Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-
By Bill Schutt, Illustrations by Patricia Wynne,
Schutt illuminates the bizarre world of
sanguivores with the wizened voice of a
biologist who’s gotten his hands dirty. Not
for the blood-squeamish, this book’s fasci-
nating chapters range from vampire bat
stratagems to how misguided physicians
bled George Washington to death. Ticks,
mites, and blood-sucking fish included.
The Paradise of All These Parts
A Natural History of Boston
By John Hanson Mitchell, Beacon Press, 2008.
Puritans “tamed” the land, Transcenden-
talists revered it, the New Boston tried to
bury it beneath asphalt and tarmac.
Amble this still-walkable city with Mitchell,
a thoughtful writer who recalls how the
first land trusts, the first Audubon society,
and some of the first effective environ-
mental citizen protests happened here.
The Shadow of Sirius
By W. S. Merwin, Copper Canyon Press, 2008.
In his latest collection of poems, Merwin’s
gentle wisdom and attentiveness to the
world are alive as ever. These deeply
reflective meditations move through light
and darkness, old love and turning seasons
to probe the core of human experience.
The Toxic Assault on Our Children
By Phillip Shabecoff and Alice Shabecoff,
Random House, 2008.
Chronic illnesses are up. Fertility is drop-
ping. Kids are getting cancer. Who is to
blame? Full of horrifying case studies and
industry coverups, Poisoned Profits cracks
open the toxic blitz that is contaminating
our nation. Discover the economic, social,
physical, and spiritual costs of chemicals,
and how we are killing our children.
are full of short portraits of
the kinds of tough, quirky,
and sophisticated characters
you’d expect to >nd in Alaska,
but whom Saulitis brings
into sharp focus through her
generous sensibility. It makes
sense, given Saulitis’s broad
imagination about how
meaning gets made, that she
weaves many intimate per-
sonal narratives into the central subject of this collection—the tale of
whale research. It’s refreshing to read a
book that doesn’t pretend that one’s personal life can be extricated from one’s profession. In this way, and in many others,
the book challenges us to question our
assumptions and expectations regarding
our relationships to the natural world.
— Gretchen Legler
in the Dark
More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife
by marie winn
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
$25, 320 pages.
NATURALIS T Robert Michael Pyle often
laments what he refers to as the “
extinction of experience.” He writes, “A populace less familiar with its nonhuman
neighbors is one whose own impacts are
unlikely to be noticed and moderated by
choice. What we know, we may choose to
care for . . . what we fail to recognize, we
certainly won’t.” For her part, Marie Winn
has taken up this banner in a small, but
essential way. And she waves it in the best
of all places—her backyard. It just so happens that her “yard” is in the middle of
one of the world’s largest cities.
Central Park in the Dark is a >ne follow-up to Winn’s popular Red-Tails in Love,
which chronicled the human and avian
dramas surrounding the activities of a now-
famous pair of New York
City raptors. Her new
book focuses on the nocturnal habits of Central
Park’s nonhuman residents, and the ?
ashlight-wielding community of
nature enthusiasts who
venture out after sunset
in search of the next natural phenomenon. Winn
saunters through a wealth
of natural history on owls and moths, bats
and stars; she writes with contagious excitement, in a jovial, even giddy, tone. Her devotion to these pursuits is >erce. No question
is left unasked, no species left unkeyed, and
no natural process is denied its proper
attention and reverence.
Central Park has cast a deep and resonating spell on this community of urban
naturalists. People of all ages (some of the
“regulars” are children under eight years
old) and backgrounds are bound by the
experiences they share here. They celebrate
holidays in the park. They enter it in search
of solace, and to grieve. They >ght to conserve it. Their love of place is so strong that
when Winn’s good friend Charles Kennedy
is dying of lymphoma, he begins detailing
instructions on where his ashes should be
scattered. This is no general request, but a
long, loving list of speci>c locations: the
lake where he >nally saw his >rst prothonotary warbler, the Moth Tree where
the group gathered at night to watch
moths feed on oozing sap, the small
peninsula where the park’s >rst screech
owl pair in half a century successfully
nested, bred, and ?edged three owlets.
Whether it is watching owls rise, slugs
mate, moths feed, or hawks hunt, the
park is constantly providing these paramount opportunities for “quasi-religious
exhilaration.” And so in the end, it is the
park itself, rather than any of the many
creatures in it, that provides Winn with
her most essential relationship. Central