On My Bookshelf, June 2016

Engineering EdenEngineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight over Controlling Nature by Jordan Fisher Smith (2016)

The good: This is an excellent story. Well-researched and told with an almost-extreme amount of backstory. It really paints a good picture and I enjoyed reading most of it.

The bad: In cramming all of this backstory, the book jumps around a lot from timeline to timeline. All this happens within chapters – sometimes a few paragraphs, sometimes a few pages. For the first third of the book, I had trouble keeping up with the characters and how they fit into each timeline. I considered putting the book aside. I think the author did his work a disservice by not organizing the material into larger sections.

In the end, a decent read. But not one I’m likely to recommend.

Just a side note in case you happen to get your hands on an advanced reader’s copy – it had a lot more errors than I would expect for something so close to print. At some points it was actually distracting. This didn’t play into my review at all . . . just a head’s up.

From Amazon.com: In this remarkable excavation of American environmental history, nature writer and former park ranger Jordan Fisher Smith uses Harry Walker’s story to tell the larger narrative of the futile, sometimes fatal, attempts to remake wilderness in the name of preserving it. Tracing a course from the founding of the national parks through the tangled twentieth-century growth of the conservationist movement, Smith gives the lie to the portrayal of national parks as Edenic wonderlands unspoiled until the arrival of Europeans, and shows how virtually every attempt to manage nature in the parks has only created cascading effects that require even more management. Moving across time and between Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Glacier national parks, Engineering Eden shows how efforts at wilderness management have always been undone by one fundamental problem–that the idea of what is “wild” dissolves as soon as we begin to examine it, leaving us with little framework to say what wilderness should look like and which human interventions are acceptable in trying to preserve it.

ShrillShrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West (2016)

Loved it. I actually wrote an entire post about it, but I might have been just a little bit tipsy so I’m not going to publish it. I have to keep at least a little bit of dignity. But I will share one quote from the book that really spoke to me:

“So, what do you do when you’re too big, in a world where bigness is cast not only as aesthetically objectionable, but also as a moral failing? You fold yourself up like origami, you make yourself smaller in other ways, you take up less space with your personality, since you can’t with your body. You diet. You starve, you run until you taste blood in your throat, you count out your almonds, you try to buy back your humanity with pounds of flesh.”

The entire passage is powerful for me, but the one little bit that really struck home, that really made an impact, is rather unassuming. . . “you count out your almonds.” I have counted out some many damn almonds in my life. Little baggies of perfectly portioned, individually counted almonds. Approved food that was supposed to make everything better. Stupid fucking almonds.

From Amazon.com: Shrill is an uproarious memoir, a feminist rallying cry in a world that thinks gender politics are tedious and that women, especially feminists, can’t be funny. Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but. . . . With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.

*This post contains Amazon Associate referral links.

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