Monday, May 2, 2022

The Sakura Obsession by Naoko Abe


Summary: (Amazon) Collingwood Ingram—known as “Cherry” for his defining passion—was born in 1880 and lived until he was a hundred, witnessing a fraught century of conflict and change. Visiting Japan in 1902 and again in 1907, he fell in love with the country’s distinctive cherry blossoms, or sakura, and brought back hundreds of cuttings with him to England, where he created a garden of cherry varieties.

On a 1926 trip to Japan to search for new specimens, Ingram was shocked to find a dramatic decline in local cherry diversity. A cloned variety was taking over the landscape and becoming the symbol of Japan’s expansionist ambitions, while the rare and spectacular 
Taihaku, or “Great White Cherry,” had disappeared entirely.

But thousands of miles away, at Ingram’s country estate, the 
Taihaku still prospered. After returning to Britain, the amateur botanist buried a living cutting from his own collection into a potato and repatriated it to Japan via the Trans-Siberian Express. Over the decades that followed, Ingram became one of the world’s leading cherry experts and shared the joy of sakura both nationally and internationally, sending more than a hundred varieties of cherry tree to new homes around the globe, from Auckland, New Zealand to Washington, D.C.

As much a history of the cherry blossom in Japan as it is the story of one remarkable man, 
The Sakura Obsession follows the flower from its significance as a symbol of the imperial court, through the dark days of the Second World War, and up to the present-day worldwide fascination with this iconic blossom.

(WSJ)

Reviews:


Interview:

Discussion Questions (Please check back)

(The Guardian)






 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman

 

Summary: “There is the mammal way and there is the bird way.” But the bird way is much more than a unique pattern of brain wiring, and lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviors they have, for years, dismissed as anomalies or mysteries –– What they are finding is upending the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they communicate, forage, court, breed, survive. They are also revealing the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, abilities we once considered uniquely our own: deception, manipulation, cheating, kidnapping, infanticide, but also ingenious communication between species, cooperation, collaboration, altruism, culture, and play.

Some of these extraordinary behaviors are biological conundrums that seem to push the edges of, well, birdness: a mother bird that kills her own infant sons, and another that selflessly tends to the young of other birds as if they were her own; a bird that collaborates in an extraordinary way with one species—ours—but parasitizes another in gruesome fashion; birds that give gifts and birds that steal; birds that dance or drum, that paint their creations or paint themselves; birds that build walls of sound to keep out intruders and birds that summon playmates with a special call—and may hold the secret to our own penchant for playfulness and the evolution of laughter.

Drawing on personal observations, the latest science, and her bird-related travel around the world, from the tropical rainforests of eastern Australia and the remote woodlands of northern Japan, to the rolling hills of lower Austria and the islands of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, Jennifer Ackerman shows there is clearly no single bird way of being. In every respect, in plumage, form, song, flight, lifestyle, niche, and behavior, birds vary. It is what we love about them. As E.O Wilson once said, when you have seen one bird, you have not seen them all.


(birdlife.org)

Reviews:


Videos and Interviews:

Videos:

Discussion Questions:









Tuesday, March 1, 2022

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson



Summary (Amazon): The Appalachian Trail trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America–majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way–and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

Reviews
NY Times: 
https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/98/05/17/daily/trail-book-review.html

Kirkus: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/bill-bryson/a-walk-in-the-woods/

Moviehttps://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/news/a3694/bill-bryson-interview/

Other Discussion Questions:

1. https://robookreview.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/a-walk-in-the-woods-book-club-discussion-questions/

2. http://deathbytsundoku.com/discussion-questions/a-walk-in-the-woods-discussion-questions/

Discussion Questions: (John will be leading)









Thursday, February 3, 2022

Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis, Introduction by Emma Thompson



Summary (Amazon): "How can we begin to talk about what is happening to the world? How can we explain to our children, and to ourselves, what the future of our planet might look and feel like?

Letters to the Earth is the beginning of a new conversation. One that attempts to answer some of these questions by listening to the voices of parents and children; politicians and poets; songwriters and scientists. Gathering together over 100 letters written in response to the climate emergency, each entry begins to give language to the unspeakable, and shows how our collective power is present when we are ready to slow down and listen to each other.

It’s natural to feel worried or concerned about what the future of the earth holds. These letters are an opportunity to reflect on our connection to the planet and each other in times of crisis. They are also an opportunity to act and respond to this crisis. To put pen to paper and make your voice heard.

Includes contributions from activist Yoko Ono, actor Mark Rylance, poet Kate Tempest, author Laline Paull, illustrator of The Lost Words Jackie Morris, novelist Anna Hope, environmental writer Jay Griffiths Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. , Booker prize Winning author Ben Okri and actor Freya Mavor. "



Website for the Project: https://www.letterstotheearth.com/


Community and Education Toolkits for Writing a Letter: https://www.letterstotheearth.com/community-education


Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/letterstotheearth/


Organizations involved:


1. Climate Generation: https://www.climategen.org/blog/write-a-letter-to-the-earth-a-short-term-climate-writing-project/


Videos about the Project


1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8a1LEJPSbw


2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7As6yfmZf4


3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcPI7W3_cog


4. https://www.letterstotheearth.com/


5. Shakespeare's Globe Letter to the Earth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRXqNNBP8jo


6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-2xm905zd8


Reviewhttps://joyzine.org/2021/02/18/book-review-letters-to-the-earth-writing-to-a-planet-in-crisis-various-authors/



(https://www.rosekennedygreenway.org/love-letters-to-the-earth/)



This is a different book for our group. 


Since it's February, let's write a "Love Letter" to the Earth.


Please consider submitting here: https://www.letterstotheearth.com/submit-your-letter


(Bostonschildrenmuseum.org)


Discussion Questions:





Thursday, December 16, 2021

Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena by Jordan Salama

 


SummaryAn American writer of Argentine, Syrian, and Iraqi Jewish descent, Jordan Salama tells the story of the Río Magdalena, nearly one thousand miles long, the heart of Colombia. This is Gabriel García Márquez’s territory—rumor has it Macondo was partly inspired by the port town of Mompox—as much as that of the Middle Eastern immigrants who run fabric stores by its banks.
 
Following the river from its source high in the Andes to its mouth on the Caribbean coast, journeying by boat, bus, and improvised motobalinera, Salama writes against stereotype and toward the rich lives of those he meets. Among them are a canoe builder, biologists who study invasive hippopotamuses, a Queens transplant managing a failing hotel, a jeweler practicing the art of silver filigree, and a traveling librarian whose donkeys, Alfa and Beto, haul books to rural children. Joy, mourning, and humor come together in this astonishing debut, about a country too often seen as only a site of war, and a tale of lively adventure following a legendary river.



Reviews:

Laguna del Magdalena (https://www.guatevalley.com)


Filigree jewelry ring from Mompox



Interviews:
Lithub: https://lithub.com/jordan-salama-on-journeying-colombias-magdalena-river/

Hippo issue and more:
Article: Slow Boat up the Magdalena: https://thecitypaperbogota.com/travel/taking-the-slow-boat-up-the-magdalena-river/17807

Event: Join us virtually on January 27 @ 6:00 p.m. for a Conversation with the Author about his new book. Please visit Doylestown Bookshop for more information. https://www.doylestownbookshop.com/event/virtual-book-club-nature-lovers-13

Discussion Questions:


Columbia River (outsideonline.com)

Discuss

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery


Summary and Reviews: (From the Publisher):

Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction * New York Times Bestseller * Starred Booklist and Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick * A Huffington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of the Year * One of the Best Books of the Month on Goodreads * Library Journal Best Sci-Tech Book of the Year * An American Library Association Notable Book of the Year

“Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus does for the creature what Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk did for raptors.” —New Statesman, UK

“One of the best science books of the year.” —Science Friday, NPR

Another New York Times bestseller from the author of The Good Good Pig, this “fascinating…touching…informative…entertaining” (Daily Beast) book explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food.

Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.




Film on Netflix: My Octopus Teacher: https://www.netflix.com/in/title/81045007

Interviews:
2. Ted Talk: Do Animals Think and Feel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI4II5AbjPA

Discussion Questions will come from this Reading Group Guide:



 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Half-Earth by Edward O. Wilson

 


Summary (Amazon): 
In his most urgent book to date, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and world-renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson states that in order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet. In this "visionary blueprint for saving the planet" (Stephen Greenblatt), Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half the surface of the Earth to nature. Identifying actual regions of the planet that can still be reclaimed―such as the California redwood forest, the Amazon River basin, and grasslands of the Serengeti, among others―Wilson puts aside the prevailing pessimism of our times and "speaks with a humane eloquence which calls to us all"


Reviews:



(NY Times)

Interview:



October 22, 2021 Half Earth Day Virtual Summit

 Registration: https://eowilsonfoundation.org/page/4/


Bialowieza Forest (Wilderness Society)

Discussion Questions:



French Guiana (wiki)