Early Sunday morning this week marked the end of daylight saving time for 2016. The end of daylight saving time is a change point in the year for several reasons. For some it is when you have to abandon outdoor activities after work because of darkness. Others may see it as the time when lawn mowing is no longer required. More and more it seems to mark the height of the fall color season in the Ozarks. For me, the end of daylight saving time is the point during the year when a decision has to be made: Do I spend evenings sitting on the porch watching birds or do I move into the den, sit by the stove and read? For the time being, it is a daily choice depending on the weather. But within a few weeks, the den will surely win out. Therefore, with the prospect of having time on my hands to read, I have carefully prepared a reading list for the winter of 2016/2017. I tried to put some variety in my list, but I just can’t help it, I am a nerd. I like science books. I did manage to mix in a few books on adventure and at least two fiction pieces.
Sapiens; A Brief History of Humankind. 2015. Yuval Noah Harari. Harper Collins Books
Sapiens was recommended by both Bill Gates and Sam Harris. That should be enough for anyone interested in reading about original ideas. Harari is a historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His PhD was from the University of Oxford. According to the biographical sketch in the book, the focus of Harari’s research is on broad historical questions such as the relation between history and biology. Sapiens is a broad history covering the last 70,000 years in a little over 400 pages. I really like big picture history. James Burke’s TV series “Connections” is one of my all-time favorites. So Sapiens should be a good read.
When Rivers Run Dry. 2006. Fred Pearce. Beacon Press, Boston
I was reading a review of Alex Prud’homme’s book, The Ripple Effect, when I ran across a reference to Pearce. To a water guy, Pearce’s book sounded more interesting. Pearce is an environmental consultant for New Scientists magazine; he should be knowledgeable on the subject.
H is for Hawk, 2014. Helen MacDonald. Grove Press, New York
Ok, a guy can’t be a nerd all the time. This book was on President Obama’s summer reading list for 2016. The president is a deep thinker. He likely reads late at night when he is eating his 12 almonds.
For some reason, hawks have always interested me. I have watched them soar since I was a kid and never have gotten bored. The book is about recovering from tragic loss, but falconry has a big role in the story. I think I will like the story.
Wanderlust: A History of Walking, 2002. Rebecca Solnit. Penguin Group
As a dedicated walker I had to have at least one book about walking in my list. This book caught my eye on the Goodreads website. The reviews were good so why not?
Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum. 2015. Gavin Francis. Profile Books, London.
The Guardian rated Adventures in Human Being as the best science book of 2015. That is a pretty good recommendation. Dr. Gavin Francis is both a medical doctor and a writer. According to the Guardian, the book is Dr. Francis’s essays on the human body, illness and injury. A look at the body through a doctor’s eyes and experience might be informative. I can’t wait to find out what a Calcaneum is.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. 1974. Annie Dillard.
Dillard’s book won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1975. It is compiled from the author’s personal journals of exploration near her home and contemplations on nature and life. Dillard does not consider herself to be a nature writer. But she is frequently compared to Henry David Thoreau. Edward Abbey (Desert Solitare) deemed Dillard to be Thoreau’s true heir. So I take this book to be a philosophical book on nature. As a Thoreau fan, I have high hopes.
An Inland Voyage. 1878. Robert Lewis Stevenson. C Kegan and Paul
There had to be at least one classic on the list. In 1876 Stevenson made a trip down the Oise River via canoe through Belgium and France. An Inland Voyage is his story of the trip. Many think this book to be the first work for the genre of “outdoor literature.” Some people in Europe today retrace Stevenson’s voyage as a way of comparing Europe of the 1870s to the present. Perhaps reading An Inland Voyage could lead to a new adventure.
Home Place; Essays on Ecology, 1990, Stan Rowe.
This book is on Wendell Berry’s recommended reading list. Need I say any more?
Found; Short Stories by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. 2016. Fred Bloetscher et al. RMFW press
Dr. Fred Bloetscher is a friend of mine from my work with the American Water Works Association. He is a Professor of Civil Engineering at Florida Atlantic University and has written much about the water industry. He was also the Association’s outstanding volunteer of 2014. Found is a compilation of essays from various writers about life in the Rocky Mountains. This essay is Fred’s first venture in to fiction. The story is told from the point of view of a coyote.
The Big Picture; On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. 2016. Sean Carroll. Dutton
Dr. Sean Carroll is a physicist with the California Institute of Technology with a bent toward philosophy. Carroll is a frequent contributor to scientific podcasts and I started following him a few years ago. He has the unusual talent of taking complex ideas and presenting them in layman’s language. The title reminds me of the ultimate question from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But this is actually a serious attempt to find meaning in the universe.
Human Universe. Brian Cox. 2014. William Collins
Dr. Brian Cox is one of the co-hosts of “The Infinite Monkey Cage,” one of my favorite podcasts. “The Infinite Monkey Cage” (BBC Radio 4) is, according to the BBC website, “a witty irreverent look at the world through scientists’ eyes.” Cox and co-host comedian Robin Ince interview a panel of scientists and other prominent figures about a certain topic related to science. A person actually can learn something through the banter. When I saw that Cox had a popular press book out, I had to read it.
A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory During the Year 1819. Original publication date 1821. Reprinted 1980. Thomas Nuttall. University of Oklahoma Press
Two friends of mine, Drs. Steve Patterson and Tom McClure, have been telling me about Nuttall for a few years now. Likely it is time for me to get on with reading the journal. Nuttall was an English botanist who made scientific expeditions into the American wilderness during the early 1800’s. This book is his journal of his route across Arkansas basically going up the Arkansas River. The book should complement the journal of Henry Schoolcraft who explored the White River basin during the same year.