American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee is the most recent read in my effort to get through all the books I irresponsibly got via NetGalley last year and never read. Essentially, it’s the story of the wolf in America, focusing on “recent” events since the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. The book follows the lives of the wolves, as chronicled by a handful of avid (or obsessed?) wolf-watchers in the park over many years, as well as the political, cultural, and societal factors that impact wolves’ survival in the American West.
The most gripping parts of the book are Blakeslee’s reporting on the life of O-Six, a female wolf born in 2006 in the park. He succeeds in telling a gripping story of life and survival for wolves as they face both natural and man-made threats. It reads almost like a novel, and definitely paints a vivid picture of wolf society. I learned so much about wolves, the evolution of individual wolf packs, and the social interactions of what are clearly very intelligent and emotional animals.
Woven into the story is the political, societal, and legal context in which the wolf reintroduction and population management unfolded. It was interesting to read about the events through the 2000s and to understand how events I lived through (sequestration and the 2011 threat of a government shutdown, followed by an actual shutdown in 2013) impacted things across the country. It’s disturbing and yet unsurprising, especially having lived my entire adult life in the DC area, to read of the political nonsense–riders circumventing legal protections for wolves tacked on last minute to a must-pass spending bill in 2011, for example.
I couldn’t help but root for the wolves as I read the book, while I understand the legitimate concerns of residents of areas surrounding Yellowstone as they coped with rising wolf populations. I’m glad I read the book, and sorry it took me so long to actually pick it up to read. I give the book 4 stars, only subtracting one because I feel it starts out a little slowly and took some effort to get into. Persevere, though! It’s worth it!
We recently checked this book out from the library – I’m not sure who picked it out, because when it comes to my 4-year-old, it’s a big hodge-podge of stuff she likes the covers of and things my husband or I intentionally seek out for her. However we got our hands on it, I’m glad we did!
To be honest, I’m not sure if my kids are nearly as taken with the book as I am, but I have really enjoyed reading it to them a handful of times over the past two weeks. Essentially, the author takes a simple object — a rock — and shows how many diverse ways we see it around us, from the natural (lava!) to the man-made (stepping stones, stone fences for pastures). I might argue she left out “playground” with a picture of a rock climber, but I can let that one go 🙂
The artwork throughout is beautiful and eye-catching, and the text is beautifully simple; it’s easy enough to read to my toddler. At the end of the narrative, there are several pages over which the author explains each iteration of the rock throughout the book, which was wonderful to read/talk about with my 4-year-old. There’s also a glossary of terms at the very end, and I’m working on convincing my almost-7-year-old that she would actually find the book interesting (she’s skeptical of most anything she doesn’t pick out herself).
Also, I just discovered that this is part of a series! So now I’m excited to take a look at the author’s other books, too 🙂
5-stars, highly recommended!
Letting Go and Letting God: 21 Centuries of Faith by Kathleen Atkinson, OSB
I received this book as a gift several years ago but hadn’t gotten to it until recently. I am currently working as Parish Secretary at my church, and occasionally I have some time at work that I can use for spiritual reading; this was the first book I chose. It was honestly not what I expected from the title, though the cover should’ve been a clue! I was expecting a book about how to let go of your day-to-day anxieties and focus on letting God guide you, and there certainly is an element of that. However, what Atkinson does is choose one saint from each century from the beginning of Christianity through the present and chronicle his or her life, offer suggestions for connecting with said saint, a prayer, and a few questions for reflection.
Overall, I learned a bit about some saints I hadn’t encountered previously and some more about some holy men and women with which I was already familiar. I am a bit skeptical about some of her choices for inclusion (one of which was named a saint by the anti-Pope at one period of Church history and is no longer considered a saint…questionable choice?), but overall she aims to present the saints in such a way that the reader can grasp how that person let go and let God work in his or her life. She summarizes this in her final chapter, which is, I think, the best writing of the book and serves to really tie the whole thing together.
I tend with books like this to skim the reflection questions and prayers, probably to my detriment, and I did so for most of this book. However, I had the opportunity to finish reading it during my hour of the parish’s 40 Hours Devotion (40 hours of Eucharistic Adoration leading up to the Feast of Corpus Christi) and I found praying the short prayers in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to be quite powerful. Something for me to keep in mind in the future!
So, would I recommend it? Sort of. I definitely learned, but it wasn’t amazing. 3 stars!