Staff Pick

If the roar of leaf blowers, chain saws, and other landscaping tools strikes you as a war on nature—that’s because it is. As Tree reports in her outstanding book about converting farmland back to wild land, after World War II “tanks converted to tractors; poison gas to pesticides and herbicides,” and humans managed the land more aggressively than ever. It’s been a deadly process. As insect “pests” have been eradicated, so have the earthworms, fungi, honey bees, and hosts of other creatures essential to healthy soil, and the soil itself has been turned into a hotbed of chemicals inimical to life. Like many landholders, Tree and her husband followed intensive modern farming methods on their Knepp Estate in West Sussex until, by 2000, it was too expensive to keep up. What would happen if they simply left things alone? They tried it—not without resistance from neighbors, who were outraged at the idea of land left “unproductive” on purpose—and what happened was amazing. The soil recovered. The waters ran clear. The grounds attracted butterflies, plants, and birds in numbers—and sometimes kinds—not seen in Britain in decades. Tree writes beautifully about this explosion of biodiversity; she’s genuinely charmed by nature’s ways and her vivid descriptions of life in its many, wondrous forms—from dung beetles to oak trees to her beloved turtle doves—aren’t just informative, they’re magical.

Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm Cover Image
By Isabella Tree, Eric Schlosser (Introduction by)
$19.95
ISBN: 9781681373713
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: New York Review Books - September 17th, 2019

Staff Pick

By way of Katya, a novelist and fortyish mother of two, Vapnyar delivers “a very dark comedy,” one charting Katya’s complicated love life, her adjustment to Brooklyn after a childhood in the USSR, and her struggle to become a fiction writer. The heart of the story, however, is Katya’s relationship with her “hero of heroes”—her mother.  A widow and mathematician, Katya’s mother wrote textbooks for children before she immigrated, and late in life she decides to produce one for adults. But she dies of cancer before she’s done more than assemble twenty “flash cards” with theories and formulas. Katya, torn up by grief and facing the end of her marriage, uses these cards to structure the “self-help math book” that becomes the story of her own life. And she knows her life could use some structure. Married to a man she no longer loves, pining after the man she’s loved since she was seventeen, and trying to be swept off her feet by a Putin-era “Russian Gatsby,” Katya feels she lives an Escher life in an Escher house: the parts look normal, but won’t work together. If her search for a rational basis for emotions doesn’t make her “immune to the craziness of love,” it introduces readers to a character as delightful and unpredictable as she is passionate and smart.

 

Divide Me by Zero Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781947793422
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Tin House Books - October 15th, 2019

Staff Pick

“It is … tragically difficult to talk about the planetary crisis in a way that is believed,” Foer states. His own effort ranges from a blunt catalog of statistics and a confession of his own failures to act, to a dramatic debate with his soul and a recontextualizing of the crisis as a post-Biblical event, one in which “we are the flood and we are the ark.” His most powerful move is to compare the climate crisis to World War II. He reminds us that during that conflict civilians at home hung blackout curtains, ate less meat, and drove slower. They made these “sacrifices” willingly: it was part of the collective effort in a time of crisis. But also during that period, when the first stories of the Holocaust surfaced, they were so horrific that they were simply unbelievable. No one acted right away. How many lives did that delay cost? Today, though we watch glaciers melting and experience extreme storms, we don’t really believe that it’s a crisis. What will it take to get us to act? While we need to do a lot to keep the planet habitable, Foer makes a compelling case for diet as the first, relatively “easy” place to start. Because animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation and contributes an outsize amount to greenhouse gas emissions, if every American cut back on meat by 90% and dairy by 60%, we could begin to get things under control. Foer, a repeatedly lapsing vegan, admits how difficult this is. He also reminds us that it’s one of the easier of the many sacrifices we will all be making soon, voluntarily or not.

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780374280000
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 17th, 2019

Pages