Long Story Short: I really meant to post more than once in February. I really did. But, you know, stuff. Made a totally awesome spreadsheet in Excel, though, with an amazing formula:
It was also color-coded. Learned all about conditional formatting, too, I did. Good times.
Long Story Short about the Book: This is probably a wonderful book that was just not for me, at least not for me during this particular January, when I was expecting I’d have some cozy dark-early winter times and got instead 80-degree weather with trips to the jacuzzi. I didn’t finish it.
Why I Chose This Book: A biologist friend recommended this book to me, and had said he’d found it very inspiring. What with winter coming up, and me always looking for recommendations from real people, I thought it would be the perfect thing for the season.
The Book’s Strengths: This was a book with a strong voice, told with great detail about a fascinating subject. It was almost a memoir, I thought, and the author had great passion for the subject, as well as a careful and thorough approach to the various explorations of how tiny little animals (and bigger animals) survived during the harsh winters of northern climates. It was peppered with pencil drawings from the author’s own notes, and it was full of interesting observations about the world, and I liked many of the connections the author drew between seemingly disparate things. I mean, I know we use trees for fuel and animals eat other animals, but I never explicitly thought about trees as solar energy containers or rabbits harnessing the sun’s energy for the benefit of the foxes, that kind of thing. (The author said it better, but the book went back to the library weeks and weeks ago.) The author lymoved between loving the natural world and conducting actual experiments about the natural world (like measuring the temperature of bird corpses to see how long they’d hold heat with that shape and that size in frozen temperatures, or sticking his head into tree trunks to measure the amount of squirrel droppings in order to estimate the number of animals using a shelter), with highly readable and almost poetic prose.
The Book’s Weaknesses: I am going to fudge on this section, because I can’t really say that the things I didn’t like were weaknesses. I just prefer not to read books that have these things in them. I don’t as a rule read memoirs, because I don’t care that much about people’s introspections on their own lives, and although this book was not a memoir it had an awful lot of “I” in it. I just do not care that much about this guy’s feelings about the natural world. I care much more about the natural world itself, except that I don’t care enough about it, I guess, to learn about the guy while I’m learning about the world. I disliked Thoreau’s Walden for much of the same reason. I would have been happier with a different book about the exact same topic, but I realize that’s not an actual weakness, and I understand that I am dismissing a book because it’s not what I prefer and not for any objective reason. But I just got tired of him.
The marketing text for the book includes this sentence: “Biologist, illustrator, and award-winning author Bernd Heinrich explores his local woods, where he delights in the seemingly infinite feats of animal inventiveness he discovers there.”
I’m sure I would delight in these things myself if I were reading about them directly. But I didn’t delight in reading about the author’s delight. Does that make sense?
What Should Have Happened: I should have read a different book that matched my preferences, I guess. I don’t really have a recommendation here.
Short Story Shorter: I don’t like my non-fiction mixed up with memoir. Maybe you do.