2022 Environmental Book Club selections

Meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of every month except December. Meet at 7 p.m. at the River Action office, 822 E. River Dr. Davenport, IA. Everyone can have their favorite flavor of coffee from our new Keurig machine.

January 25 - Cold
Author: Bill Streever
From avalanches to glaciers, from seals to snowflakes, and from Shackleton's expedition to The Year Without Summer, Bill Streever journeys through history, myth, geography, and ecology in a year-long search for cold -- real, icy, 40-below cold. In July he finds it while taking a dip in a 35-degree Arctic swimming hole; in September while excavating our planet's ancient and not so ancient ice ages; and in October while exploring hibernation habits in animals, from humans to wood frogs to bears.

February 22 - Pipe Dreams
Author: Chelsea Wald
From an award-winning science journalist, a “deeply researched, entertaining, and impassioned exploration of sanitation” (Nature) and the future of the toilet—for fans of popular science bestsellers by Mary Roach.

March 22 - Siftings
Author: Jens Jensen
One of Americas greatest landscape designers and conservationists, Jensen used native plants to introduce the influential Prairie style of landscape architecture. In Siftings, Jensen shares his memories of "wandering in many lands" and his life in the heart of Middle America. His recollections—like his designs—express a love of natural landscapes and regional cultures. As he sifts through a lifetime of ideas about gardens, cities, towns and parks, Jensen makes an eloquent case for a natural style of American landscape.

April 26 - The Feather Thief
Author: Kirk Wallace Johnson
On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins--some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them--and escaped into the darkness.

Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

May 24 - Audubon's Elephant
Author: Duff Hart-Davis
Illegitimate, half-French, half-American, poorly educated, chronically short of money and obsessed with birds, Audubon came to England in 1826 to find a publisher for his extraordinary paintings. He insisted that they must be reproduced on double-elephant folio paper - sheets almost 40 inches by 30 - so that even the largest species could be represented life size, and no-one in America had been prepared to tackle such a gigantic task. With his dramatic good looks and flamboyant Woodsman's clothes he attracted attention wherever he went. Drawing on Audubon's journals, letters to his wife and the archives of the families with whom he stayed and worked, Duff Hart-Davis recreates Audubon's 12 years in Britain in search of patrons and publishers. It is a story of an obsessive genius and his observations of people, places and events in early 19th-century England and Scotland.

June 28 - A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings: A Year of Keeping Bees
Author: Helen Jukes
An inspiring, up-close portrait of beekeeping--a year of living dangerously--observing and capturing the wondrous, complex ecosystem of honeybees and their hive, and the emotional, spiritual transformation that changed the way the author sees, and is in, the world.

July 26 - Riverwalking
Author: Kathleen Dean Moore
In these twenty elegant essays, a philosopher and amateur naturalist meanders along the rivers and streams of the american West-and muses on love, loss, aging, motherhood, happiness, the art of poking around, and other important matters. “A smart, compassionate, and wise meditation on living in place” (Terry Tempest Williams).

August 23 - Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard
Author: Douglas Tallamy
Douglas W. Tallamy’s first book, Bringing Nature Home, sparked a national conversation about the link between healthy local ecosystems and human well-being. In Nature's Best Hope, he takes the next step and outlines his vision for a grassroots, home-grown approach to conservation.

Nature's Best Hope advocates for homeowners everywhere to turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats. This home-based approach doesn’t rely on the federal government and protects the environment from the whims of politics. It is also easy to do, and readers will walk away with specific suggestions they can incorporate into their own yards.

Nature's Best Hope is nature writing at its best—rooted in history, progressive in its advocacy, and above all, actionable and hopeful. By proposing practical measures that ordinary people can easily do, Tallamy gives us reason to believe that the planet can be preserved for future generations.

September 27 - Wildland Sentinel: Field Notes from an Iowa Conservation Officer
Author: Erika Billerbeck
In America’s Midwest, where “wilderness” is in short supply, working to defend what’s left of Iowa’s natural resources can be both a daunting and an entertaining task. In Wildland Sentinel, Erika Billerbeck takes readers along for the ride as she and her colleagues sift through poaching investigations, chase down sex offenders in state parks, search for fugitives in wildlife areas, haul drunk boaters to jail, perform body recoveries, and face the chaos that comes with disaster response. Using an introspective personal voice, this narrative nonfiction work weaves stories of Iowa’s natural history with a cast of unforgettable characters. Wildland Sentinel touches on what it means to be a woman working in the male-dominated field of conservation law enforcement.

October 25 - A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds
Author: Scott Weidensaul
In the past two decades, our understanding of the navigational and physiological feats that enable birds to cross immense oceans, fly above the highest mountains, or remain in unbroken flight for months at a stretch has exploded. What we’ve learned of these key migrations—how billions of birds circumnavigate the globe, flying tens of thousands of miles between hemispheres on an annual basis—is nothing short of extraordinary.

Bird migration entails almost unfathomable endurance, like a sparrow-sized sandpiper that will fly nonstop from Canada to Venezuela—the equivalent of running 126 consecutive marathons without food, water, or rest—avoiding dehydration by "drinking" moisture from its own muscles and organs, while orienting itself using the earth’s magnetic field through a form of quantum entanglement that made Einstein queasy. Crossing the Pacific Ocean in nine days of nonstop flight, as some birds do, leaves little time for sleep, but migrants can put half their brains to sleep for a few seconds at a time, alternating sides—and their reaction time actually improves.

These and other revelations convey both the wonder of bird migration and its global sweep, from the mudflats of the Yellow Sea in China to the remote mountains of northeastern India to the dusty hills of southern Cyprus. This breathtaking work of nature writing from Pulitzer Prize finalist Scott Weidensaul also introduces readers to those scientists, researchers, and bird lovers trying to preserve global migratory patterns in the face of climate change and other environmental challenges.

Drawing on his own extensive fieldwork, in A World on the Wing Weidensaul unveils with dazzling prose the miracle of nature taking place over our heads.

November 22 - Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
Author: Elizabeth Rush
Hailed as "deeply felt" (New York Times), "a revelation" (Pacific Standard), and "the book on climate change and sea levels that was missing" (Chicago Tribune), Rising is both a highly original work of lyric reportage and a haunting meditation on how to let go of the places we love.

With every passing day, and every record-breaking hurricane, it grows clearer that climate change is neither imagined nor distant--and that rising seas are transforming the coastline of the United States in irrevocable ways. In Rising, Elizabeth Rush guides readers through some of the places where this change has been most dramatic, from the Gulf Coast to Miami, and from New York City to the Bay Area. For many of the plants, animals, and humans in these places, the options are stark: retreat or perish in place.

Weaving firsthand testimonials from those facing this choice--a Staten Islander who lost her father during Sandy, the remaining holdouts of a Native American community on a drowning Isle de Jean Charles, a neighborhood in Pensacola settled by escaped slaves hundreds of years ago--with profiles of wildlife biologists, activists, and other members of these vulnerable communities, Rising privileges the voices of those too often kept at the margins.

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