Life has become so topsy turvy the past few months that I keep devouring titles without taking (making?) the time to write about them. While it’s satisyfing to see my stack of completed reading grow higher, it’s also a constant reminder that this working mother of a two-year-old tyrant doesn’t have enough time to write thoughtful, deep reviews of each. As an author myself, I know how much time, effort, and middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks is channeled into creating a published book, so I feel an obligation of sorts — throbbing with a deep vein of empathy — to give the following books praise and recognition.
To get through the lastet tomes, this post will do something new. Instead of writing an in-depth review for each, I’ve summarized the works in a few paragraphs. I’ve tried to keep things simple and sweet. Enjoy! Hopefully you’ll find some science reading inspiration for your New Year!
Relicts of A Beautiful Sea: Survival, Extinction, and Conservation in a Desert World
This is a beautiful, sensitive, and intellectual book about the fragility of water-bound desert species in the Inyo Mountains of Death Valley. The illustrations and cover make it aesthetic enough to be mistaken for a decorative coffee-table book, but this work is filled with detailed and poignant insight from a working biologist who observes the land and its inhabitants with a poet’s sensibilities. Author Christopher Norment easily imparts facts and knowledge of the desert environs and its most precarious inhabitants, but he cloaks these tidbits in sensitive, literary language which makes his work a delight to read.
While many naturalists are drawn to the desert to study its diverse plants, birds, herps, and insects, its amazing water-bound inhabitants often go overlooked. In Relicts of A Beautiful Sea, Norment explores the habitat and habits of one rare salamander, four pupfish, and a toad — all of which persist in a precarious desert environment. (The species are: the Inyo Mountain slender salamander, the Owens pupfish, Salt Creek and Cottonball Marsh pupfish, Devil’s Hole ppupfish, and the black toad.) Deserts are defined by their lack of water, and yet the water-loving species he writes of have persisted across millenia and long spans of geological time. They are holdovers from another, wetter time; a time when the current desert floor was the submerged bed of an inland freshwater lake 600 feet deep and 80 miles long, a lake which spread from the Panamint to Funeral Mountains.
Norment uses the rarity of these organisms to pivot away from an ecologist’s view of speices abundance and distribution and wade into a philosophical landscape where he ponders whether these animals can teach us something about loneliness, the tenacity of life, and trascendence. Continue reading