Tuesday, October 14, 2014
1) Doyle, Brian. Children and Other Wild Animals. 2014. OSU Press. Paperback: 163 pages. Price: $18.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In Children and Other Wild Animals, bestselling novelist Brian Doyle (Mink River, The Plover) describes encounters with astounding beings of every sort and shape. These true tales of animals and human mammals (generally the smaller sizes, but here and there elders and jumbos) delightfully blur the line between the two.
In these short vignettes, Doyle explores the seethe of life on this startling planet, the astonishing variety of our riveting companions, and the joys available to us when we pause, see, savor, and celebrate the small things that are not small in the least.
Doyle’s trademark quirky prose is at once lyrical, daring, and refreshing; his essays are poignant but not pap, sharp but not sermons, and revelatory at every turn. Throughout there is humor and humility and a palpable sense of wonder, with passages of reflection so true and hard earned they make you stop and reread a line, a paragraph, a page.
Children and Other Wild Animals gathers previously unpublished work with selections that have appeared in Orion, The Sun, Utne Reader, High Country News, and The American Scholar, as well as Best American Essays (“The Greatest Nature Essay Ever”) and Best American Nature and Science Writing (“Fishering”).
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of Doyle's other writings should enjoy this book.
2) Russell, Sharman Apt. Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World. 2014. OSU Press. Paperback: 222 pages. Price: $18.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the exploding world of citizen science, hundreds of thousands of volunteers are monitoring climate change, tracking bird migration, finding stardust for NASA, and excavating mastodons. The sheer number of citizen scientists, combined with new technology, has begun to shape how research is conducted. Non-professionals become acknowledged experts: dentists turn into astronomers and accountants into botanists.
Diary of a Citizen Scientist is a timely exploration of this phenomenon, told through the lens of nature writer Sharman Apt Russell’s yearlong study of a little-known species, the Western red-bellied tiger beetle. In a voice both humorous and lyrical, Russell recounts her persistent and joyful tracking of an insect she calls “charismatic,” “elegant,” and “fierce.” Patrolling the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico, collector’s net in hand, she negotiates the realities of climate change even as she celebrates the beauty of a still-wild and rural landscape.
Russell’s self-awareness—of her occasionally-misplaced confidence, her quest to fill in “that blank spot on the map of tiger beetles,” and her desire to become newly engaged in her life—creates a portrait not only of the tiger beetle she tracks, but of the mindset behind self-driven scientific inquiry. Falling in love with the diversity of citizen science, she participates in crowdsourcing programs that range from cataloging galaxies to monitoring the phenology of native plants, applauds the growing role of citizen science in environmental activism, and marvels at the profusion of projects around the world.
Diary of a Citizen Scientist offers its readers a glimpse into the transformative properties of citizen science—and documents the transformation of the field as a whole.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting take on citizen science projects.