The Year's Best and the Best Gift Books|
My personal favorite of this year's crop of Maine Harbors' reviewed books is The Restless Sea Series by Carol G. Vogel. (full review here) Published by Franklin Watts in 2003 for middle-schoolers, these books are so well written, designed and illustrated (with spectacular full-page color photographs) that they deserve the attention of every reader-regardless of the age - who is curious about the intricate transactions between the oceans of air and oceans of water which form the life support systems of our world.
Each of the six books in the series presents a stand-alone discussion of a particular aspect of ocean science from geologic formation to sources of salinity, the influence of the sun and moon-- to survival techniques of the ocean's amazing and exotic denizens, both plant and animal. The books are still available from Amazon for around $12.95 a piece.
Perhaps the most important book written this year for those who have a deep concern for the health of the oceans (if not a blind panic) is Callum Roberts' The Unnatural History of the Sea (Island Press). (full review here) Roberts, a marine conservation biologist in the Environmental Department of York University in England, describes the book as merely a history of fishing "from the dawn of commercial sea fishing in eleventh-century Europe to the present." In fact, Roberts has written an epic thriller full of greed and violence and all the general craziness of which human beings are capable. He has also written a challenging mystery meticulously solved: a suspenseful page-turner leading the reader breathlessly to his final words-an eloquent description of a productive oceanic Eden which may still be possible. The hardcover was published in July of this year, priced at $28, (less $10 at Amazon). The paperback will be available in January '09.
Book number three in this year's list of favorites is Boat Green - 50 Steps Boaters Can Take to Save Our Waters by Clyde W. Ford (New Society Publishers, $16.95). (full review here) As a resource, it is invaluable. The book is the product of a talented and thoughtful boater, whose concern for the world's oceans is directly related to the time he has spent in their spell-binding company. Boat Green is a methodical set of instructions. Follow them and you will be a righteous boater, helping the planet's oceans to recover from our toxic assault. The book also contains list after list of contact information and resources to help you refine your effort and spread the word.
Okay, now that we're all responsible and well-informed, let's have some fun.
Released in October, 2008, this book didn't make it to Maine Harbors in time for a full review, but, for sailors of any skill level, there is no better gift this season than The International Marine Book of Sailing (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 528pp, $39.95). Author, Robby Robinson is a past editor of Sail magazine, America's Cup challenger, a sailing instructor for 20 years, English teacher and author. But don't let all those accomplishments intimidate you. He is a strategic thinker and he has applied this talent to the information necessary to make you a sailor (or a better sailor). You will marvel at the underlying simplicity of this 500-plus page book.
Instead of organizing this undeniably impressive tome by topic the way most teaching manuals are, Robinson presents his instructions and advice according to the level of competency of the sailor/reader. He really believes that experience is the best teacher. "Time under sail will show you what you need to know," he says. "But experience without interpretation can be baffling…This book is your interpreter." Robinson's claim is that "you can learn to sail in one afternoon. Shazam!" He goes on to say, "No other pursuit offers such a deeply satisfying combination of short term accomplishment and long term discovery."
For crafty salts, there's still time to make a few Christmas presents and A Passion for Beach Glass by C.S. Lambert, photographs by Amy Wilton (Down East Books, 96pp, 100 color photos, $30.00) will boggle you with ideas. The book is the ultimate justification for every compulsive beach comber who cannot walk the wrack line without filling his/her pockets. The book features 13 artists from Maine to North Carolina who collect and use sea glass in unique ways. One amasses piles for use as decorative garden "mulch." Another designs sea glass windows. Several make sea glass jewelry. Mosaics, bird houses, tiled surfaces, mobiles and wind-chimes are just a few of their artful products
This book is not just another glossy art book that makes the klutzy feel badly about their feeble attempts to do something clever with their embarrassingly large stashes. It also provides detailed instruction on how to do some of the same great stuff featured in the handsome photographs (Amy Wilton's work is inspired). And, at the back of the book there is contact information and a list of outlets where the featured work can be found, admired and purchased…more ideas for holiday gifts. Enjoy!
And for those inconsolable boaters who live in the frozen north, here is a way to keep "getting out on the water." A Hard Water World / Ice Fishing and Why We Do It, photographs by Layne Kennedy, essays by Greg Breining (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 126 pp, 123 color photos, $24.95) is a mostly serious survey of the obsession of ice fishing, in words and pictures. As you can see by the stats, it is mostly a visual tribute to (or should I say revelation of) the whacky ice fishing world--from Moscow to Minnesota to Maine (and New Hampshire) and points north. The photographs range from the sublime to the ridiculous. The essays are mostly sober and informative but you know that everyone involved, the essayist, the photographer and the ice fishermen (and women) themselves have a twisted little ironic smirk in their minds and on their faces the whole time. This is a really fun and handsome book and you don't have to be a fisherman, ice or otherwise to enjoy it.