Staff Pick

Since discovering in college that “traveling…assuaged something in me,” Lopez has gone all over the world; in his extraordinary memoir he revisits places that have meant the most to him in North and South America, Africa, Australia, and both poles. This is not merely travel writing. As he’s done in previous work, notably his classic Arctic Dreams, Lopez not only writes brilliantly about the natural world, he also reflects on what life really means in particular locales. He considers everything from an anthropological perspective, asking how the earliest native peoples might have experienced their land, sky, and sea, then struggles to do likewise. He combines his insatiable curiosity—which ranges to retracing the paths of Captain Cook and other explorers to joining the Leakeys’ excavations in Africa to helping collect meteorites in Antarctica—with a profoundly moral sensibility, looking to ancient cultures for answers to today’s greatest challenges, especially climate change, violence, and human rights. He deeply believes that the answers are there, and that if we can listen carefully enough to our own and the planet’s past, we can rediscover what the elders of traditional cultures knew: “the wisdom of what works.” If this sounds naïve or superficial, read this book. All Lopez’s ideas are grounded in specific places, and his descriptions of these deserts, seas, jungles, and coasts—and especially his near-mystical experiences while watching flamingos on the Galápagos  and penguins on the Ross Ice Shelf--are heartstoppingly lucid and beautiful, and there’s no better definition of truth than that.

Horizon Cover Image
ISBN: 9780394585826
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - March 19th, 2019

Staff Pick

The 1986 Chernobyl accident is so far the most serious nuclear disaster in history. Yet more than thirty years later, the extent of its damage isn’t clear: experts disagree about the number of deaths it caused (from thirty-one to hundreds of thousands), about the danger, if any, of low-dose radiation, the extent of the danger zone and need for resettlement, the various vectors through which radiation spreads, and much more. Whatever statements were issued in the early days, Brown shows in her comprehensive study of the incident and its ongoing aftermath, were largely made up for the sake of avoiding panic;  reassuring numbers were not science but “expediency and politics.” Brown, a historian with extensive experience in the former Soviet Union, spent years in archives tracing the complicated chain of official denials and lies. Her report of the massive cover-up is shocking. But it’s her meetings with frustrated doctors, scientists, and especially residents still living in irradiated villages—where the environmental damage is severe and irreversible—that are heartbreaking. And as she did in her excellent Plutopia, she shows that Americans were as invested in defending nuclear power as the Soviets were and used many of the same tactics in downplaying the dangers from atmospheric and underground tests. Few know, for instance, that the radiation released from explosions in Nevada between 1951 and 1992 “dwarfed Chernobyl emissions three times over.” Not just about Chernobyl, this book brings home that since we first split the atom, we’re all living in a contaminated zone.

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393652512
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 12th, 2019

Staff Pick

Truer’s revelatory history tells much more than the story of “Native America from 1890 to the present.”  To understand 1890—the date of the massacre of 150 Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee, which seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of America’s indigenous peoples—we have to know the innumerable ways the U.S. had already tried to deal with its “Indian problem,” how Europeans had treated the Natives from first contact, and what life was like on the continent during the centuries before it was “discovered” by whites. Treuer covers this complicated history in detail; if the number of treaties, acts, and battles is dizzying, what comes through clearly is that there is no single “Indian” story. Each tribe—and often each clan within the tribe—occupies distinct cultural and geographical landscapes, and each has been impacted differently by the various means whites have used to try to control them. These stories are fascinating and long overdue—without them, the story of America, and especially of the West, has been both partial and seriously impoverished. Treuer’s central thesis, however, is that despite whites’ relentless battle to exterminate Natives—a mission often explicitly stated as that—they failed. Wounded Knee was not the end of the story, just one chapter in an ongoing saga that gradually led from allotment, U.S. citizenship, the Indian Reorganization Act, and the Termination Act, to the American Indian Movement, casinos, and more enterprises initiated by Natives themselves. Growing up on Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota, Treuer, a member of the Ojibwe, did not see “ruined lives,” but people who could “choose to be Indian.” Since 1890, Native populations have grown—and grown stronger.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594633157
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Riverhead Books - January 22nd, 2019