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The best environmental books we’ve read in 2016

In Animal Behavior, Animal Rights, Birds, Book Publishers, Book Reviews, Climate Change, Conservation, Endangered Species, Fiction, Nonfiction by John Yunker

I polled our contributors to see what books they’ll remember best from 2016. And here we have it — some of which we’ve reviewed and some of which we hope to still…   Anna Monders Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species by Jeff Campbell   Midge Raymond The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf This book examines the life of the oft-forgotten founder of the modern environmentalist movement, Alexander von Humboldt, and his story is a timely one, especially in an era in which climate change is still not receiving the attention it …

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Book Review: Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

In Book Reviews, Fiction, Oil, Pollution by Midge Raymond

Alexis M. Smith’s lovely novel Marrow Island envisions environmental catastrophe on several levels, beginning with a devastating earthquake and the subsequent oil refinery accident whose effects, even though these events are backstory, linger on every page. The novel begins with a mysterious opening chapter, in which Lucie Bowen, twenty years after the earthquake, is again fleeing the island of her youth, this time under very different circumstances. Unlike during the earthquake, which Lucie and her best friend, Katie, survived together, Katie now is a suspicious presence (“I’m not leaving you alone with her,” says Lucie’s boyfriend, Carey); by the end of this …

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Book Review: The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

In Book Reviews, Climate Change, Conservation, Nonfiction by Midge Raymond

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf examines the life of the oft-forgotten founder of the modern environmentalist movement. Alexander von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer who, despite having his name attached to natural wonders across the globe, is far less well known than those who drew their inspiration from him, including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Rachel Carson, and James Lovelock. Wulf’s fascinating book is thoroughly researched and annotated and includes drawings and portraits of Humboldt and his travels. Like so many naturalists, Humboldt was not a “people person” but …

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Book Review: Hot Season by Susan DeFreitas

In Book Reviews, Conservation, Fiction by Mindy Mejia

Undergrads navigating a desert year during the Bush Administration frame this debut novel from Susan DeFreitas. Deep Canyon College is an environmentally-focused mecca in the historic Wild West town of Crest Top, Arizona where three roommates try to find their path. Jenna, the freshman soil science major, doesn’t know how to leave a stagnant high school relationship. Katie, eager to escape the shadow of her pseudo-liberal politician mother, finds herself drawn to activism. The graduating senior of the house, Rell, tries to decide where her life will lead as she finishes her senior thesis on pyrophitic plants. Pyrophytes are native …

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Patterns in Nature: Why the Natural World Looks the Way It Does

In Book Reviews, Nonfiction by John Yunker

Patterns in Nature by Philip Ball is a gorgeous book, dense with full-color photos, including: The book is divided into thematic chapters, such as Symmetry, Spirals, Waves and Dunes, Bubbles and Foam. What’s fascinating is the breadth of photographs and how they visually unite geologic phenomena, flora and fauna, such as the similarities between an owl and a butterfly’s wings: The “why” behind these various patterns are explained by the author through brief lessons on physics and chemical properties. But these are only high-level explanations and the author freely admits that we don’t really know why so many animals look the way they do. What I most …

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Call for Submissions: Writing for Animals Nonfiction Anthology

In Animal Behavior, Animal Rights, Book Reviews, Conservation, Fiction, Nonfiction, Veganism, Writing Opportunities by John Yunker

Ashland Creek Press is currently accepting nonfiction submissions for a new anthology, Writing for Animals: An anthology for writers and instructors to educate and inspire. From Franz Kafka’s Report to the Academy to Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are Completely Beside Ourselves, animals have played a central role in literature. Increasingly, writers are playing a central role in advancing awareness of animal issues through the written word. And yet little has been written about the process of writing about animals—from crafting point of view to voice. Writers who hope to raise awareness face many questions and choices in their work, from …

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Book Review: Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell

In Animal Behavior, Book Reviews, Nonfiction by Jacki Skole

No matter how quietly I screw off the cap on a jar of peanut butter, within seconds of its opening, I will feel my dog’s dark brown eyes drilling into me. I’m here, those eyes say. And I’m waiting. Waiting, that is, for a spoonful of her favorite treat. If dogs can sniff out bombs and bedbugs, cancer and orca poop (more on that in a moment), I shouldn’t be surprised that Galen can sniff out peanut butter. And now, having just completed Alexandra Horowitz’s newest exploration of doghood, Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell, …

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Thinking About Animals in the Age of the Anthropocene

In Animal Rights, Anthropocene, Book Reviews, Climate Change, Conservation, Endangered Species, Nonfiction, Wolves by John Yunker

The anthropocene is the proposed geologic term for the period in which humans have made a significant impact on the earth’s geology and ecosystems. It’s not a term without controversy however, which I learned as I read the first essay in Thinking about Animals in the Age of the Anthropocene. Susan Rustick writes: What will my canine companions think if the Working Group on the Anthropocene makes an initial proposal that our current epoch be called the Anthropocene? What will the elm tree sense or the aronia bushes? What clarion call or trumpet of death will be heard by the Whooping Crane or …

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New EcoLit Books: Fall 2016

In Book Publishers, Climate Change, Conservation, Endangered Species, Fiction, Nonfiction, Trees by John Yunker

Here are some of the books that were submitted to us over the past few months that are recently published (or soon will be): The After Author: Melinda Mueller Publisher: Entre Ríos Books Book Description: An important new collaborative work by Northwest artists responding to the sixth extinction. The first book by Seattle poet, Melinda Mueller, since her award winning “What the Ice Gets”. “The After” is a single poem sorrowing the world we will alter and leave unseen. A meditation on extinction and the anthropocene, it blends science and poetry with an urgency of a heartbreak. Interspersed with the poem is …

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Barkskins by Annie Proulx: An epic (and ongoing) story of extraction

In Book Reviews, Climate Change, Conservation, Fiction, Trees by John Yunker

Barkskins: A Novel Barkskins tells the intertwined and intergenerational stories of the natives and immigrants of the North American territory once known as New France. Because this novel takes place over more than 300 years, there are quite a few stories to tell; I found myself frequently consulting the two lengthy family trees in the appendix to keep track of the many characters that come and go. But the primary (and most tragic) character of this novel is one with no dialogue at all. As Annie Proulx noted in a recent interview with  The New Yorker: For me, the chief character in the long story was the forest, the great …