. 

Any long distance hikers here or anyone dreaming of a long distance hike?  What do you think of Bryson's account?

April:  “A Superior Death” by Nevada Barr

Most murder mystery novels don’t make the cut for the conservation book club, but with a national park as the setting, a park ranger as the heroine, and SCA interns playing a major role in saving the day, this one fits the bill. 

What do you think?  Is this a good representation of SCA interns?  Does the daily life of a law enforcement ranger fit in with your image of a park ranger? 


May: “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kinsolver

It's time for CSA sign ups and spring gardening here in New Hampshire, so this book seems like the perfect way celebrate all the local fruits and veggies that will be coming our way soon.  In "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," Kingsolver chronicles a year of eating locally in southern Appalachia.  There's a little something for everyone in here - seasonal recipes, essays on industrial agriculture and ecology, and accounts of unexpected challenges of breeding turkeys. 

Kingsolver's family does allow themselves one non local "luxury" item.  Mine would have to be chocolate - what would your's be?


June: “Touching the Void” by Joe Simpson

Since we're already a week into June, I thought I'd choose a book that's also a movie.  "Touching the Void" is the true story of a climbing expedition in the Andes where everything that could go wrong did.  I don't want to give too much away, but even if you're not into climbing and adventure stories its a fascinating look at risk and human endurance.   And the movie is just as good as the book (maybe even better if you're not familiar with mountain climbing), so don't worry about watching the movie first.


July:  “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv

In "Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder", Louv links the lack of nature in an increasingly wired generation to rises in childhood obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder, and depression.  This book has come up many times in the Good Reads list, so what do you think?  Have you read Louv's book?  How do you think nature (or a lack of it) impacts children and adults?


August:  “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman

"The World Without Us" is the answer to a "what if" question:  What would happen if humans suddenly disappeared from Earth?  What would happen to everything humans created if we were no longer present?  Weisman provides a well researched view of what would endure without us and what would crumble.  If you've read "The World Without Us," what did you think about Weisman's approach?  Did you feel hopeful or disheartened at the end?  Have you witnessed any examples of nature's resilience or rejuventative powers?

September:  “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold

September feels like a good time to return to the classics and Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac."  "A Sand County Almanac" was written in 1948 as a series of short essays based on Leopold's observations and insights from a lifetime of living and working with the land.  If you're short on time this month, I recommend jumping ahead to the essays titled "A Land Ethic" and "Wilderness."  Has Leopold influenced your ideas around wilderness and a land ethic?  Does wilderness have a value even if you haven't seen it or experienced it? What is your land ethic?  What motivates you to serve in the conservation field?

October:  “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan

In “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan takes a detailed look at four different food chains – fast food, industrial organic, “beyond organic,” and entirely self-made – and in the process explores the impact our food choices have on our health and the planet.  Did you learn anything in the book that surprised you or might make you change your eating habits?  Have you ever grown, fished, or hunted your own food?   How did the experience compare to eating something from the grocery store?

November:  “Red” by Terry Tempest Williams

Terry Tempest Williams’ writing is one way I stay connected with the red rock desert I fell in love with during my SCA internship at Arches National Park, even while surrounded by the trees and hills of northern New England.  “Red” is a series of essays supporting America’s Redrock Wilderness Act and describes the preservation of wilderness as not simply a political or ecological process but also a spiritual one.  In one of these essays, “A Prayer For a Wild Millennium,” Williams makes her argument for wilderness.  Do you agree with her?  Is wilderness an American value?  Do we (as Americans, as humans) have enough wilderness?   Is there such a thing as too much wilderness? 

December:  “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau

“Walden” is Thoreau’s classic detailing the two years he lived alone in a cabin by Walden Pond.  Thoreau moved to Walden Pond in 1845 to write his first book, but also as a reaction to the growing industrialization of the northeast.  Do you think Thoreau expects us all to live in the wilderness and reject modern conveniences?  Do you think it would be possible to do today what Thoreau did at Walden Pond?  Would you want to?


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