Ok really got to catch up on reading posts! The end of the year has been surprisingly busy. I am just hanging out for the brief reprieve of Christmas and a chance to catch up, do a re-start and hopefully get back on track.
I have neglected the Gaia reading challenge, although reading nature-themed books is something I do all the time anyway. I added the Gaia book bingo at the start of 2021 just for a bit of fun and I just had to check to see if I had even met my own bingo challenge. I am a terrible challenge organiser but I will continue the challenge into 2022 for anyone who might be interested. If anyone would like to jointly host with me, let me know, would love to share this around. If you have any ideas for making the challenge fun also let me know.
So six squares in the 2021 bingo and how many ticked off? Will keep this brief. Well, a book from a library or second hand was easy, my last nature read was sourced via interlibrary loan: A Country in Mind: Memoir with Landscape by Saskia Beudel. I am really interested in nature writing as a genre which is what led me to this curious memoir. Nature writing is not a prolific genre in Australia which in itself is surprising given the uniqueness and beauty of this country. Beudel explores personal and national history in this elegant book. Exploring European and Aboriginal relationships to land and identity. Personal and moving, it is in parts a remarkable piece of writing and really deserves to be more celebrated and widely read. The book begins with a compelling account of a canyoning incident in the MacDonnell Ranges but it is more than just a personal narrative though. It examines personal and national identity in relation to landscape and history. What is most compelling though is Beudel’s personal response to Australia’s dramatic desert landscape.
I also read Anthony Sharwood’s From snow to ash: Solitude, soul-searching and survival on Australia’s toughest hiking trail early in the year and that was a library read. An account of walking the Australian alpine trail and walking it during the summer from hell 2019 -2020. As fragile as the Australian alpine environment is, an account set during that summer and the dangers it brought, really highlighted the heightened emergency that is climate change and the threat it poses to our fragile environment. A relatable, at times funny read.
Gum: the story of eucalypts and their champions by Ashley Hay ticks the go to the forest box. Eucalypts are so iconic and integral to our environment and identity, this made for fascinating and informative reading, the emphasis was more on history than botany but the chapter; Ancient kingdom of fire and the chapters that recounted the Wilderness society’s efforts to preserve wilderness areas were particularly interesting. As was the discussion of climate change and what it will mean for our eucalypt forests. Lyrical, informative writing, a great read.
Fathoms: The world in the whale by Rebecca Giggs takes care of the go to the sea box. My brief note on Goodreads: An intellectual, philosophical approach to the topic of whales, opinion seems to be divided on Goodreads between the love or loath, personally, I loved this book. Perhaps Giggs’ style does not sit comfortably with some readers, perhaps too interrogatory about our attitudes, beliefs and intentions, perhaps too bleak in the portrayal of the whales’ environmental reality, the history of hunting and the current issues with pollution, which can be quiet confronting. Loved it, an excellent read and highly recommend! At the very least it is an easy 4 stars if not 5. A really great nature read.
Despite my intentions, I don’t think I read a title that was exclusively climate-themed, although most nature reads touch on climate issues these days. Maybe I could claim Full Circle: A Search for the World That Comes Next by Scott Ludlam, ( the former senator), for this square, although it is a book about much more than just climate, it is a rich tapestry of ideas, visionary and inspiring, a book about eco-politics and activism. Part memoir, part manifesto, it is a rich and complex read, with a bit of a deep-time motif. Want to find time to re-read this one.
One for the birds will have to be Wesley: The Story of a Remarkable Owl by Stacey O’Brien. A lovely account of the life of a barn owl raised in captivity due to an injury prohibiting release. Wesley’s complex and devoted relationship with Stacey makes for a delightful read, offering insight into the emotional complexity of any animal but especially barn owls.
And the last square; read a book by an indigenous/first nations author. Usually, an easy square for me to cross off but I have not read a lot of indigenous writing this year but I did read the excellent Drop Bear by Evelyn Araluen. Lyrical, caustic, confronting, fierce and eloquent, good poetry should enrich or change perception and this is what Drop Bear does, challenging traditional tropes and colonialist mythology including our relationship to the environment. This is a great book, clever and confronting it is also funny and beautifully written, for a short book it packs quite a punch.
This post is pretty brief and I am playing catch up, hopefully, I will have time over the Christmas break which can’t come soon enough. I have to apologise for being so slack about the Gaia challenge. If you would like to link to your reviews or posts feel free to add links in the comments, hopefully, I will do better next year. I will keep the nature challenge going and will use some of the Christmas break to review and update the master list of nature reads.
What categories would you like to see in a Gaia book bingo for 2022?