A heartfelt meditation on the power of nature and a touching homage to a beloved wild friend.

FOX & I

AN UNCOMMON FRIENDSHIP

The touching memoir of a biologist who befriended a fox in the wilderness.

Raven fled an abusive home at age 15, entering college at 16. Following her passion, she moved to the mountains of Montana, where she worked as a park ranger before earning her doctorate in biology. She built a small cottage in a valley and began leading a solitary life, working for the National Park Service and teaching classes online and in the field. According to the author, she never felt lonely, but she did long to fit in somewhere. One day, she noticed that a fox would show up outside her cottage at the same time each day. Based on her academic training and professional experiences, she had always avoided humanizing wild animals. However, something was special about this fox, and the two soon developed a bond. At first, Raven felt the need to defend their relationship to her colleagues and students, fielding their frequent and targeted questions. She also continually pondered relocating to a city where she could obtain a good-paying academic job with health insurance. But the more time she and the fox spent with each other, the more the author learned about herself and was able to let go of many of the conventional ideas that had been ingrained in her mind by society. With a scientific depth of examination accompanied by lyrical language, Raven explores the development of the bond between the fox and herself as well as the natural habitat surrounding her home, including the responsibilities of landownership. She also includes relevant references from literature that have inspired her views (she also read passages out loud to the fox). As the author charmingly explains, their relationship continued to grow deeper, providing her with a sense of purpose—until a natural tragedy struck her remote area of wilderness, forever altering the trajectory of her life.

A heartfelt meditation on the power of nature and a touching homage to a beloved wild friend.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-954118-00-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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