Read Up a Storm!

Adding to the list: Event at Manomet Branch Library

Sign marking the building

Man entering Manomet Library

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Read up a Storm” event at the Manomet library. This series is the brainchild of Judy Savage representing Sustainable Plymouth, Evelyn Strawn representing the League of Women Voters, and the Plymouth Public Libraries. The goal of the series is to create spaces in which the community can come together around books that highlight the changing climate, and through a shared dialog we can better understand the magnitude of what we are living through and how it may affect our lives.

Prior to this session, Judy and Evelyn asked a few of us to come prepared to talk about the first book that inspired our connection with nature and climate change. In this session a mom went back to the golden books. Can you remember those? Personally I cannot identify that first book, but I am clear that a recent read, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, is the most powerful. Once I began, I read the book cover to cover barely stopping for meals or sleep, until, reluctantly, I arrived at the last page. Kimmerer’s exploration of values and science is stunning. The themes of the gift economy, listening to wild places, gratitude, the honorable harvest resonate and embrace. As she weaves the spiritual with the scientific, myth with that which is measurable, she gives voice to many aspects of today’s world that are in conflict. To me this is a MUST READ for today. I was thrilled when Judy commented that Robin had just received a MacArthur “genius” award. I am thrilled that someone nominated her and that the committee saw the importance of her contribution.

Back to last week’s “Read up a Storm” session - the fun of these sessions is that they expand our reading list while allowing us to learn why a particular book becomes meaningful to a particular person.

Joan Pierce opened the session, lauding two books by Terry Tempest Williams: The hour of the Land and Erosion: Essays of Undoing. Also, Marc Reisner’s, Cadillac Desert.

I did my best to convince the group that Braiding Sweetgrass was a must read. In addition, I encouraged the group to take stock of Deborah Cramer’s Great Water: An Atlantic Passage and The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Journey, as well as Elizabeth Rush, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. Reflecting on these choices, I realize now that I am drawn to personal journey books.

Art Desloges introduced Andy Horowitz’s Katrina: A History, 1915-2015 to the group by noting that the book was required reading for a graduate class on policy at Tufts.. He is very articulate about the role policy - good and bad - plays in shaping environmental impact. 

David Gould brought forward the book Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, as well as David Quammen, Song of the Dodo . He related that these were very impactful in his graduate studies. . We also got to hear a little about a program for restoration practitioners that he participated in on the west coast over the summer.

Evelyn brought up Annie Proulx, Fen, Bog and Swamp. Others brought up Anthony Doerr's Cloud Cuckoo Land and Dave Eggars' Zeitoun.

In closing, Margaret McGrath brought forward Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and the group spent a few minutes remembering how that “children’s” classic written by an employee of the EPA shaped the early environmental movement.

With each featured book, my “want to read” list that got longer. The evening at the library aroused my curiosity and I left with high ambition: get all books mentioned. Looking at what is now a daunting list, I wonder which books I will find time to start, and which books will so enthrall me that I race to finish them.

By Glorianna Davenport
November 3, 2022