Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nature Writing at its Finest

Much like Mary Oliver, Craig Childs is a keen observer of nature. Instead of writing poetry, however, Childs is a storyteller in essays. Naturalist, adventurer, desert ecologist, and frequent contributor to National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Childs gives us some of his best observations in The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild. I ate this book up when it was first published, and I'm happy to report that it's now available in paperback. Bear, Bald Eagle, Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, Bighorn Sheep, and Blue Shark are just some of the chapter titles. I was particularly taken with the vignette on a misplaced raccoon.

The essays need not be read in any particular order; the book is meant to be dipped in and out of. Here's what Childs has to say in his Author's Note: "This is how each story came to me: unexpectedly, halting my breath before I could draw it in. If you are one of those people who insist on reading books from left to right, I recommend a sip of clear water before starting each new chapter. Even better, I suggest that before you read the next story, you open your door and walk into the woods where only birds and spying raccoons might see you, or into a desert of lizards and jackrabbits, if that is what is at hand. Paw up the dirt and taste it on your lips. Drink out of a stream or from the lucid depths of a bedrock water hole. Return to your house, where this book waits on a table. Pull up a chair and see what other wild creature comes to speak with you."

One reviewer said of this book: "He reminds us why we fell in love with the wild in the first place." I couldn't agree more. Come check it out. You're in for some first-class nature writing, sort of Mary Oliver meets Jon Krakauer.

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