Monday, February 15, 2010

Nonfiction Monday

Didja see that the Cybil winners were announced yesterday?

Well, I have two biographies today that were Cybil nominees, the first one written by the same author of the winner!

A Life in the Wild: George Schaller's Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts Pamela S. Turner

This biography of George Schaller follows him from his early interest in animal, to his university days in Alaska, and his research trips around the world-- studying gorillas in what was then the Belgian Congo, tigers in India, lions on the Serengeti, snow leopards in the Himalayas, pandas in China, and the ecosystem of the Tibetan Plateau.

As Schaller's career started in 1959, the book shows how he revolutionized how we observe animals in the wild (such as, by quietly observing them and not killing them.) The photographs are all from Schaller's personal collection, so we get a good look at how things looked then. I (obviously) found the chapters on China and Tibet most interesting and wanted a deeper look at all the politics at play, because there were hints at things that I recognized instantly as Chinese face-saving and Chinese politics, but as that wasn't the point or focus of the book, it didn't get into it.

It's an interesting book for middle grade readers who want to learn about conservation of several different animals and how our ideas on how best of learn about and save animals has changed over time. I especially recommend pairing The chapter about tracking snow leopards in the Himalayas in 1969-1975 with Sy Montgomery's Saving the Ghost of the Mountain, about tracking snow leopards in Mongolia.

Book Provided by... my local library

The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum Candace Fleming

Did you know that PT Barnum got into the circus game very late in life? He was 60 before he got involved, and then it was because a business partner wanted the fame that Barnum's name would give to the venture (also, Barnum's cash). Who knew?

Well, if you read this delightful, informative, and fascinating biography, filled with informational sidebars and pictures and other ephemera, you will. Seriously, the entire week after I read it, I was telling everyone I came across random facts about Barnum. I annoyed everyone I knew! And people I didn't.

I highly recommend it. It's one of the books that just missed my personal Cybils shortlist. My only complaint is that Fleming relies heavily on Barnum's own autobiographies and there were a few things that made me pause and when I checked the source, it was Barnum's own version of his life, which isn't exactly the most objective point of view.

Book Provided by... my local library

Round up is by Amy over at The Art of Irreverence. Check it out!

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Sibylle said...

Good on you for reading the George Schaller and Sy Montgomery books! Endangered snow leopards need all the help they can get and both George and Sy have done fantastic work in their own way to save them from extinction. I recently interviewed Sy on my "Saving Snow Leopards" blog and she said that she hobbled her way across the Gobi mountains for this book because she'd fallen into a chipmunk hole in the garden the week before her flight out and sprained her ankle. That's dedication!

Shelley said...

Thanks for letting us know about this book. I'm very interested in environmental issues, and of course the same environment that surrounds these beasts is our home and happiness also!