Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Non-fiction I never reviewed last year and now it's too late

The best of the bunch is "Bottomfeeder - How the fish on our plates is killing our planet". Each chapter has a theme that is both a location and a dish, such as "New York City - Pan-roasted Monkfish" and which Taras Grescoe takes as a starting point to instruct us on what's going on under the waves.

Increasingly, not much, because the fishing fleets of the world (that seem to behave as modern time pirates)are depleting the fishing stocks to such a length that many species such as monkfish, cod and tuna are actually being pushed to extinction.

I was very proud to see the Portuguese lauded since our love of sardines (fish that are plentiful, nutritious and lower in the food-chain)even if it seems to have escaped Grescoe's attention that probably the third most popular fish dish in this country (after cod, also endangered) is monkfish rice (probably the stock nearest complete breakdown). Anyways, highly recommended - very readable, full of interesting information and advice on choosing fish (and seafood) with an eye on both the sustainability of stocks and health.

"Coral - A pessimist in Paradise", was also interesting but not as compelling. Coral reefs are dying, are not be able to rebuild as fast and if you think it only affects the quality of under-water scenery for scuba-divers, guess again. Coral set the stage for our own emergence on the planet and if they go we might soon follow.

Sad as it is to admit it the science part was a bit to thorough for my taste. There were chapters I read avidly and others that were really slow going. On the whole, I'm glad I read it because it is an important topic, but as a reader I was less than enchanted by Steve Jones's prose.

I read "The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer - Close encounters with strangers" almost a year ago so I don't remember it very well, except to say that when I finished reading I couldn't shut up about it and told every chapter (spent on different exotic locales with eccentric characters he meets) to my husband over lunch. So I guess it's thumbs up.

Of "To See Every Bird on Earth - A father a son and a lifelong obsession" I really can't recall almost anything, nor did remember being particularly impressed (or repulsed by that matter). Some birdwatchers can only get a kick out the hobby if they compile these huge lists of sighted birds, and spend absolute fortunes travelling to remote locations on the off chance of adding a couple of names to their roster. The way birdwatching brought together an estranged father and son is nice, but the whole list thing is kind of incomprehensible to me. I think Dan Koeppel admits somewhere in the book (or at least I think it was implied) that for many of these hobbyists its more about the list than the actual pleasure of birdwatching. Once you spot a bird (or hear its call) you move on looking for the next. Seems a bit sad to me.

"Choice - True stories of birth, contraception, infertility, adoption, single parenthood & abortion" I finished last month and its an impressive collection of stories shared by women who made different choices when faced with (sometimes) similar situations. It explores how important it is to have options available for women to make their own path whether it means having children when everyone urges you not to, or not having them when everyone wants you too. Should be required reading for teenagers and young men and women.

No comments: