The Fields Pond Book Group meets monthly on Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. at the Orono Public Library, facilitated by professional librarian Joyce Rumery. At press time, Joyce was still scheduling hybrid FPBG meetings, for attendance either in-person or online via Zoom. If you would like to participate, please contact Joyce directly at email@example.com. Here is the title and a brief synopsis for February’s selection. The group will take a hiatus during December and January.
February 8, 2024
Macfarlane, Robert. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot. 2012. 432 pp.
The author examines the subtle ways we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move. In this exquisitely written book, which folds together natural history, cartography, geology, and literature, Macfarlane sets off to follow the ancient routes that crisscross both the landscape of the British Isles and its waters and territories beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the voices that haunt old paths, and the stories our tracks tell.
March 14, 2024
Dickie, Gloria. Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future. 2023. 336 pp.
A global exploration of the eight remaining species of bears and the dangers they face. Bears have always held a central place in our collective memory, from Indigenous folklore and Greek mythology to nineteenth-century fairytales and the modern toyshop. But as humans and bears come into ever-closer contact, our relationship nears a tipping point. Today, most of the eight remaining bear species are threatened with extinction. Some, such as the panda bear and the polar bear, are icons of the natural world; others, such as the spectacled bear and the sloth bear, are far less known.
Dickie embarks on a globe-trotting journey to explore each bear’s story, whisking readers from the cloud forests of the Andes to the ice floes of the Arctic; from the jungles of India to the backwoods of the Rocky Mountain West. She meets with key figures on the frontlines of modern conservation efforts, the head of a rescue center for sun and moon bears freed from bile farms, a biologist known as Papa Panda, who has led China’s panda-breeding efforts for almost four decades, a conservationist retraining a military radar system to detect and track polar bears near towns to reveal the unparalleled challenges bears face as they contend with a rapidly changing climate and encroaching human populations.
Weaving together ecology, history, mythology, and a captivating account of her travels and observations, Dickie offers a closer look at our volatile relationship with these magnificent mammals. Engrossing and deeply reported, Eight Bears delivers a clear warning for what we risk losing if we don’t learn to live alongside the animals that have shaped our cultures, geographies, and stories.
April 11, 2024
Carson, Rachel. The Sea Around Us. 1951. 256 pp.
The Sea Around Us is one of the most influential books ever written about the natural world. Carson’s genius for evoking the power and primacy of the world’s bodies of water, combining the cosmic and the intimate, remains almost unmatched: the newly formed Earth cooling beneath an endlessly overcast sky; the centuries of nonstop rain that created the oceans; giant squids battling sperm whales hundreds of fathoms below the surface; the power of the tides moving 100 billion tons of water daily in one bay alone; the seismic waves known as tsunamis that periodically remind us of the oceans’ overwhelmingly destructive power. The seas sustain human life and imperil it. Today, with the oceans endangered by the dumping of medical waste and ecological disasters such as the Exxon oil spill in Alaska, the gradual death of the Great Barrier Reef, and the melting of the polar ice caps, Carson’s book provides a timely reminder of both the fragility and the centrality of the ocean and the life that abounds within it.
May 9, 2024
Proulx, Annie. Fen, bog and swamp: a short history of death and destruction and its role in the climate crisis. 2022. 196 pp.
A lifelong acolyte of the natural world, Proulx brings her witness and research to the subject of wetlands and the vitally important role they play in preserving the environment—by storing the carbon emissions that accelerate climate change. Fens, bogs, swamps, and marine estuaries are crucial to the earth’s survival, and in four illuminating parts, Proulx documents their systemic destruction in pursuit of profit.
In a vivid and revelatory journey through history, Proulx describes the fens of 16th-century England, Canada’s Hudson Bay lowlands, Russia’s Great Vasyugan Mire, and America’s Okeefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. She introduces the early explorers who launched the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and writes of the diseases spawned in the wetlands—the Ague, malaria, Marsh Fever.
A sobering look at the degradation of wetlands over centuries and the serious ecological consequences, this is “an unforgettable and unflinching tour of past and present, fixed on a subject that could not be more important” (Bill McKibben).
June 13, 2024
Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. 2017. 280 pp.
An intrepid investigation into nature’s restorative benefits by a prize-winning author. For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.
From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to groves of eucalyptus in California, Williams investigates the science at the confluence of environment, mood, health, and creativity. Delving into completely new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.