Summer 2019 – River Reading

Written by Alison M Jones, NWNL Director
Photos © Alison M Jones

I wonder why there are more summer reading lists than winter reading lists? With more daylight hours in the summer to be enjoying the outdoors, I tend to read less in the summer. But, there are lovely “reading rooms” in the riverside shade of a willow, cottonwood or yellow-barked acacia. So – here’s our NWNL summer reading list. Depending on how fast you read, maybe it will last into the winter!

NB:  Summer vacations have begun. I’ll be traveling along rivers and plunging into a working retreat. Our office is in the midst of a staffing transition. Thus, the titles below are in lieu of NWNL Blogs this summer. They’re all from our shelves. Some are dog-eared favorites and some are hot off the press. Let us know what you think of these books. We’ll resume NWNL Blogs in September; and perhaps the first one will focus on your opinions of this list. So stay in touch with your critiques and/or send us additional titles you’d include!


The Three Great Rivers: The Mississippi, Nile and Amazon

Beyond Control by James F Barnett Jr. (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2017). Our levees versus 3000 years of Mississippi River Delta’s shifting channels.

Down the Nile by Rosemary Mahoney (Little Brown, 2007). A woman’s solo trip in a small fishing boat to seek old and new voices of the Nile River.

Journey of the Pink Dolphins by Sy Montgomery (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008). An odyssey to find ancient pink whales in the Amazon River.


Dams and Dry Rivers

Watershed: Undamming of America by Elizabeth Grossman (Counterpoint, 2002). History, science and politics say un-damming rivers can un-dam us.

A River Runs Again by Meera Subramanian (Public Affairs, 2015).  A cry to address India’s dried-up rivers and many other environmental challenges.

Running Silver by John Waldman (Lyons Press, 2013). Migratory fish need us to restore US East Coast rivers, like New Jersey’s Raritan, a NWNL case study.


2 Books – 1 Author – Ending in Optimism

The End of Nature by Bill McKibben (Anchor Books, 1989). Depressing predictions on predicted climate change effects – that came to pass.

Falter by Bill McKibben (Henry Holt, 2019). An update on his warnings and hope for saving our climate and world from destruction by deniers.


Short Titles, Small Books – For a picnic bag or the subway

Lakes by Warwick F Vincent (Oxford Univ. Press, 2018 – ¼ x 4 x 7″). A quick look at lakes’ ecology, biology, chemistry and physics.

Rescue by David Miliband (Simon & Schuster, 2017). A map to reversing and reducing the growing crisis of refugees seeking water or peace.

Anthropocene by Erie C. Ellis (Oxford Univ. Press, 2018).  Also a portable, quick look (¼ x 4 x 7”) on surviving the mess we’ve made.


Watershed Biodiversity – Gnus to Gorillas

In the Dust of Kilimanjaro by David Western (Island Press, 2002). Despite complexity and controversy, conservation is a must, especially for elephants.

The Gnu’s World by Richard D. Estes (Univ. of California Press, 2014). The migratory Serengeti- Mara wildebeest deserve this 50-year scholarly study.

Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey (Houghton Mifflin, 1983). This Nile Basin true tale from the Virunga Mountains passed the test of time long ago.


Riverine Perspectives

The Sound of Mountain Water by Wallace Stegner (Penguin Books, 1969). NWNL’s most marked-up book:  a must for any visiting or in the U.S. West.

To the River by Olivia Laing (Canongate, 2017). Given an irresistible title, we added this tale of a summer’s walk along England’s Ouse River to the list.

River Notes by Wade Davis (Island Press, 2013).  An historic primer for all connected to the Colorado River or rafting through its glorious canyons.


Ecosystem Values – Viewed through a Camera Lens

Continental Divide by Krista Schyler (Texas A&M Univ. Press, 2012). Threats to flora, fauna and their corridors across the transboundary Rio Grande.

Wetlands by Paul Rezendes and Paulette Roy (Sierra Club, 1996). Our go-to on defining this valuable, but too-often paved-over, ecosystem.


Raindrops Keep Falling – Solutions Keep Appearing

Roadtrip with a Raindrop by Gayle Harper (Acclaim Press, 2015). A 90-day road trip along the Mississippi with riverside conversations and photos.

Drawdown by Paul Hawken (Penguin Books, 2017). Per its subtitle: “The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.”

The last book on this list, Drawdown, offers 105 potential solutions to our climate change challenges! Each concept/technology/proposal is covered by just 1 or 2 pages, and includes photos. This large paper-back book is so compelling and inspiring that it gets this special mention. NWNL keeps it right on our desktop for easy reference as we write and edit blogs and articles, create scripts for lectures, and compile descriptive gallery captions for photo exhibits.


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