new books

In ‘Otherlands,’ a Look at Life on Earth Before the Mass Extinction Event

Lee Polevoi

It's a colorful survey of life before the mass extinction event, based on extensive studies and the use of ever-improving technology. Halliday is careful to note that the contents of his book are “grounded in fact, either directly observable from the fossil record, strongly inferred, or, where our knowledge is incomplete, plausible based on what we can say for sure.” Otherlands is comprised of 16 chapters, each centered on a specific locale (Africa, Alaska, Chile, Antarctica, and elsewhere) and geologic era (Pleistocene, Cenozoic, Mesozoic, etc.).

In ‘Learning to Talk,’ Hilary Mantel Conjures a Troubled Childhood

Lee Polevoi

All the stories here are closely observed, showcasing the author’s exemplary skill at painting secondary characters with a simple literary flourish: “Myra was little, she was mere, rat-faced and meager, like a nameless cut in a butcher’s window in a demolition area.” Also, Mantel reliably locates the right sensory details to evoke a childhood disrupted by arcane family dynamics and the ambition to escape provincial life in the North of England.

Exploring the Significance of Ecological Art

Aviva Rahmani

Ecologists speak of biological redundancy as natural engineering to protect systems. Any edge is, in effect, a pool of many small variations on biological functions in case any species in the core habitat is threatened or weakened. These subtle complexities reinforce ecotones. That wider impact from the periphery to the heart is the rub. In our age of climate change, unless we intervene in fragmentation, nothing will be left to mitigate the disaster of maximum warming.

Forecasting the End of Cold in Porter Fox’s ‘Last Winter’

Lee Polevoi

What he conveys clearly to readers adds to a growing array of dire global scenarios, wherein mankind must somehow learn to live with huge spikes in the frequency of forest fires and, among other things, higher sea levels because of the unrelenting release of carbon into the atmosphere.In his reporting, Fox isn’t motivated solely by a general anxiety about where the planet is headed. His very young daughter Grey, whom he anticipates growing up to have her own family sometime around 2060, will face a world of frightening change.

Beguiling Tales of County Mayo in Colin Barrett’s ‘Homesickness’

Lee Polevoi

In these beguiling stories, we are for the most part steadfastly situated in County Mayo, Ireland. As in Young Skins, this hugely talented writer immerses us in a remote part of the Emerald Isle, serving up (with great sympathy) characters who display his signature mix of humor and melancholy. Life is hard for County Mayo residents, eased only occasionally by flashes of love and warm feelings.

Straddling the Wilderness Between Russia and China in Colin Thubron’s ‘Amur River’

Lee Polevoi

During his travels, Thubron crosses more than 1,100 miles along this vast waterway—not only on horseback, but by train, car, and boat. His trek encompasses visits to desolate villages and decaying monasteries, with encounters that range from friendly and well-meaning, to more sinister interactions with local police. Who says no one is intrepid anymore? Colin Thubron is intrepid.

Chronicling the Inner Workings of Guillermo del Toro’s Brilliant Mind and Career

Ulises Duenas

Guillermo del Toro was never shy about being upfront about his interests, and he has shown that he wants to make dumb, trashy, popcorn-chomping movies on top of his more thought-out, artistic pieces. Saving the Pan’s Labyrinth section of the book for later ended up being a smart move as it’s given more context from the previous parts. I wouldn’t say Nathan’s style of writing is perfect, but it’s an ideal fit this kind of book.

A Love Letter to the American Southwest

Darden Smith

The idea of using such an outdated way of capturing images struck me as the perfect antidote to the hectic digital nature of these times. My usual way of working was to see something, stop the car, take the photo then immediately get back in and drive off, letting it develop in a box on the front seat as the miles clicked over. I had one shot, maybe two, for each idea and there were many, many mistakes. Part of the joy was the randomness of it.

A Father’s Quest to Save His Son in Trevor J. Houser’s New Book

Trevor J. Houser

Later my father put on a gray sweater. We ate chili by a fire. We talked about baseball. My father smiled. He was growing a beard. One day he would be smiling in the Denver Airport of Death, but today he was smiling under normal non-death conditions; breathing without making fearful choking faces, with his bowl of chili, and his facial hair, that together signified peerless health and stability or something like stability.

Snakes, Arm Wrestling, and Childhood Adventures in Padgett Powell’s ‘Indigo’

Lee Polevoi

And now Powell’s fans get a different view of the stubbornly individualistic author. The essays in Indigo encompass, among other things, a profile of Cleve Dean, a one-time arm-wrestling champion who has “ballooned to nearly seven hundred pounds”; memories of an eventful childhood in Florida; a quirky tour of the French Quarter in New Orleans; and insightful (though frustratingly brief) assessments of writers like Flannery O’Connor, Donald Barthelme, and William Trevor.

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