Ballard’s incredible achievements and gift for storytelling will captivate readers from all walks of life.



An explorer’s memoir of discovering the wreck of the Titanic—and so much more.

As a young boy, Ballard was perpetually in motion. Feeling confined in school and suffering from dyslexia, he found that he learned better by seeing and doing. From an early age, his mother had given him “license to roam,” so he spent much of his time fishing, swimming, and exploring the tidal pools of Southern California. After seeing Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea at age 12, he was hooked on the ocean: “It blew my mind.” Although Ballard is best known for the Titanic, he has made numerous remarkable discoveries in the face of significant obstacles. Among his other adventures and accomplishments: witnessing the ocean floor expanding at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; investigating alleged Loch Ness monster sightings; finding the Bismarck and the Yorktown; exploring the wreckage of the Lusitania; tracking ancient trade routes of the Romans and the Phoenicians; stumbling upon a site that pointed the way for Israel to find “a significant offshore oil and gas field”; making findings that confirmed a theory that a catastrophic event occurred in the Black Sea (which some believe was the biblical Noah’s flood); locating John F. Kennedy’s PT-109; discovering a German U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico; and his current quest to find the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s plane. All of this would be enough to fill multiple lifetimes, but Ballard has also developed and improved technologies to aid in the exploration of the ocean floor, made speaking appearances and written numerous articles and books about his work, and created video documentaries and live broadcasts of his adventures, bringing science to life for schoolchildren. Throughout the book, the author discusses the many challenges and setbacks he faced along the way, noting that failure should be embraced, since “every failure is a learning lesson.”

Ballard’s incredible achievements and gift for storytelling will captivate readers from all walks of life.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4262-2099-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.


Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.


The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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