A mesmerizing, wonder-filled nature study that also serves as a cautionary tale about wildlife conservation.

THE GLITTER IN THE GREEN

IN SEARCH OF HUMMINGBIRDS

An acclaimed natural history writer and wildlife guide explores the Americas in search of hummingbirds.

As Dunn notes, storytellers have always held hummingbirds in “high regard,” from pre-Columbian oral mythologists to 20th-century writers like Gabriel García Márquez. In his latest, the author chronicles his travels from his home in the Shetland Islands to the Americas in search of this alluring bird. Fittingly, Dunn’s journey begins in Alaska, where, tens of millions of years ago, hummingbirds arrived after crossing over the land bridge from Siberia. Here, the author introduces us to the “sombre green and white plumage” of the Rufous hummingbird, a species that, in 2010, was documented traveling 3,500 miles, the longest known migration ever recorded by a hummingbird.” Among Dunn’s numerous vividly recounted adventures, we visit gardens and lush areas in the Sonoran Desert that have become magnets for bird-watchers; a market in Mexico City where we learn about a macabre secret; the Zapata Peninsula in Cuba, home to the bee hummingbird, the smallest in the world; and Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina, where the author spotted the Green-backed Firecrown, a species that Darwin encountered in 1832 “flitting about in a snowstorm.” All of these marvelous voyages are only part of what makes this book so enchanting. Along the way, Dunn compassionately shares his extensive knowledge of the species endemic to each location, including their aesthetics, mechanics, habitats, and related regional culture and folklore, and he discusses factors contributing to the decline of hummingbirds, including pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss. Encouragingly, he “encountered examples of where human intervention had come just in time and, locally at least, had pulled a hummingbird back from the brink.” However, he also discovered that hummingbirds continue to be seen by some as a “commodity to be consumed and manipulated for their own ends, regardless of the birds’ welfare.”

A mesmerizing, wonder-filled nature study that also serves as a cautionary tale about wildlife conservation.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-1819-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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