Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dave recommends

My own personal nonfiction reading - the kind that has little or nothing to do with working in a bookstore - revolves around the mid-20th century American West. On May 30, 1854, a huge expanse of land roughly defined by today's southern border of Kansas, the Missouri River, the Canadian border, and the Continental Divide was open to settlement. How we, as a nation, went about dealing with the consequences of the Kansas-Nebraska Act is fascinating (Bloody Kansas, Homestead Act, trans-continental railroad, Wounded Knee, etc.)

I am currently reading The History of Nebraska Law, edited by Alan G. Gless (Ohio University Press). We don't keep it on the shelves of Little Shop, but we'll gladly place a special order. You would have to be really interested in the details of the subject matter for me to recommend this one. The same goes for Locust, by Jeffrey Lockwood. It is a thorough history of the Rocky Mountain Locusts and deals with one of the great entomological mysteries of modern times: how a species that numbered in the trillions and created the largest plague of insects known to recorded history became extinct in a matter of 20 years. I liked it, but it's my thing.

On the other hand, I just started American Buffalo, by Steven Rinella (a correspondent for Outside magazine). This book has much wider appeal. The narrative concerns Rinella's hunt in Alaska for one of the great beasts after he won a treasured permit from the U.S. government. Within the story are historical and ecological accounts of the bison. The subject matter doesn't lend itself to storytelling in the manner of Jon Krakauer, but Rinella is a superb writer with a vast wealth of knowledge who can be funny, ironic, and dive into minutia all in the same paragraph.

Before I get you too excited, the book won't be released until December. (A more detailed review will appear at that time.) I'll try to convince Al to get the Guys Who Read book group to meet (meat?) over at Ted's to discuss this one.


(note from Justin: Steve Rinella also wrote one of our popular and highly recommended titles from last year: The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, a really fascinating look at hunting down (literally) all the ingredients for a 45 course meal, all recipes taken from a two hundred and fifty year old hunter's journal. Another great book to look at next time you're in the store!

Update: Uh, I'm a dummy and had to go back and add a title -Justin

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