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
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
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
My 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.