Book Review: Lightning Bird

Watson, Lyall. Lightning Bird.

If you read archaeology reports and anthropology from, on, the late 1800s through the 1960s, one thing that strikes you is how strange some of the theories were. At least, to us they seem strange. One that cropped up again and again was that at some time in the distant past—perhaps before the Great Flood—a more sophisticated culture lived in North America or in places in Africa or in South America, and then disappeared or was wiped out by later primitive peoples. Or had a disaster and “degenerated” into far more primitive cultures. A different variation held that some cultures were incapable of progress. Later, archaeologists found things that were obviously made by people, and found large numbers of them, but could not suss out what they were for or what they did. Continue reading

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Signal Boost: Taghri’s Prize

I beta-read this for Peter, and it is a great adventure fantasy novel. Set in a Middle East that might-have-been, it has piracy, raiding, tasteful romance, and bad guys who deserve what they get.

If you are in the mood for a fast adventure read, this is your sort of book.

Book Review: PawPaw Hunting

Moore, Andrew. Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Lost Fruit. (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017) Kindle Edition.

“Pickin’ up pawpaws/ put ’em in the basket…” That was about all I knew of pawpaws, a children’s song, other than the fact that they are a fruit and are not papaya. Andrew Moore’s entertaining book is an extended meditation and study on pawpaws, a tropical fruit that grows as far north as Ontario, Canada, a native fruit that people never heard of, and an object of mild obsession for people in the Midwest and Upper South. Continue reading

Book Review: Megafauna

Fariña, Richard A. et al, Megafauna: Giant Beasts of Pleistocene South America.(Indiana University Press, 2013) Kindle Edition

Short version: Neat book, skim the arguments about Darwin and Intelligent Design.

Longer version: The book looked interesting, and the price was better than for a lot of similar texts, so I decided to give it a try. If you are interested in the strange mammals that roamed the Americas south of Panama, this is a fascinating and very well written book. It helps to have some biology background, although the first two chapters go into detail about how paleontology developed in South America and how the animals are organized and classified. Although most of us in North America know at least a little about Ice Age mammals (giant hairy elephants and friends), far more kinds of critters existed in the south.

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Book Review: The Maneaters of Kumaon

Corbett, Jim. The Maneaters of Kumaon (Kindle edition, Merwin Unwin Reprint)

I grew up being told stories from Corbett and Capstick, and Bell, and other hunters and naturalists. So I knew the stories before I read them. That doesn’t change the heart-racing effect of reading this book, however. Corbett was a great story-teller as well as naturalist and hunter.

I needed a complete brain break. This was the perfect book for that. Short, intense, and beautifully written. Continue reading

Book Review: Novak – Will it Liberate?

Novak, Michael. Will it Liberate? (1991) Kindle Edition

Liberation theology was one of those things I heard about while growing up, but never understood what it was. Nailing hot tapioca pudding to a tree seemed easier than finding a clear definition of what this Latin American thing was. Well, it turns out that’s in part because the proponents of Liberation Theology didn’t agree among themselves precisely what it espoused, and their beliefs changed over time. Michael Novak’s book, the third in a series about theology and political economy, answers those questions and points out the flaws in the very premise of Liberation Theology. He also shows how Classical Liberalism is not, despite what its critics claimed, incompatible with a Christian life and a just and successful society. Continue reading

Self Defense Reading: De Becker, Miller, and Others

During winter break I caught up on some reading that I’d gotten behind on. One was Rory Miller’s Facing Violence, one was a book about avoiding social problems that I quit half-way through, and one was Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. I probably should have read de Becker first. Mostly, I read him because I was curious why so many well-intentioned people tell others not to read him because “he is triggering.” One sentence, as it turns out, is the problem. One sentence in the entire book. Now, I had other problems with him, and not that one sentence. Continue reading