Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Peculiar Reading Habits

One of the nice things about retirement is that it leaves with you more spare time to pursue your interests. One of my interests, beyond birds, is reading. Though still not a prolific reader, by any means, I’ve found the time to read more books in the past year than in any other 12-month period of recent memory. So now, without further ado, brief synopses of the books I’ve read in 2008:
  • Arnett, Ross H., Jr. 1993. American insects: a handbook of the insects of America north of Mexico. 1st edition. The Sandhill Crane Press, Gainesville, Florida. 850 pp. (This isn’t the kind of book you sit down and read through from cover to cover, but I’ve found it to be an invaluable reference. If you decide to buy this book, make sure you purchase the 1st edition, not the 2nd edition linked to above, as the usefulness of the book has been severely compromised in the 2nd edition.)

  • Berendt, John. 2006. The city of falling angels. Penguin Books, New York, New York. 432 pp. (Mystery and intrigue in the historic city of canals, Venice.)

  • Delatte, Carolyn E. (with forward by Christoph Irmscher). 2008. Lucy Audubon: a biography. Revised edition. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 248 pp. (The little-known story of the woman who supported John James and his family through many trials and tribulations, and helped bring his dream to fruition.)

  • Kurlansky, Mark. 1998. Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world. Penguin Books, New York, New York. 304 pp. (It turns out that the history of this fish is inextricably intertwined with that of salt.)

  • Kurlansky, Mark. 2003. Salt: a world history. Penguin Books, New York, New York. 498 pp. (An exhaustive, if somewhat repetitive, history of this mineral and its influence on world cultures.)

  • Larkin, Emma. 2004. Finding George Orwell in Burma. Penguin Books, New York, New York. 304 pp. (A unique and frightening insight into what it’s like to live in the world’s most repressive country, where “Orwell’s words . . . continue to resonate.”)

  • Myers, Robert C. 2003. Lost on the lakes: shipwrecks of Berrien County, Michigan. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, Michigan. 277 pp. (An excellent local history of a nautical nature.)

  • Schroeder, Lucinda Delaney. 2006. A hunt for justice: the true story of a woman undercover wildlife agent. The Lyons Press, Guilford, Connecticut. 270 pp. (Not great literature, but a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a wildlife sting operation in arctic Alaska.)

  • Steinberg, Michael K. 2008. Stalking the ghost bird: the elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 173 pp. (Steinberg—a self-proclaimed ‘true-believer’—summarizes the results of a series of interviews with individuals from various walks of life, all of whom claim to have had personal encounters with the IBWO or otherwise believe that it continues to exist in the swamps of Louisiana. Believers will love it, while skeptics will scoff at the lack of scholarship.)

  • Weidensaul, Scott. 2007. Of a feather: a brief history of American birding. Harcourt. Harcourt, New York, New York. 368 pp. (An engaging and wide-ranging survey of the growth of American birding, from John James Audubon to Roger Tory Peterson and on into the 21st century.)

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