Category: non-fiction

Really Great Bookends – Part I

February 25, 2012 Nature, non-fiction 7

This week I have read two really great books, one non-fiction and one fiction, and I felt like they both deserved their own post.  So today, I’ll be posting my review of my non-fiction book and you can check back tomorrow for my fiction read. (Update: now available here)

Non-Project Non-Fiction

This morning, I finished reading The Eye of the Elephant, one of the extra books I picked up in the 639’s.  Although I occasionally think about the fact that I could be doing this until I die if I pick up multiple books for every number, I don’t think that would be so bad, especially if my digressions always lead to such great books!  As the subtitle says, this was truly “An Epic Adventure in the African Wilderness.”  This story of Mark and Delia Owens’ efforts to save the elephants and other wildlife in a Zambian natural park was without a dull moment.  In the first few chapters, Mark had gotten lost in the dessert and both authors had encountered a cobra and a pride of lions.  The book continues with awe-inspiring encounters with wildlife and more frightening encounters with poachers.

Despite the action-packed nature of the book, both authors found time to describe the natural beauty and majestic animals surrounding them.  Their love for nature made these poetic descriptions incredibly moving.  Each chapter in the book was written by either Mark or Delia and I suspect their editor deserves a ton of credit because their distinct personalities come through without ever disrupting the flow of their narrative.

Even though the point of a book like this is to raise awareness of a problem, I really appreciated that they wrote the book at a point where most parts of the story have a happy ending.  While it’s definitely important to alert people to the plight of endangered animals, you get too close to specific animals they describe to deal well with an unhappy ending.  The struggle they face with corrupt officials is also incredibly frustrating, so it was nice to see that things were moving in the right direction at the end of the book.

Alison at The Cheap Reader was just discussing the pros and cons of having a happy ending, and I mostly thought about this in terms of YA books, where I favor happy endings because I like to feel happy after reading a book.  In the case of a book like this, I was still glad of a happy ending, but for a different reason.  I hate for a book discussing a big problem I care about to end unresolved because I don’t feel like I can do anything about it.  Unlike A Spring Without Bees which discusses a problem everyone can contribute to from their own bee-friendly, pesticide-free garden, poaching is not a problem I feel equipped to deal with.  But I think part of the message of this book is that that’s not true – it is possible for very few people to have a huge impact.  In that spirit, I’ve donated to The Owens Foundation already, to do my little bit for conservation, and I hope you’ll consider doing the same for them or for any other cause you care deeply about.  Even as poor college students, we can spare a little 🙂

Summary

The Eye of the Elephant  – 5 stars – Great, action packed story with a positive message about conservation and the difference a few people can make.

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Iowa Bird Watching

February 23, 2012 Nature, non-fiction 3

As I mentioned in my Monday Musings, I’ve already started to have birds show up on my balcony!  In hopes of attracting more I’ve decided to prioritize getting a feeder up, although I don’t know if it will get much use until I have some plants out there to provide shelter for more cautious birds.  This week’s book, Iowa Bird Watching, was a great introductory resource for a beginning Iowa bird-watcher or for someone like me who is mostly hoping to watch birds from home.  The book includes lists of the best places to go birding and of the top ten must-see birds in Iowa.  In addition, there are beautiful pictures provided for the 100 most common birds in Iowa.  The sections I found most helpful were the bits on what to feed different birds and a list of bird-friendly plants. Read more »

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Bookends About Conservation

February 11, 2012 Nature, non-fiction 1

Non-Project Non-Fiction

After reading about ways to attract wildlife to the garden earlier in the week, I was ready to dive into a book about an actual conservation project – Nature’s Second Chance by Steven Apfelbaum.  In this book, Apfelbaum chronicles his thirty years working to restore the pre-farming ecosystem at Stone Prairie Farm in Wisconsin.  As the introduction points out, this isn’t a book about homesteading but does include a lot of the same elements.  In particular, the author learns about the wood on his property used for the construction of his house and lives a very green, self-sufficient life style with his family constructing some of their own furniture, using solar power, and canning many of the fruits and vegetables they grow. Read more »

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A Great Wildlife-Friendly Gardening Book

February 8, 2012 Nature, non-fiction 3

This week I’ve been reading Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden and I can’t wait for warm weather so I can try some of their suggestions on my balcony!  The first thing I noticed about this book was that it had a lot more in common with A Spring Without Bees than I expected, even knowing they’re neighbors in the dewey decimal system, because this book was incredibly eco-friendly.  The authors counsel against using pesticides, suggest Integrated Pest management (using natural predators to get rid of unwanted bugs, as suggested in A Spring Without Bees), and clearly love all animals – even the creepy crawly ones.  Personally, I’ve always loved all animals and even think flies are cute when they wash their faces with their legs, kind of the way cats do.  So finding a book which seemed to see the best in all animals was like finding a kindred spirit.  They even explain how to attract snakes and spiders, which I think a lot of people really wouldn’t go for.  I was ready to draw the line when they started talking about Crocodilians, but fortunately the authors didn’t suggest attracting crocodiles and alligators to your yard!  Instead they observed that if these animals visit your backyard “that may be wildlife enough”, which made me laugh 🙂 Read more »

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A Spring Without Bees

February 7, 2012 non-fiction, Science 9

This weekend, I finally finished A Spring Without Bees.  This was definitely not a book which took a while because I wasn’t into it, but because I was busy.  Plus I had to restrain myself from stopping every few sentences to write down interesting facts about bees!  Did you know, bees travel approximately 7 million miles per gallon of honey they produce?  All I can say is that if people did that much work for a gallon of honey, it would probably be worth its weight in gold. Read more »

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“Rockin’ the Wedge” – The Cheese Book

January 25, 2012 non-fiction 5

As I discovered during my last library visit, number 637 in the Dewey Decimal System is devoted exclusively to cheesemaking!  I was intrigued, so I picked up a very elegant-looking book called The Joy of Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Making, and Eating Fine Cheese.  The first aspect of the book I really enjoyed was the elegant, sophisticated feeling it imparted, with both the cover and its description of “classic” cheeses I’d never even heard of.  The next thing I wanted to know, as I read impatiently through the introduction, was whether or not I could reasonably expect to make my own cheese.  Given enough money to spend on it, with this book I’d say the answer is yes. Read more »

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Bookends And Finally Some Fiction!

January 22, 2012 Fiction, non-fiction 10

So far, I’m really enjoying all the non-fiction reading I’m doing.  At the same time, there are so many good YA fiction blogs that I’ve begun to crave some fiction myself!  Which is why I decided to put off my Bookends post until today so yesterday I could finish reading the first Percy Jackson book,  The Lightning Thief.   I also finally got to reading my extra book from the 004’s, so that will be the other book I review today. Read more »

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My Kind of Cat

January 18, 2012 Biography, non-fiction 7

As soon as I finished reading Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, I immediately jumped into the sequel (a good sign, I think!).  And in the introduction I came across the following quote, which really represented the first book to me: “People appreciate Spencer, Iowa.  They like our cornfields and architecture and they also like what we represent: simplicity, old-fashioned hard work, but also creativity, commitment, and love.” Read more »

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Bookends – Flyte and Malcolm Gladwell

January 14, 2012 non-fiction 1

Non-Project Non-Fiction

My on-the-side non-fiction reading this week included two books by Malcolm Gladwell, Blink and The Tipping Point.  Blink was well-written and accessible.  The author shares many engaging anecdotes to facilitate his discussion of when our split-second decisions serve us well and when they go wrong.  It’s not the most scientific book I’ve read (with less transparent support for the points the author makes than Click, for example) but does cite many scientific studies for those who care to delve more deeply into any specific claim. Read more »

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“Unexpected Insights for Business and Life”

January 10, 2012 non-fiction 1

ClickClasses started today and neither of my classes seem too difficult.  Hopefully this means good things for my ability to continue blogging throughout the semester!  This evening I had time finish Click, my 006 book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Like the author, I have to admit that I love data.  And this book describes a data-miner’s dream.  The author has information about the searches made and websites visited by 10 million users (!) and has demographic information for about a quarter of them. Read more »

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