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The BookShelf features regular reviews of the latest environmental books of interest to journalists, as well as an occasional Between the Lines question-and-answer feature in which published authors offer insight into the motivations behind their work and provide advice to environmental reporters and writers. For questions and comments, or to suggest future BookShelf reviews or Between the Lines interviews, or to offer to review a book, email the SEJournal BookShelf editor Tom Henry at thenry@theblade.com.

November 16, 2022

  • When engineers reversed the Chicago River, they also upended a hydrologic system that years later required electrification to repel an invasive species threatening a major fishery. This is but one example from the latest book by New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert of the unintended consequences of human actions to dominate nature that may solve one problem only to create another. BookShelf contributor Gary Wilson has a review.

October 26, 2022

  • When Europeans colonized remote Indonesian islands centuries ago to dominate the trade in nutmeg and cloves, they were repeating a pattern of domination of peoples and nature that author Amitav Ghosh argues in his latest book has brought us to the present-day environmental crisis. BookShelf reviewer Melody Kemp offers praise for the book’s strong narrative qualities and incisive historical analysis.

September 21, 2022

  • How water moves through the global ecosystem and shapes our landscapes is the subject of a must-read new book by writer Erica Gies, according to BookShelf editor Tom Henry. A significant part of water’s story is how humanity invariably fails when trying to manipulate it. But hope may reside with Gies’ various “water detectives,” who explore how to “let water go where it wants to go.”

August 10, 2022

  • As a young man, Rodney Stotts knew plenty about drugs, guns and poverty and little about the other kinds of wildlife in his hometown. A chance offer of a job cleaning up Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia River set him on the path to becoming a master falconer — despite racist resistance — and a mentor to others who share his inner-city roots. BookShelf’s Jennifer Weeks reviews Stotts’ memoir, “Bird Brother.”

June 22, 2022

  • The historic discovery of the Clotilda — America’s “Last Slave Ship” — is only part of the story told in a new book by Alabama-based journalist Ben Raines, which tells the far larger tale about the ship’s survivors, the remarkable Jim Crow-era community they created and its ultimate erosion when faced by decades of environmental racism. A review by BookShelf Editor Tom Henry.

April 27, 2022

  • There was a moment within living memory when Democrats and Republicans came together — in a time of extraordinary political turmoil — to pass landmark legislation to clean U.S. waters, limit toxic substances and pesticides, and empower the government to protect the environment. BookShelf’s Nano Riley reviews a new book that explores that time, and which speculates on why things have changed.

March 30, 2022

  • Environmental writer Allison Cobb, in “Plastic: An Autobiography,” tells the story of the ubiquitous material through a series of interwoven narratives that range from her own experiences with it (including a discarded plastic car bumper), to the corporate origins of its spread and the way it’s now dangerously carpeting nature and damaging human communities. Contributor Nano Riley has a review in our new BookShelf.

March 2, 2022

  • A historical look at how profit and capitalism have ravaged the natural world is the subject of our new BookShelf review. Contributor Melody Kemp offers her take on award-winning Australian journalist Jeff Sparrow’s forthcoming volume, which explores the damage wrought by cars, roads and PR spin, as well as solutions suggested by models of Indigenous land management.

February 2, 2022

  • Cynthia Barnett’s deeply researched and engagingly written new book, “The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans,” brilliantly weaves together mollusk anecdotes, ocean science and human history as it takes a deep dive into the nature of seashells and the story of their connection to us. Read Tom Henry’s review in the new BookShelf.

December 15, 2021

  • What does wildness mean when humans interfere with the lives of wild animals in order to protect them? A new volume, “Wild Souls,” explores that dilemma, whether arising through captive breeding programs to reintroduce the California condor and the gray wolf, by allowing hybridization or through the use of gene-editing tools. A review from BookShelf contributor Jenny Weeks.

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