Jule’s Picks

Jule with binoculars

Currently Reading:

A Year in the Maine Woods book

 

A Year in the Maine Woods – Bernd Heinrich

Escapist fantasies usually involve the open road, but Bernd Heinrich’s dream was to focus on the riches of one small place—a few green acres along Alder Brook just east of the Presidential Mountains. The year begins as he settles into a cabin with no running water and no electricity, built of hand-cut logs he dragged out of the woods with a team of oxen. There, alone except for his pet raven, Jack, he rediscovers the meaning of peace and quiet and harmony with nature—of days spent not filling out forms, but tracking deer, or listening to the sound of a moth’s wings.Throughout this year when “the subtle matters and the spectacular distracts,” Heinrich brings us back to the drama in small things, when life is lived consciously. His story is that of a man rediscovering what it means to be alive.

 

 

Recent Reads:

 

Galileo's Middle Finger by Alice Dreger

Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science – Alice Dreger

An impassioned defense of intellectual freedom and a clarion call to intellectual responsibility, Galileo’s Middle Finger is one American’s eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offers in Galileo’s Middle Finger an unforgettable vision of the importance of rigorous truth seeking in today’s America, where both the free press and free scholarly inquiry struggle under dire economic and political threats.

This illuminating chronicle begins with Dreger’s own research into the treatment of people born intersex (once called hermaphrodites). Realization of the shocking surgical and ethical abuses conducted in the name of “normalizing” intersex children’s gender identities moved Dreger to become an internationally recognized patient rights’ activist. But even as the intersex rights movement succeeded, Dreger began to realize how some fellow progressive activists were employing lies and personal attacks to silence scientists whose data revealed uncomfortable truths about humans. In researching one such case, Dreger suddenly became the target of just these kinds of attacks.

Troubled, she decided to try to understand more—to travel the country to ferret out the truth behind various controversies, to obtain a global view of the nature and costs of these battles. Galileo’s Middle Finger describes Dreger’s long and harrowing journeys between the two camps for which she felt equal empathy: social justice activists determined to win and researchers determined to put hard truths before comfort. Ultimately what emerges is a lesson about the intertwining of justice and of truth—and a lesson of the importance of responsible scholars and journalists to our fragile democracy.

 

America's Victory by David W Shaw
America’s Victory

America’s Victory: The Heroic Story of a Team of Ordinary Americans — And how they Won the Greatest Yacht Race Ever – David W Shaw

The America’s Cup is the oldest international trophy in competitive sports, yet few know the inspirational story of the dedicated seamen behind the original historic race. In 1850, a brilliant young boat designer struck a terrible deal with the New York Yacht Club: he would attempt to build them the world’s fastest boat, but he would receive no payment unless the vessel emerged victorious at The Great Exhibition in England. With its revolutionary design and striking beauty, the yacht America would have to beat fourteen of the best boats that Britain – the world’s greatest maritime nation – could bring to the line. It seemed an impossible task. Yet America’s small, unlikely team of humble, hardworking men faced the might and arrogance not only of their British competitors, but also their own backers, and achieved the unthinkable. No one has ever chronicled the race from the perspective of the men who designed and sailed the plucky boat America. In the course of his research, author David W. Shaw found many letters and notes written by the crew, imbuing his compelling narrative with a vivid historical realism. He places readers squarely on board as the race’s lone American competitor crosses the finish line first while Queen Victoria and Prince Albert look on amid cheering crowds. America’s Victory is an amazing account of a crucial turning point in the growth of a young nation’s confidence.

A Voyage For Madmen book by Peter Nichols

A Voyage For Madmen – Peter Nichols

In 1968, nine sailors set off on the most daring race ever held: to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe nonstop. It was a feat that had never been accomplished and one that would forever change the face of sailing. Ten months later, only one of the nine men would cross the finish line and earn fame, wealth, and glory. For the others, the reward was madness, failure, and death.

In this extraordinary book, Peter Nichols chronicles a contest of the individual against the sea, waged at a time before cell phones, satellite dishes, and electronic positioning systems. A Voyage for Madmen is a tale of sailors driven by their own dreams and demons, of horrific storms in the Southern Ocean, and of those riveting moments when a split-second decision means the difference between life and death.

 

 

The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson

 

The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean – Trevor Corson

In this intimate portrait of an island lobstering community and an eccentric band of renegade biologists, journalist Trevor Corson escorts the reader onto the slippery decks of fishing boats, through danger-filled scuba dives, and deep into the churning currents of the Gulf of Maine to learn about the secret undersea lives of lobsters.

 

 

 

 

Mud Season by Ellen Stimson

Mud Season: How One Woman’s Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens and Sheep, and Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another – Ellen Stimson

After a getaway in gorgeous rural Vermont―its mountains ablaze in autumnal glory, its Main Streets quaint and welcoming―Ellen Stimson and her family make up their minds even before they get back to St. Louis: “We’re moving to Vermont!” The reality, they quickly learn, is a little muddier than they’d imagined, but, happily, worth all the trouble.

In self-deprecating and hilarious fashion, Mud Season chronicles Stimson’s transition from city life to rickety Vermont farmhouse. When she decides she wants to own and operate the old-fashioned village store in idyllic Dorset, pop. 2,036, one of the oldest continually operating country stores in the country, she learns the hard way that “improvements” are not always welcomed warmly by folks who like things just fine the way they’d always been. She dreams of patrons streaming in for fresh-made sandwiches and an old-timey candy counter, but she learns they’re boycotting the store. Why? “The bread,” they tell her, “you moved the bread from where it used to be.” Can the citified newcomer turn the tide of mistrust before she ruins the business altogether?

Follow the author to her wit’s end and back, through her full immersion into rural life―swapping high heels for muck boots; raising chickens and sheep; fighting off skunks, foxes, and bears; and making a few friends and allies in a tiny town steeped in history, local tradition, and that dyed-in-the-wool Vermont “character.”

 

Fingal O'Reilly Irish Doctor by Patrick Taylor

Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor: An Irish Country Novel – Patrick Taylor

Fans of Taylor’s bestselling Irish Country novels know Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly as the irascible senior partner of a general practice in the colorful Irish village of Ballybucklebo. Newly married to his once long-lost sweetheart, he’s ready to settle into domestic bliss, but there’s always something requiring his attention, be it a riding accident, a difficult patient with a worrisome heart condition, a spot of grouse-hunting, or even some tricky shenanigans at the local dog races.

The everyday complications of village life are very different from the challenges Fingal faced nearly thirty years earlier, when fresh out of medical school, the young Dr. O’Reilly accepts a post at the Aungier Street Dispensary, tending to the impoverished denizens of Dublin’s tenement slums. Yet even as he tries to make a difference, Fingal’s tireless devotion to his patients may cost him his own true love….

Shifting back and forth between the present and the past, Patrick Taylor’s captivating Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor, brings to life both the green young man O’Reilly once was and the canny village doctor readers have come to know and admire.

 

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain – Bill Bryson

Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to discover and celebrate that green and pleasant land. The result was Notes from a Small Island, a true classic and one of the bestselling travel books ever written. Now he has traveled about Britain again, by bus and train and rental car and on foot, to see what has changed—and what hasn’t.

Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis in the south to Cape Wrath in the north, by way of places few travelers ever get to at all, Bryson rediscovers the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly singular country that he both celebrates and, when called for, twits. With his matchless instinct for the funniest and quirkiest and his unerring eye for the idiotic, the bewildering, the appealing, and the ridiculous, he offers acute and perceptive insights into all that is best and worst about Britain today.

Nothing is more entertaining than Bill Bryson on the road—and on a tear. The Road to Little Dribbling reaffirms his stature as a master of the travel narrative—and a really, really funny guy.

 

Beatrix Potter by Linda Lear

Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature – Linda Lear

In this remarkable biography, Linda Lear offers a new look at the extraordinary woman who gave us some of the most beloved children’s books of all time. Potter found freedom from her conventional Victorian upbringing in the countryside. Nature inspired her imagination as an artist and scientific illustrator, but The Tale of Peter Rabbit brought her fame, financial success, and the promise of happiness when she fell in love with her editor Norman Warne. After his tragic and untimely death, Potter embraced a new life as the owner of Hill Top Farm in the English Lake District and a second chance at happiness. As a visionary landowner, successful farmer and sheep-breeder, she was able to preserve the landscape that had inspired her art. Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature reveals a lively, independent and passionate woman, whose art was timeless, and whose generosity left an indelible imprint on the countryside.

 

 

Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know – Alexandra Horowitz

The answers will surprise and delight you as Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist, explains how dogs perceive their daily worlds, each other, and that other quirky animal, the human. Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans, or even the passage of time? How does a tiny dog manage to play successfully with a Great Dane? What is it like to hear the bodily vibrations of insects or the hum of a fluorescent light? Why must a person on a bicycle be chased? What’s it like to use your mouth as a hand? In short, what is it like for a dog to experience life from two feet off the ground, amidst the smells of the sidewalk, gazing at our ankles or knees?

Inside of a Dog explains these things and much more. The answers can be surprising—once we set aside our natural inclination to anthropomorphize dogs. Inside of a Dog also contains up-to-the-minute research—on dogs’ detection of disease, the secrets of their tails, and their skill at reading our attention—that Horowitz puts into useful context.

Although not a formal training guide, Inside of a Dog has practical application for dog lovers interested in understanding why their dogs do what they do. With a light touch and the weight of science behind her, Alexandra Horowitz examines the animal we think we know best but may actually understand the least. This book is as close as you can get to knowing about dogs without being a dog yourself.

 

The #1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

Fans around the world adore the best-selling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and its proprietor, Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma  Ramotswe—with help from her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi—navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea.

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

 

Carl’s picks

Good Reading for Foggy Days