Monday, July 26, 2021

Spirals in Time by Helen Scales

Summary: (Amazon): Seashells are the sculpted homes of a remarkable group of animals: the molluscs. These are some of the most ancient and successful animals on the planet.

But watch out. Some molluscs can kill you if you eat them. Some will kill you if you stand too close. That hasn't stopped people using shells in many ways over thousands of years. They became the first jewelry and oldest currencies; they've been used as potent symbols of sex and death, prestige and war, not to mention a nutritious (and tasty) source of food.

Spirals in Time is an exuberant aquatic romp, revealing amazing tales of these undersea marvels. Helen Scales leads us on a journey into their realm, as she goes in search of everything from snails that 'fly' underwater on tiny wings to octopuses accused of stealing shells and giant mussels with golden beards that were supposedly the source of Jason's golden fleece, and learns how shells have been exchanged for human lives, tapped for mind-bending drugs and inspired advances in medical technology. Weaving through these stories are the remarkable animals that build them, creatures with fascinating tales to tell, a myriad of spiralling shells following just a few simple rules of mathematics and evolution.

Shells are also bellwethers of our impact on the natural world. Some species have been overfished, others poisoned by polluted seas; perhaps most worryingly of all, molluscs are expected to fall victim to ocean acidification, a side-effect of climate change that may soon cause shells to simply melt away. But rather than dwelling on what we risk losing, Spirals in Time urges you to ponder how seashells can reconnect us with nature, and heal the rift between ourselves and the living world.



Wall Street Journal:

The Economist:


Author's Website


BBC: Radio 4:

Talks at Google:

Royal Geographical Society:

Discussion Questions: (Please check back!)

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Last Butterflies by Nick Haddad


Summary (Princeton University Press): Most of us have heard of such popular butterflies as the Monarch or Painted Lady. But what about the Fender’s Blue? Or the St. Francis’ Satyr? Because of their extreme rarity, these butterflies are not well-known, yet they are remarkable species with important lessons to teach us. The Last Butterflies spotlights the rarest of these creatures―some numbering no more than what can be held in one hand. Drawing from his own first-hand experiences, Nick Haddad explores the challenges of tracking these vanishing butterflies, why they are disappearing, and why they are worth saving. He also provides startling insights into the effects of human activity and environmental change on the planet’s biodiversity.

Weaving a vivid and personal narrative with ideas from ecology and conservation, Haddad illustrates the race against time to reverse the decline of six butterfly species. Many scientists mistakenly assume we fully understand butterflies’ natural histories. Yet, as with the Large Blue in England, we too often know too little and the conservation consequences are dire. Haddad argues that a hands-off approach is not effective and that in many instances, like for the Fender’s Blue and Bay Checkerspot, active and aggressive management is necessary. With deliberate conservation, rare butterflies can coexist with people, inhabit urban fringes, and, in the case of the St. Francis’ Satyr, even reside on bomb ranges and military land. Haddad shows that through the efforts to protect and restore butterflies, we might learn how to successfully confront conservation issues for all animals and plants.

(Princeton Press)

North American Butterfly Association:


(St Francis Satyr - Wikipedia)


Celebrate All Butterflies in July at Bucks Audubon with these exciting upcoming events:
Register here: Go to July on the Calendar and Click on the different events to register:

July 8 @ 7 p.m.              Monarch Migration Trip Virtual Presentation

July 22 @ 6:00 p.m.       Nature Lover's Book Club Meeting - Note we are meeting earlier!!

July 22 @ 7:00 p.m.       Butterfly Count Virtual Presentation

July 24 @ 12:00 p.m.     North American Butterfly Count on site at Bucks Audubon

July 31 @ 4:00 p.m.      Documentary Virtual Showing of "Beauty on the Wing"  with the filmmaker, Kim Smith
                                       Here's the film's website:

Discussion Questions: (Heidi will be leading the discussion.)

1. There is so little known about the natural history of rare butterflies, even common ones. Getting down to basics, what do you know about butterflies? How would you describe them? What is their lifecycle? (p. 8) What do they need to be successful? How are butterflies and moths different? (p. 65)


2. What is your experience with them? Do you have a butterfly garden or offer plants that might attract them? What kind of plants do you include? Any host plants? Are you trying to attract any specific ones? Have you raised any?


3. What is the goal and scope of the author for this book? (p. 7) Were you familiar with any of the rare butterflies discussed in the book? Why are they worth studying? (p. 210)


4. Discuss the issues that are causing the decline of butterflies? What future issues might impact them? (p. 106)


5. What are some of the methods used to count butterflies and discuss the varied challenges. Which Community Science projects are there for butterflies? Have you participated in any?


6. There are truly some remarkable stories shared with many unexpected twists and turns. Which ones did you especially find interesting? Surprising? What relationships do some butterflies have with beaver? (p. 133-) Ants? (p. 176)


7. What are some of the restoration practices that can help improve population stability and even growth?


8. Has this book changed how you view butterflies? Are you hopeful? What steps can you take personally to help? 

(Fender's Blue -

Thursday, June 3, 2021

An Elephant in my Kitchen by Françoise Malby-Anthony


Summary (modified from Amazon): Sequel to The Elephant Whisperer, which was written by Lawrence Anthony, in this book, his wife Françoise writes about her experiences after she has to carry on after his death. She never expected to find herself responsible for a herd of elephants with a troubled past. A chic Parisienne, she with Lawrence founded a game reserve but after his death, Françoise faced the daunting responsibility of running Thula Thula without him. Poachers attacked their rhinos, their security team wouldn’t take orders from a woman and the authorities were threatening to cull their beloved elephant family. On top of that, the herd’s feisty new matriarch Frankie didn’t like her.

In this heart-warming and moving book, Françoise describes how she fought to protect the herd and to make her dream of building a wildlife rescue centre a reality. She found herself caring for a lost baby elephant who turned up at her house, and offering refuge to traumatized orphaned rhinos, and a hippo called Charlie who was scared of water.




2. Kirkus Reviews:

Website for the book

One of the Authors' Websites


Thula Thula Game Preserve

Groups to support:

1. South African Conservation Fund:

2. Four Paws International:

3. My Baby Rhinos - Children Book:

4.Elephant Orphanage in Kenya, which Cheryl shared:


1. African Lullaby: Thula Baba

2. Poaching Rhinos Article:


1. From Thula Thula Wildlife Reserve:




1. Video with Lawrence:

Discussion Questions: (John will be leading the discussion.)

(Reader's Digest)

Monday, May 3, 2021

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard


Summary (Amazon): Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Roanoke Valley, where Annie Dillard set out to chronicle incidents of "beauty tangled in a rapture with violence."

Dillard's personal narrative highlights one year's exploration on foot in the Virginia region through which Tinker Creek runs. In the summer, she stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall, she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she collects pond water and examines it under a microscope. She unties a snake skin, witnesses a flood, and plays King of the Meadow with a field of grasshoppers. The result is an exhilarating tale of nature and its seasons."



1. Kirkus:

2. NY Times:

3. The Atlantic:


1. wNYC:

2. NPR:


Author's Website:

Supporting materials including questions, response journals and reading guides: 


2. Response Journal:

3. Reading Guide:

4. A Visual Approach:


Discussion Questions: 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Underland by Robert Macfarlane


Summary: (Amazon)

In Underland, he delivers his masterpiece: an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself.

In this highly anticipated sequel to his international bestseller The Old Ways, Macfarlane takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. Traveling through “deep time”―the dizzying expanses of geologic time that stretch away from the present―he moves from the birth of the universe to a post-human future, from the prehistoric art of Norwegian sea caves to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, from Bronze Age funeral chambers to the catacomb labyrinth below Paris, and from the underground fungal networks through which trees communicate to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come. Woven through Macfarlane’s own travels are the unforgettable stories of descents into the underland made across history by explorers, artists, cavers, divers, mourners, dreamers, and murderers, all of whom have been drawn for different reasons to seek what Cormac McCarthy calls “the awful darkness within the world.”



NY Times:

The Atlantic:

(NY Times)

Videos, Films and Interviews:

1. Interview with Politics and Prose:

2. Interview with Book Lust:

3. Documentary Film: Kiss the Ground is about regenerative agriculture and the importance and role of soil in solving climate change.

Famous Caves:

Hellsegga, Norway

Local Caves and Caverns:

1. Crystal Cave:

2. Broomall Caves and Lenape:

3. Lost River Caverns:

Maelstrom Whirlpool Video

(Dark Matter Labs -

Discussion Questions: (John will lead our discussion and here are his questions.)


Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson


Summary (Amazon): 

Remarkably little is known about the European eel, Anguilla anguilla. So little, in fact, that scientists and philosophers have, for centuries, been obsessed with what has become known as the “eel question”: Where do eels come from? What are they? Are they fish or some other kind of creature altogether? Even today, in an age of advanced science, no one has ever seen eels mating or giving birth, and we still don’t understand what drives them, after living for decades in freshwater, to swim great distances back to the ocean at the end of their lives. They remain a mystery.

Drawing on a breadth of research about eels in literature, history, and modern marine biology, as well as his own experience fishing for eels with his father, Patrik Svensson crafts a mesmerizing portrait of an unusual, utterly misunderstood, and completely captivating animal. In The Book of Eels, we meet renowned historical thinkers, from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud to Rachel Carson, for whom the eel was a singular obsession. And we meet the scientists who spearheaded the search for the eel’s point of origin, including Danish marine biologist Johannes Schmidt, who led research efforts in the early twentieth century, catching thousands upon thousands of eels, in the hopes of proving their birthing grounds in the Sargasso Sea.

Blending memoir and nature writing at its best, Svensson’s journey to understand the eel becomes an exploration of the human condition that delves into overarching issues about our roots and destiny, both as humans and as animals, and, ultimately, how to handle the biggest question of all: death. The result is a gripping and slippery narrative that will surprise and enchant.

(NY Times)


1. NY Times:

2. Wall Street Journal:

3. CBC:

(CBC-Parks Canada)


In Toronto:

Rachel Carson

1. Her books: Under the Sea and The Sea Around Us

2. Documentary about Rachel Carson:

3. Videos about The Sea Around Us





Famous Eels:

1. Brantevik Eel: 


b. story and video:

2. Fritz Netzler's Eel, "Putte":

Newest Research on Eels:

Red List of Threatened Species: International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

IUCN - Red listed: European Eel:

Advocacy - What can you do to help? Organizations making a difference:

1. Endangered Species Coalition: Wildlife Corridors in PA:

2. Organizations working to save Endangered Species: Lists:



Discussion Questions:

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Erosion: Essays of Undoing by Terry Tempest Williams


Summary: (Amazon) Terry Tempest Williams's fierce, spirited, and magnificent essays are a howl in the desert. She sizes up the continuing assaults on America's public lands and the erosion of our commitment to the open space of democracy. She asks: "How do we find the strength to not look away from all that is breaking our hearts?"

We know the elements of erosion: wind, water, and time. They have shaped the spectacular physical landscape of our nation. Here, Williams bravely and brilliantly explores the many forms of erosion we face: of democracy, science, compassion, and trust. She examines the dire cultural and environmental implications of the gutting of Bear Ears National Monument―sacred lands to Native Peoples of the American Southwest; of the undermining of the Endangered Species Act; of the relentless press by the fossil fuel industry that has led to a panorama in which "oil rigs light up the horizon." And she testifies that the climate crisis is not an abstraction, offering as evidence the drought outside her door and, at times, within herself.

These essays are Williams's call to action, blazing a way forward through difficult and dispiriting times. We will find new territory―emotional, geographical, communal. The erosion of desert lands exposes the truth of change. What has been weathered, worn, and whittled away is as powerful as what remains. Our undoing is also our becoming.

Erosion is a book for this moment, political and spiritual at once, written by one of our greatest naturalists, essayists, and defenders of the environment. She reminds us that beauty is its own form of resistance, and that water can crack stone.



NY Times:

Seattle Times:

Professor Peaton:

National Park


Sierra Club:

Politics and Prose:



Supporting Material:

1. Endangered Species Act: 


b. Attack on the ESA:

c. Biden's rollback and review of ESA:

2. Invoking the Pause project:

a. Council of the Pronghorn:

3. Tim DeChristopher:

a. Peaceful Uprising:

Discussion Questions: (Heidi will the lead the discussion)