Nature and the Wild

This week, I’ve been living in books that showcase nature, whether domestic and quotidian or startlingly wild. I tend to read along themes, at least when I’m reading multiple books at a time. I’m also including a link to one of my favorite essays about going into nature.

“The Risks of Fossil Hunting in Alaska’s Wilderness,” by Eowyn Ivey
published in the Wall Street Journal

Mink River, by Brian Doyle

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit What can I say about the beauty of this book? First, the idea of an “expanded Public Works” to serve the community with the motto “brains against pains” fulminated by its craggy old man duo. Then, the voices of nature: a young female bear who internalizes bear language, a talking crow who yearns for his beloved late owner, and the river and ocean and land itself. Mingled languages: English, Irish Gaelic, and Native American life throughout. Characters who love Puccini, who smoke 12 cigarettes (one for each apostle) a day, who venture out to sea, who look for love. I’ll get that far into my talk, but I’ll have to stop at Nora (No Horses), whose ache and ennui and darkness channel through art and running in the wind, and looking for light. Parts of this book make me chuckle, and parts inspire me beyond words into tears. This is my second time reading it, and I’m so glad–it seems to be the book I need now.

Snapper, by Brian Kimberling

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit  My best friend recently moved to Indiana, which I think is a fascinatingly Midwestern place (he’s a Yankee and I’m from Illinois, so it’s fun to watch the fish-out-of-water). I picked up this book 1) because I can’t resist birds on a cover, and 2) to see if Brian Kimberling could explain Indiana to me. I think he succeeds. It’s an odd little book– quirky and funny, and divided into short, quick-reading chapters that could be short stories on their own. Nathan, the main character, is an underemployed birdwatcher and something of a drifter through life. I’ll enjoy seeing what realizations he makes along the way to who knows where.

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgMy second semester English course for 11th and 12th graders is called SURVIVORS and it merits a growly all-caps voice. We’ll go through wilderness exploration, family trauma, natural disaster, war, and societal collapse. For our first unit, we started with To Build a Fire by Jack London, and now have moved on to Into the Wild. We keep arguing: “is this guy just nuts?” “what is he on?” and yet we’re motivated to keep reading about his mysterious odyssey…. or hegira. For an interesting, at-times cerebral, at-times action-packed nonfiction read, I recommend Krakauer’s taut, frigid exploration.

Do you have favorite books about going into nature, watching for [birds, mushrooms, tornadoes], or connecting to inner nature? Please comment with your suggestions!
I am an affiliate with IndieBound, and if you choose to purchase the books I mention by clicking on the book covers, I may earn a teeny tiny commission 🙂

3 Brothers, 4 Sisters

​Golly Gee, Jane, I seem to have been away a while! Life has its way of absorbing my energy and confining me to its chosen focal points. I’ve been reading: student essays, diagnostic writing (what the HECK are they doing), and test answers. I’ve been writing: college recommendations, report card comments, and reports on progress. I’ve been thinking about my own happiness and sadness and messes, which has resulted in the outpouring of many journal entries. Progress goes up, right? I need up. 
Here are the last two books I read, for your perusal. 

The World We Found, by Thrity Umrigar

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit
They’re not sisters by blood, but they’re bonded in a way that endures across the world. I don’t find Thrity Umrigar’s work particularly earth-shattering, which is a good thing. This is my second book of hers​ in as many months, and I find myself reading chunks of 40 or 50 pages at a time to relax. It’s not that the book is fluff; the​ four women it features are dealing with serious issues, and reading their rich inner lives and complicated outer worlds is satisfyingly complex. But there is something that makes this teading readimg easy…. maybe the way ​she thoroughly explains each character’s emotional journey, so that while there are difficult things discussed, I’m not left guessing. ​I am left with some really beautiful writing language, though.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWe the Animals, by Justin Torres

Three brothers live a feral and troubled childhood. There are moments of joy followed by a great unraveling. In terms of reading experience, this one was quite different from my usual way of being with a book. It was both beautiful and vicious…. I loved the writing but reading this book left me feeling raw. There is a great weight of trauma and disorientation that kicks in towards the end of the book, so I struggled with it a bit in that way. But I am intrigued to read more work by this author.

p.s. One of my reading challenges this year is reading more diverse books. My rule is 1/4 or more fiction books are by authors of color. So far this year I am at 2/3. Can you suggest more books about dysfunctional families and functional non-families by great diverse authors? 

I am an affiliate with IndieBound, and if you choose to purchase the books I mention by clicking on the book covers, I may earn a teeny tiny commission 🙂