Sunday, January 12, 2014

This week at the library: The Great War, politics, sex, and elephants

Dear readers:

Hours ago I returned from my monthly visit to my alma mater's library, where I found a host of interesting books. Although I've have plenty enough on my plate already, being knee-deep into The First World War by John Keegan to start my year-long reflection and study of the debacle,  most of these are on far cheerier subjects. 

  • Plagues and Peoples, or how epidemics shaped human history. (Hey, I said most of them were on cheerier subjects.)
  • A Place on Earth, Wendell Berry; a novel about a father's response to his son dying in WW2.  (Ibid.)
  • Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein. My first Heinlein! 
  • The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates, Frans de Waal
  • When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, Jeffery Masson and Susan McCarthy
  • Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England, Sally Crawford
  • Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants, Katy Payne
  • The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural, Wendell Berry
  • Ravens in Winter, Bernd Heinrich.
There's a definite nature theme to this month's pile, probably prompted by  my yearning for spring. 

We're off to a rocky start this year, books-wise, as I've read a handful of books I liked well enough and a few I was disappointed in. There are a couple of reviews outstanding, for Shop Class as Soulcraft and Wendell Berry's Sex, Community, Economics and Freedom. The latter's eclectic nature defies adequate summation, at least for now.  Sex was also the theme of The Red Queen, which I enjoyed. Related to Soulcraft and Berry is Toward a Truly Free Market,  which presents an  economic idea which EF Schumacher was influenced by in writing small is beautiful. (I owe that one a review as well....)  Comments for Toward a Truly... are just about done.

So, I'll be balancing the misery of the Great War with some fun books on animal behavior, and the toe-curling pleasure that is Wendell Berry, who is for me the literary equivalent of warm chili and a great big quilt sewn by Granny.  There's such a feeling of being at home when I step inside his mind.

Happy reading, everyone! 


  1. When Elephants Weep sounds intriguing and probably a good way to lighten the mood when reading about the war.

  2. It's one I've wanted to read for a while -- the emotional lives and intelligence of big social mammals like elephants and the whales are utterly fascinating.

  3. I enjoyed reading Keegan's The First World War, and Plagues and Peoples was a great read also. The rest of your list looks tempting, especially the one by Bernd Heinrich. Thanks for sharing your reading plans.

  4. Bernd Heinrich has a series of nature-observation works which I'm hoping to get into this year.Is he an author you have read?

    I've just reached 1917 in Keegan, and am so far very impressed with the author. I'm also glad to be be out of 1916 -- between Verdun and the Somme, that was a horrific account to take in.


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