Neptune’s Ark: From Ichthyosaurs to Orcas


By David Rains Wallace

Illustrations by Ken Kirkland
University of California Press, 2007. 

Neptune’s Ark illuminates the dramatic saga of evolution spanning 500 million years of marine life along the magnificent Pacific coast of western North America. In an engaging narrative that artfully blends elements of science, history, folklore, and personal observation, renowned naturalist David Rains Wallace reveals a marvelous diversity of creatures, not only modern ones, but those from the far prehistoric past. Mysterious forms have abounded–from giant sea cows, oyster bears, and flightless toothed birds to the orcas, elephant seals, and sea otters of modern times. Wallace tells a story about evolution as well as a tale of the storms, scurvy, and shipwrecks that plagued the coast’s explorers, naturalists, and scientists, many of whom led turbulent or tragic lives, with themes reflected in the wonder and danger of the coast itself. Neptune’s Ark is full of vivid characters–from explorers like Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook, to pioneer naturalists including Georg Steller and Charles Scammon, to early paleontologists Othniel Marsh and Edward Cope, and to recent scientists and ecological visionaries. (Publisher’s description)

David Rains Wallace is the author of sixteen books, including Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution (UC Press), A New York Times Notable Book; The Klamath Knot: Explorations of Myth and Evolution (Twentieth Anniversary Edition, UC Press), winner of the John Burroughs Medal; The Bonehunter’s Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age; and The Monkey’s Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America, A New York Times Notable Book.

Perma Red: A Novel


By Debra Magpie Earling

Blue Hen Books (Penguin), 2003.

In this beautiful first novel, set on the Flathead Reservation of Montana in the 1940s, Earling traces the youth and young adulthood of Louise White Elk and the men who try to win her heart and soul. A red-headed, mixed-blood temptress, Louise always has a man or two, none of whom is any good for her. Throughout, a third-person narrative alternates with a first-person account by Charlie Kicking Woman, the police officer who tracked down Louise when she ran away repeatedly as a child but whose interest in the woman is less than professional. Louise is also entangled with Baptiste Yellow Knife, who adheres to the old ways and resists all contact with whites and authorities. The abject poverty is keenly felt, as is the pride that allows one to prevail and the resignation that keeps one from aspiring to more. (Reviewed by Debbie Bogenschutz, Library Journal)

Debra Magpie Earling is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation. She teaches at the University of Montana. This is her first novel.

Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation


By Jonathan Lear

Harvard University Press, 2006.

Jonathan Lear, a psychoanalyst and professor of philosophy, delves into what he calls the ‘blind spot’ of any culture: the inability to conceive of its own devastation. He molds his thoughts around a poignant historical model, the decimated nation of Crow Indians in the early decades of the twentieth century. The last Crow chief, Plenty Coups, told his white friend and biographer, Frank B. Linderman, about what happened to his people “when the buffalo went away.” They were despondent, and in Plenty Coups’ words, “After this nothing happened.” Lear dissects this phenomenon, and the Crows’ struggle for continued survival, in a highly esoteric discussion drawing on the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and other philosophers. What makes this discussion relevant to mainstream readers is his application of the blind-spot hypothesis to the present, in which the twenty-first century was ushered in by terrorist attacks, social upheavals, and natural catastrophes, leaving us with ‘an uncanny sense of menace’ and a heightened perception of how vulnerable our civilizations are to destruction, as was the Crow’s. (Reviewed by Deborah Donovan, Booklist)

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time


By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Viking Penguin, 2007.

Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse’s unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world’s second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993, Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to build the impoverished town’s first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts Mortenson’s efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls. Captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of both hostilities and unlikely friendships, this book will win many readers’ hearts. (Publishers Weekly)

Azaleas: Poems by Kim Sowol, Translated by David R. McCann


By Kim Sowol

Translated by David R. McCann
Columbia University Press, 2007.

Originally published in 1925, Azaleas is the only collection produced by Kim Sowol (1902-1934), yet he remains one of Korea’s most beloved and well-known poets. Thanks to the elegant translations by David R. McCann, this landmark of Korean literature is now able to speak to people of all cultures. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Korea and poetry.

David R. McCann is Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature at Harvard University.