March 2018 books read

  • Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel, 2014
  • Running with the Mind of Mindfulness: Lessons for Training Body and MindSakyong Mipham, 2012
  • Candide – Voltaire, 1759 – Wow, I thought I had marked passages in this, since I read it for the Great Books group, but no record of a draft post or anything. I’ll come back if something turns up!
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate; Discoveries from a Secret World – Peter Wohlleben, 2016.
  • Lost Boys – Orson Scott Card, 1989 – multiple re-read
  • Amphigorey (1972) and Amphigorey Too (1975) – Edward Gorey, re-reads because of the very interesting exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum. I was given the second when it came out (I would have been 11 or so) and pored over it many times, but didn’t get the first until later. I really want to visit the Gorey house on Cape Cod someday…
  • The “Odessey”: The Zombies in Words and Images – Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Hugh Grundy, Chris White, with Scott B. Bomar and Cindy Da Silva, 2017
  • AnnihilationJeff VanderMeer, 2014 – I saw the movie first and actually prefer it quite a bit.
  • Cold Mountain – Han-shan, tr. Burton Watston, 1992
  • Why We Run: A Natural History – Bernd Heinrich, 2002
  • High Stakes – Dick Francis, 1975 – Comfort reading but I think I’m getting a little sick of DF, even the good stuff that was written by his wife. I can’t unread the hysterical take-down in Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, a great book I have somewhere and want to re-read.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate; Discoveries from a Secret World – Peter Wohlleben, 2016

For the Nature and Environment book group but I couldn’t make the meeting so didn’t flag many passages. I found it frustrating overall; the underlying science is amazing enough, but Wohlleben (unless the translator is partly to blame, but I don’t think so) dresses it up far too much with inappropriately-anthropomorphic and extremely value-laden language. Lab Girl is on the exactly-right side of that (of course subjective) line (and yikes, that post is still in draft as of 3/31/2018…). This is full of things that are “awful” and “painful” for trees and cause “suffering.” Some examples, good and bad:

  • He calls urban landscaping trees “street kids,”  because they live rough, sometimes-short lives away from their forest families and need to be tough survivors. Great, love that—colorful, memorable, accurate.
  • In a very interesting passage about why leaves are green—the chlorophyll “green gap”—he  ends up calling green a “trash color” (from the point of view of the trees). Borderline I guess; it’s sticky certainly.
  • “Whereas most deciduous trees leap at chances to grab more light, most conifers stubbornly refuse. They vow to grow straight or not at all.” Leap, stubborn, vow all feel a little cliched as well as unnecessary to me.

I was also struck by his airy assurance that even a softwood monoculture will quickly turn into a healthy forest. He says that sure, most of the trees will die quickly from bark beetle infestations and look ugly for a while, but fire doesn’t even seem to be on his radar.  That makes sense from his personal forestry experience in Germany, because apparently ” the ecological importance of forest fires in central Europe is relatively low,” but in most parts of the world that’s a recipe for damaging fires and subsequent erosion.