Aelian’s On the Nature of Animals

A toad can kill just by belching, and the lust of the octopus is blamed for its short lifespan. To produce a mule, the horse owner must give the mare a bad haircut to shame her into having sex with a donkey. The hedgehog is considered a spiteful animal because it urinates on itself when caught, unlike the lynx, who hides its urine until it forms a gem stone.

Such are a few of the many nuggets of animal lore recorded in Aelian’s On the Nature of Animals, a translation of De Natura Animalium by the third century Roman writer Claudius Aelianus, better know as Aelian.

Book Review: The Secret History of Bigfoot

It was while working on a film script set in the Pacific Northwest that journalist John O’Connor began to see Bigfoot everywhere: “On CBD oil and air fresheners. On car polish and coronavirus masks. On scented candles and Nalgene bottles and maple syrup and vile, undrinkable IPA.”  But is Bigfoot an “actual zoological possibility or …

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Book Review: Our Kindred Creatures: The birth of the American animal rights movement

Imagine it is 1866 and you are strolling the streets of New York City. The first thing you might notice are the hundreds upon hundreds of horses pulling people in packed trolleys up and down the streets and avenues, the closest thing at the time to subway cars. You may find yourself suddenly surrounded not …

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Book Review: Casey Huegel’s wonderfully detailed Cleaning up the Bomb Factory: Grassroots Activism and Nuclear Waste in the Midwest

Too often, environmental writers fail to capture the complexities that make their genre so interesting. Instead, they tell tales of good versus evil, of right against wrong. While parts of many stories boil down to something at least resembling black and white, few complete stories—at least the ones worth telling—are so simple. Most require convoluted narratives describing more …

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Book Review: What a Bee Knows by Stephen Buchmann

In pollinator ecologist Stephen Buchmann’s What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories, and Personalities of Bees, the author makes a compelling case for why we need to pay closer attention to bees (and to protect them), offering stories and anecdotes from research and observation that highlight the fascinating lives of these extraordinary creatures.

Book Review: Entangled Life

Funny the difference a word makes. Restaurants generally don’t advertise “fungi” on their menus. But “mushrooms” and “truffles” are a different story. Even though they are the same thing. Which leads me to a book that took me out of the animal kingdom and into the fungi kingdom, a far more populous and less understood …

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A Modest Crossing of Northern Alaska: A review of Arctic Traverse

What does a solo journey across the Alaskan Arctic entail?  As it turns out, much of it is a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, again and again and again, seemingly forever.  But if that is what you envision when you think of Michael Engelhard’s Arctic Traverse: A Thousand-Mile Summer of Trekking the Brooks …

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New and forthcoming environmental books (March 2024)

Here are some of the latest books to land on our desks. Please take a moment to scroll down and check them out! Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth by Margaret Klein Salamon with Molly Gage Overwhelmed by climate anxiety? Transform your angst into action to become the hero humanity …

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Book Review: The Quickening

Cover shows an image of a polar landscape with fanciful coloring; behind the book's title is a blue sky over a view of several icy peaks, colored in yellow, blue, and pink, with the ocean waves on the bottom of the image.

Humans have bestowed many rather grandiose names upon the region we otherwise know as Antarctica. It has been called the Last Continent, the Last Wilderness, the End of the Earth. Even before any person had set eyes on the southernmost continent, early maps often included a speculative polar landmass labeled Terra Australis Incognita, the “unknown …

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Book Review: Vesper Flights

by Helen Macdonald Vesper flights is the name of the sunset behavior of swifts, who rise high into the air, out of sight, in order to reorient themselves to the world. Vesper Flights is also the name of a collection of essays by Helen Macdonald, and it, too, is a reorientation to the world, particularly …

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Book Review: FIRE WEATHER by John Vaillant

John Vaillant’s Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World is not only the story of the devastating 2016 Fort McMurray fire in Alberta, Canada, but also a history of fire, the oil industry, climate science, and where we go from here. In addition to the page-turning narrative of the fire that raged through Fort McMurray, Fire …

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Book Review: Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo

In Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo: Stories from the Animal Archive author Daniel Vandersommers explores the evolution of the National Zoo as well as the far more limited evolution of society’s empathy for the animals within its walls. The National Zoo opened in 1891, thanks in large part to the advocacy of William Temple …

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Book Review: How To Be Animal, A New History of What it Means to Be Human

By Melanie Challenger, (Penguin Books, March, 2021) To call someone an animal is considered a grave insult, but it is also the truth. We, the humans, we are all animals. It’s not something we like to admit, but if Melanie Challenger is correct in her thinking, embracing our animalness will help humanity better deal with …

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Book Review: FOLLOWED BY THE LARK by Helen Humphreys

Henry David Thoreau’s words were my companion during the writing of this novel. I read through all of his journals and his voice guided mine. I appreciated his wise and witty counsel and hope that this book conveys some of his mercurial spirit. –Helen Humphreys In Followed by the Lark, a new book by Helen Humphreys, …

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