This week’s books section features some interesting work involving the natural world: a YA book on a California wildfire; a reissue of an 80-year-old novel about a storm hitting the west coast and a non-fiction work about our most precious resource, water.
Before we get there, however, there are a few other titles we’d like to highlight.
Cal Flyn’s “Isles of Abandonment”
A great work of non-fiction that turns the pages, the book explores landscapes that were once inhabited after humans left them behind. In a fascinating chapter that feels like a ghost story, a small boat pulls away from the author, leaving her alone on a remote Scottish island with a warning call to “stay in the house at night” and lock the door or the island’s animals – a herd of wild cattle left behind when humans left the island – could trample on it. Whether it’s the poisoned landscape of Chernobyl or an obscure community operating in a factory-ravaged section of New Jersey, Flyn finds compelling stories and tells them with the skill of a novelist.
“Island Dreams” by Gavin Francis
Would you like to escape after more than a year and a half of a pandemic? In this beautifully illustrated and designed book, author Francis is a very entertaining guide with an obsession with the islands, although the ones he loves are usually not tropical wonders, but desolate, windswept places, perfect. for his thoughts on life, love, religion, history, maps and more. Doctor and, let’s face it, incredible gifted, Francis writes about his time in places as remote as Tierra del Fuego and the Halley Research Station in Antarctica in beautiful Impressionist passages that you’ll want to return to (even if you don’t. do not leave your chair).
“Pastoral Song” by James Rebanks
Americans may know this English farmer from his appearance in Nick Offerman’s new book, but he’s a best-selling author in his homeland with “The Shepherd’s Life” and this new book. Born into a farming family, Rebanks offers a fascinating look at how industrial farming is changing the landscape – literally – of England (and he also describes visits to America and Australia) by pushing back family farms and more sustainable methods. He lovingly writes about farm life, but he’s no traditionalist in the mud – he embraces smart, eco-friendly improvements to the land that benefit even those who live far from him.
For those looking for more, consider “Waterlog ”by Roger Deakin, a beautiful new edition of a 1999 book on swimming in British waters that many cite as the first in a new generation of nature books; “Northern Light” by Kazim Ali, in which the poet and writer returns to Canada in search of a city where he spent time as a child; and “The Nation of Plants” by Stefano Mancuso, a brief environmental controversy by an expert in plant neurobiology who seeks to defend the rights of plants and to show man a new perspective on the world and his place in it.