Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest by Ian McAllister

Beautiful photographs of the Great Bear Rainforest, at risk on the west coast of Canada.

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Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest is an impassioned plea for the conservation of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, photographed and written by Ian McAllister (“talk to anyone in the Great Bear about wildlife and eventually Ian’s name will come up,” writes Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in the foreword). This distinctive coastal region is threatened by pipelines, oil tankers and liquefied-natural-gas transport; environmental groups and First Nation people are coming together in the fight to protect the enormous biodiversity, cultural heritage and immense beauty at stake.

McAllister, an accomplished photographer and longtime resident of the Great Bear, has local connections and a deep understanding of the issues at hand. Readers can flip through his work solely for the breathtaking photographs–of bat stars, spirit bears, sea wolves, salmon and many other remarkable creatures–but this accomplished collection also begs to be consumed chapter by chapter, for its ardent, beautifully written, informative prose.


This review originally ran in the November 28, 2014 gift issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 9 herring eggs.

Ships, Clocks, and Stars: The Quest for Longitude by Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgitt

The historic quest for naval navigation measurements, heavily illustrated and enlightening.

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For the tercentenary of Britain’s Longitude Act of 1714, the Royal Museums Greenwich offers an exhibition and accompanying book, Ships, Clocks, and Stars: The Quest for Longitude. For centuries, longitude, which locates a place on the Earth on an east-west basis, was impossible to track at sea, posing not only economic but safety challenges. This issue was eventually solved in the 1700s, largely by British scientists and philosophers, including astronomers, inventors and clockmakers. The story of quest for a solution–first define the question, then ascertain a reliable way to determine longitude while out in the open ocean, then build reliable and consistent tools–is one of innovation, cooperation and competition, as well as science. Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgitt, both researchers and museum curators, relate the quest for longitude in accessible prose, complementing the text with more than 150 images, maps and artwork. While the ample notes will be welcomed by academic readers, the intriguing and varied illustrations and lively subject matter–a first-class adventure tale–will entertain anyone who dreams of travel and exploration.


This review originally ran in the November 28, 2014 gift issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 6 degrees.

gift reviews

It’s that time of year again: coming up! Gift reviews! Oh wait, I should explain. I was well into telling Husband about this year’s prospects for gift reviews with Shelf Awareness, when he stopped me to ask who they are gifts for. I see I was unclear. These books are sent to me for *special* gift reviews: meaning, they are reviewed for a Shelf Awareness special issue that reviews books that might be given as gifts in the holiday season. Often these are coffee table style books. I’ve been writing gift reviews for, oh, several years for the Shelf – you can see some here.

So I’m excited this year to have received three big, beautiful coffee table books for gift-reviewing. Husband mostly no longer gets excited for me when books come in the mail! so I especially wanted to share these with you.

Ships, Clocks, and Stars: The Quest for Longitude by Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgittships


For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw by Nancy Marie Mithlo and the Smithsonian Institutionfor love


Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest by Ian McAllister, with a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.great bear


Beautiful, no? Reviews to come… oh, but if you want an early tip, let me say that I adored The Story of My Heart by Richard Jefferies, republished with commentary by Terry Tempest Williams and Brooke Williams. As just a tiny little book, both a pleasure to read and thought-provoking, and easily taken in small pieces, I think it would make an ideal stocking stuffer for… well, any number of different loved ones, really.

The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things by Anna Holmes

A colorful and clever reference guide to life as a woman that readers can enjoy straight through, cover to cover.

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The Book of Jezebel, edited by the creator of the popular feminist website with contributions from many of its writers, is an illustrated encyclopedia of “lady things.” The Jezebel definition of lady things includes body parts, clothing, historical and contemporary women in pop culture, literature and politics–and women’s issues related to feminism, reproductive rights and relationships. It also contains an “ode to female friendship,” (mostly) humorous attacks on certain public figures and plenty of photographs and illustrations that add to the book’s informational value and its hilarity.

Although often funny, The Book of Jezebel is serious in its underlying intent, aspiring to balance empowerment with femininity. It’s not just for women, but for men who love them as well.


This review originally ran in the November 29, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 8 steps.

Football Nation: Four Hundred Years of America’s Game

A multifaceted, pictorial perspective on America’s favorite sport.

football nationa

With the aid of awe-inspiring images from the Library of Congress, Susan Reyburn (Baseball Americana) masterfully recounts a detailed history of the gridiron in Football Nation. From colonial times to the commercialism of contemporary professional and college ball, Reyburn offers a look at football’s journey toward becoming the most popular sport in the country.

With previously unreleased images, including cartoons, illustrations and photographs, Reyburn traces the historical relationship between the United States and the game. Fans will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the sport, but even casual followers of the game will be enthralled with an unprecedented depth of perspective on this glamorized spectacle in history and in popular culture. Football Nation is an appealing read for anyone remotely interested in what many call the United States’ most popular sport–and how it got that way.


This review originally ran in the November 29, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

On Arctic Ground: Tracking Time Through Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve by Debbie S. Miller

A call for the preservation of Alaska’s natural heritage, with exquisite photos.

At 23 million acres, Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve is the largest single unit of public lands in the United States, none of it permanently protected. Rich in oil, gas and coal, it is also home to an astounding diversity of plants and animals, many endangered and threatened; the migratory birds of six continents begin their lives in the Reserve. Debbie S. Miller’s On Arctic Ground is a striking plea for the conservation of this irreplaceable natural space.

Although it can be read cover to cover, the best way to enjoy this book is to take its short chapters one by one. Each provides mind-boggling details–like the bar-tailed godwit’s nonstop, 7,000-mile migration from western Alaska to New Zealand–and makes the starkly moving point that this incomparable area is highly vulnerable. Breathtaking full-page pictures throughout offer stunning portrayals of the Reserve’s strange and spectacular life forms.


This review originally ran in the Nov. 23, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 8 caribou.

Italian Racing Bicycles by Guido Rubino

A beautiful book of pictures and stories about everything related to the fine art of Italian race bikes.

Passionate fans of Italian bicycles, professional bicycle racing, the history of the sport and/or fine craftsmanship must add Italian Racing Bicycles to their collections. It’s not just about bicycles, as the title suggests, but about the companies that made (and still make) them and about the Italian cyclists who ride competitively. Top-of-the-line Italian bikes are works of art as well as masterpieces of function, and Guido Rubino considers 40 of the finest manufacturers: their histories, likely futures, personalities and history-making products. The indispensable Colnago, Campagnolo and Bianchi brands are covered, as are the men who originally bore those names. Racing greats such as Coppi, Pantani, Sarroni and Bartali, whose performances helped establish the legacies of these companies, receive well-deserved attention here as well (along with select non-Italians like Eddy Merckx). Plenty of beautiful pictures complete this lovely coffee-table book.


This review originally ran in the December 6, 2011 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

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