Booklist Reviewers Turn a Phrase
"Warm, sage, and compelling, this concise and mighty book
of wisdom and encouragement belongs in every library."
From the Editor
Everybody Talks about the Weather, but Nobody Does Anything about It
Everyone knows our environment is imperiled, yet rather than spending five minutes contemplating climate change, most people would rather binge on a season's worth of Dancing with the Stars—the modern equivalent of sticking our fingers in our ears and going, "LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
Why do we have such a hard time confronting this issue? Well, the scope of it is mind-boggling. Greenhouse gas emission sources are so numerous that it's hard to know where to begin. And there's no obvious deadline, either. If an asteroid the size of Texas were racing toward the earth, we'd pay attention. Sadly, we'd probably also assume there was a plan in place to send a plucky team of demolitions experts, led by Bruce Willis, into space to blast it to smithereens.
Sometimes I think people would prefer the simplicity of the asteroid. There wouldn't be a thing we could do about it, but at least we'd know what was about to hit us—and it wouldn't be our fault.
It's hard to contemplate our degraded environment without feeling responsible. Sure, we can lighten our carbon footprints, but we can't eliminate them, and Americans hate half measures and messy solutions. We also hate feeling guilty, so we give our attention where we feel validated. Even though consumption is a large part of humanity's problem, there's an enormous industry built around making us feel like better human beings because we've purchased wisely. How can that compete with the quiet voice of satisfaction when we don't buy something? When we don't run that errand? When we power down and turn out the lights?
It can't, of course, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. As Donna Seaman notes in "Great Reads: Dramatic Tales of Poisoned Places," even the most trying, entrenched environmental issues can have positive outcomes. But only if we don't ignore them.
Spotlight on Sustainability
Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet
By Todd Wilkinson
If Ted Turner were a superhero, as befits the extraordinary daring and scope of his singular, under-the-radar achievements, his powers would involve shape-shifting, controversy-igniting, strategic charisma, and making and giving away epic sums of money.
Top 10 Books on Sustainability: 2013
By Donna Seaman
As the titles below attest, sustainability—the need to stabilize and balance the relationship between humankind and the rest of nature—encompasses everything from facing the facts about climate change to defending human rights, protecting wilderness areas, and establishing clean, renewable energy sources.
Green Equilibrium: The Vital Balance of Humans & Nature
By Christopher Wills
In his latest popular science book, an encompassing work of fresh and realigning perspectives and discoveries enlivened by his wildlife photographs, Wills explores how ecosystems are shaped by evolution and how we are shaped by evolution and the ecosystems we inhabit.
Story behind the Story: Christopher Wills' Green Equilibrium
By Donna Seaman
Given Dr. Christopher Wills' extensive world travels, as chronicled in his two most recent books, The Darwinian Tourist (2010) and Green Equilibrium, Booklist felt lucky to reach him at his Southern California home.
Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants
By Jane Goodall and Gail Hudson
Though Goodall is known everywhere as the chimpanzee expert who transformed our understanding of primates and ourselves, it comes as no surprise that her profound love of nature and vigorous global activism extend to the plant kingdom.
Picture a Tree
By Barbara Reid
This open-ended picture book begins, "There is more than one way to picture a tree," and then gives one example after another, written in simple, evocative phrases and illustrated in Reid's distinctive, surprisingly adaptable style.
Top 10 Books on Sustainability for Youth: 2013
By Ann Kelley
Whether through a fairy tale, a biography, or an sf novel, this year's list of the best sustainability-themed youth books reviewed in Booklist over the past year all encourage meaningful thought about life on our planet.
Never Say Die
by Will Hobbs
Climate change serves as both theme and frequent discussion topic in this purpose-driven survival tale. Nick, half Inuit, reluctantly agrees to accompany his older brother, Ryan, on an expedition into the Yukon's remote Firth River territory to photograph one of the last caribou herds of any real size.
Carte Blanche: My Environment
by Michael Cart
Not surprisingly, the surroundings that this Spotlight on Sustainability issue (you say sustainability, I say environment) contemplates are those of the natural world: oceans, trees, weather, birds, animals, etc. As for me, though, being no nature boy, my environment is the interior world of my house, and its oceans, trees, weather, birds, animals, etc., are the nearly 8,000 books that fill the 222 shelves of the 37 six-foot-tall, freestanding bookcases that line the walls there.
By Gail Godwin
Godwin, celebrated for her literary finesse, presents a classic southern tale galvanic with decorous yet stabbing sarcasm and jolting tragedy. Helen, a writer, looks back to the fateful summer of 1945, when she was a precocious, motherless 10-year-old trying to make sense of a complicated and unjust world.
The Humanity Project
By Jean Thompson
Thompson (The Year We Left Home, 2011) achieves exceptional clarity and force in this instantly addictive, tectonically shifting novel. As always, her affection and compassion for her characters draw you in close, as does her imaginative crafting of precarious situations and moments of sheer astonishment.
By Isabel Allende
Internationally revered for her truth-seeking historical fiction, Allende takes on the present with equal bewitchment and intensity. As Maya's grandmother, Nidia, sends her into protective custody on Chiloé, an island off Chile's southern coast, she hands her a notebook in which this imperiled and irascible 19-year-old records her wrenching story.
Mom & Me & Mom
By Maya Angelou
Angelou's highly acclaimed autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), chronicles her growing up in Stamps, Arkansas, with her paternal grandmother and the trauma that resulted from a visit to her mother's family. In this loving recollection of a complicated relationship, Angelou for the first time details the mother-daughter journey to reconciliation and unwavering connection and support.
Books for Youth
A Corner of White
By Jaclyn Moriarty
Australian writer Moriarty's marvelously original fantasy is quirky, clever, and delightful, exploring links between present-day Cambridge, England, and the Kingdom of Cello, where colors attack, seasons roam unpredictably, and the Butterfly Child can save a community.
Life after Theft
By Aprilynne Pike
Jeff and his family have just moved from Phoenix to Santa Monica, where he now attends a posh private school haunted by a ghost only he can see: Kimberlee Schaffer, once Whitestone Academy's queen bee.
Out of The Easy
By Ruta Sepetys
In a radical departure from her first novel, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys' second is partially set in a 1950s New Orleans brothel where Josie's mother works as a prostitute. Humiliated, the 18-year-old fears she is destined "for nothing more than a crummy life skirting the New Orleans underworld."
P.S. Be Eleven
By Rita Williams-Garcia
The Gaither sisters—Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern—are newly returned from a summer spent in California with their mother, Cecile (One Crazy Summer, 2010), and the Black Panthers. But life in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, with Big Ma and Pa is nothing like the freedom of Oakland, even if the girls carry back independent streaks.
Not the Facts
More Bad News for Pacific Ocean
(Allium News Source) Yesterday, scientists announced the discovery of yet another island of floating waste fouling our oceans. Called the "Lesser Pacific Garbage Patch," it consists primarily of reusable shopping bags, water bottles, and coffee mugs, with a measurable percentage of yoga mats, public radio thank-you gifts, and dashboard assemblies from hybrid cars. Jeff Jones, a fisherman based out of Newport, Oregon, is credited with its discovery.
"I was hauling in my nets," reports Jones," and I saw this plastic bag with a picture of a polar bear on it, above the words World Wildlife Fund. And then I looked around and said, ‘Holy gosh!' I mean, this stuff was everywhere. I saw a dophin with its beak stuck in a Whole Foods wine tote—poor critter."
Concerned activists are already mobilizing in response, said Ernest Nuthatch of EarthCare Online. "We will be drawing public awareness to the Lesser Pacific Garbage Patch through direct mail and petitions, of course, but also through the creation of T-shirts, placards, bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets, keychains, can koozies, mouse pads, and coffee mugs—all of them responsibly sourced, of course."