Staff Pick

I myself am squarely in the camp of people who probably don't need to buy another book about trees as long as I live, but whether you're in that camp with me, or could stand to learn the first thing about distinguishing an oak from a maple, Around the World in 80 Trees is exceptional in every sense of the word. Divided by continent, you’ll find a fascinating introduction to each species accompanied by in situ watercolor illustrations as captivating as any children’s picture book, as scientifically attentive as any field guide. 

Around the World in 80 Trees: (The perfect gift for tree lovers) Cover Image
By Jonathan Drori, Lucille Clerc (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781786271617
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Laurence King Publishing - May 29th, 2018

Staff Pick

The Chesapeake’s Tangier Island has been sinking due to storms and the natural action of the sea since records have been kept, but climate change has rapidly accelerated the process. It will be uninhabitable in twenty-five to fifty years; with a population of roughly 700, and with decreasing stock of the crabs and oysters that support the community, is it worth the billion-plus dollars it would take to save it? And just what would we lose if the place disappears? Swift’s detailed profile of a year among the people who may become “America’s first climate change refugees” makes the question infinitely complicated. Whether eulogy or celebration, however, the book is a fascinating and often beautiful look at a unique way of life. Swift chronicles the human and natural history, highlighting landmark moments—many involving storms—from the eight or more generations of families that have lived there, describes the life cycle of the region’s distinctive blue crabs, and follows the watermen as they set and check their pots. He revels in the unusual, almost cockney English that flourishes on this isolated dot of land and undertakes the more difficult process of uncritically conveying the rigid evangelicalism that causes the islanders to trust in divine providence, reject science, and look to Trump to appreciate their “patriotism, reverence, …[and] strong work ethic” and reinforce their shoreline. Though Trump is sympathetic, it’s likely the ocean will rise faster than the bureaucratic wheels can turn, and even a state-of-the-art seawall won't keep out the rising ocean forever.

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062661395
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dey Street Books - August 7th, 2018

Staff Pick

In this book full of surprises, the main two are that sand is fascinating—and frightening. The fascinating part starts with how it’s formed. Sand is simply “loose grains of any hard material” within a given diameter; that is, about the width of a human hair. The material—seashells, coral, lava, stone, but mostly quartz—is broken down over millions of years by wind and/or water. Some sand is round, some angular. Some is almost pure and transparent, some is mixed with other elements and tinted. Beach sand isn’t the same as desert sand or riverbed sand, and each has its different uses. Mined, graded, and cleaned, sand is turned into everything from bridges and roads to skyscrapers, bottles, and iPhones—both the screen and the internal hardware. People have been using sand in construction since at least 7000 BC and in glass from the days of ancient Rome. In the Digital Age, sand—the purest silica sand—is in demand for both computer chips and fracking. Beiser’s capsule summaries of the histories of these industries are full of “wow” moments, not least of which is the almost incredible statistics: over the last century we’ve poured some 1.5 billion tons of sand and gravel into U.S. highways and today the country produces a billion tons of sand/gravel annually. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, too, is paving and building with concrete and relying on silicon chips. This is where the story of sand gets scary. World use of sand has intensified sand mining, legal and not; sparked sand disputes; caused environmental degradation that ranges from killing coral reefs to exacerbating floods (such as Houston’s after Hurricane Harvey) to drying up or polluting aquifers. Extracting sand to build more land in Singapore has “completely obliterated at least two dozen Indonesian islands since 2005,” and the cement industry is one of the world’s leading producers of greenhouse gases.  Aside from desert sand, which doesn’t lend itself well to modern uses, sand, like oil, is running out, though our need for it is only increasing—concrete may seem solid and permanent, but most concrete structures have a lifespan of about fifty years.

The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399576423
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Riverhead Books - August 7th, 2018