Watermelon Snow, by Lynne Quarmby

Staff Pick

For many years Quarmby, a cell biologist and single mother, paid little attention to climate change—until suddenly the magnitude of the losses hit her. Hard. She became an activist, got arrested at pipeline protests, and ran (unsuccessfully) for office on the Canadian Green Party ticket. Her deeply reflective book intertwines her participation in science and politics with vivid episodes from her 2017 trip to the High Arctic with a group of artists. There, “at the soft heart of global warming,” she witnessed the stunning beauty of the natural landscape and the shocking effects of the climate crisis, both of which she reports with a rare combination of precision—it takes just 12 seconds for a blue whale to breach and turn--and poignancy. In the end, if she can’t fully banish concerns that the expedition was an indulgence in “extinction tourism,” she renews her commitment to change by not just presenting the facts but, like the dancers, painters, photographers, and multi-media artists she traveled with,  by “address[ing] the emotional impacts of the science” and urging everyone to do what they can, both to reduce greenhouse emissions and to keep the crisis front and center: “the most important action we can take is to talk about climate change.” 

Watermelon Snow: Science, Art, and a Lone Polar Bear By Lynne Quarmby Cover Image
ISBN: 9780228003595
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: McGill-Queen's University Press - October 22nd, 2020

A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings, by Helen Jukes

Staff Pick

I picked up this book to learn about bees, but before they came up, I was hooked by Jukes herself. Warm, honest, questioning, she’s a thoroughly engaging narrator of both her own life and those of the insects. Living in Oxford and working a job that’s more stressful than satisfying, she keeps thinking about her brief experience helping a beekeeper friend. Though she has no confidence she can do it on her own, she can’t resist trying and soon has a hive in her urban backyard. Worrying constantly about the needs of the bees, she does extensive research on their habits and the history of beekeeping, and her reports—on the differences between workers and drones, the various kinds of hives, the practice of the waggle dance, the intricacies of swarming—are vivid, succinct, and slightly wonder-struck. Jukes is especially interested in the evolution of the relationship between keepers and bees and her attachment to her own colony  gradually deepens to a thing of beauty and resonance; for everything she learns about the bees, they teach her as much about herself.

A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings: A Year of Keeping Bees By Helen Jukes Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524747862
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Pantheon - May 5th, 2020

Two Trees Make a Forest, by Jessica J. Lee

Staff Pick

A dual citizen of Britain and Canada and now a resident of Berlin, Lee is descended from mainland Chinese who were exiled to Taiwan and then relocated to Ontario where her fighter-pilot grandfather mopped floors in a factory. Her deeply reflective memoir combines cultural and political history as well as travel and, perhaps most of all, astute and heartfelt nature writing, for a moving inquiry into “what ought to be simple: articulating who we are.” Who, exactly, is Lee, as the heir to multiple displacements and their attendant losses and gains? The narrative centers on her relationship to Taiwan, a place she knows primarily from her mother’s memories. Compelled by “a longing to remember the things I hadn’t known,” Lee makes repeated visits to the island, exploring it through extensive hikes, linguistic research, and reconstruction of her family’s experiences, including a reunion with forgotten relatives. Throughout, Lee balances the often painful personal discoveries with fascinating details of Taiwan’s natural environment—especially its once magnificent false cypress forests—its cartographic history, and its precarious position along two tectonic plates which has endowed it with more than forty active fault lines. 

Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts By Jessica J. Lee Cover Image
ISBN: 9781646220007
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Catapult - August 4th, 2020