Fresh Pond Reading Group
Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation
See Complete Reading List through 2018 at End of Report
The topics of the four books we read this year included rare species, the connection between access to water and well-being, and animal intelligence.
 The Kingdom of Rarities by Eric Dinerstein asked the question, “Why are some animals naturally rare and others so abundant? Dinerstein traveled the world to find and study some of these rare species, and learned that many of them play critical roles in the well-being of the ecosystems in which they exist, despite their rarity.
Wallace J. Nichols wrote Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do
to promote his thesis that proximity to water can dramatically improve one’s quality of life.  Nichols also started the “Blue Marbles Project” which encourages people to share transparent blue marbles that, when held at arm’s length, look about the size that Earth would appear to someone standing on the moon. His goal is to raise awareness of how small, fragile, and beautiful our planet is. The marble also reminds us that we humans hold the future of the world in our hands, and must assume responsibility for its well-being.
In our next two readings, we delved into the topic of animal intelligence.  Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal and What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe both contained studies and observations that contradicted any illusions we might have had that humans are the only species that can think, plan, suffer, use tools, love their young, and have compassion. Both books addressed the concept that intelligence is directly related to the habitat and lifestyle of the organism: only a lion has the intelligence it takes to live the life a lion, and only a fish knows how to exist as it does in its water world. We have all heard stories of chimpanzees solving problems or elephants greeting long-lost friends, but most of us were quite surprised to learn that fish, also, have complex lives.  They, too use tools, court the opposite sex, care for their young, and are emotional, intelligent, and conscious beings. Both of these books gave us abundant food for thought, and generated spirited discussions during our meetings.
Anyone who is interested in Fresh Pond and is willing to commit to an annual reading list of 4 or 5 books about natural history are welcome to become Reading Group members. The group gathers for a potluck supper before each discussion. At the end of the meeting we all look over a list of recommended books and their descriptions; then we vote to choose the next reading selection and the next date. If you are interested in joining, please contact Lance Drane at
Lance Drane, Moderator
December 20 2017

Fresh Pond Reading Group Record: 2007 - 2018

Book Title
# Attended
Reading the Landscape of America
May Thielgaard Watts
The Future of Life
Edward O. Wilson
The Wilderness World of John Muir
Edwin Way Teale, ed.
Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival
Bernd Heinrich
Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England
William Cronon
Written in Stone
Chet and Maureen Raymo
Waiting for Aphrodite
Sue Hubbell
Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our Midst
Catherine Reid
The Frozen Water Trade
Gavin Weightman
The Voyage of the Beagle
Charles Darwin
The Trees in My Forest
Bernd Heinrich
Reflections in Bullough's Pond
Diana Muir
Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History of New England's Stone Walls
Robert Thornson
Armchair Birding
John Yow
The Wild Out Your Window
Sy Montgomery
Edward O. Wilson
Bright Wings
Dennis Collins, ed
Outside Lies Magic
John R. Stilgoe
The Practice of the Wild
Gary Snyder
Summer World
Bernd Heinrich
The Global Forest
Diana Beresford-Kroeger
Alice Outwater
Eden on the Charles Michael Rowson 04-25-12 9
The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age Edmund Blair Bolles 06-13-12 7
The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of life on Earth Richard Conniff 09-19-12 10
Beyond Walden; The Hidden History of America's Kettle Lakes and Ponds Robert Thornson 11-28-12 11
Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind Richard Fortey 01-16-13 10
Moonbird, A Year On the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 Phillip Hoose 04-17-13 7
Song for the Blue Ocean Carl Safina 6-19-13 7
Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest Joan Maloof 9-25-13 12
The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years Robert M. Hazen 11-13-13 12
A Year in the Maine Woods Bernd Heinrich 2-5-14 8
Ever Since Darwin Steven Jay Gould 4-23-14 7
The Emotional Lives of Animals: A leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - and Why They Matter Marc Bekoff 6-18-14 11
The Edge of the Sea Rachel Carson 10-22-14 9
Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years Richard Fortey 2-24-15 7
Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death Bernd Heinrich 4-29-15 9
Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds Jim Sterba 6-24-15 8
Galileo's Commandment:
2,500 Years of Great Science Writing
Edmund Blair Bolles 9-16-15 6
Ceremonial Time:
Fifteen Thousand Years on One Square Mile
John Hanson Mitchell 11-11-15 8
Autumn: A Season of Change Peter J. Marchand 1-20-16 8
Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum Richard Fortey 3-23-16 6
Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding Scott Weidensaul 5-25-16 4
The Granite Landscape: A Natural History of America’s Mountain Domes, from Acadia to Yosemite Tom Wessels 9-21-16 6
Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species Sean B. Carroll 12-7-16 9
The Kingdom of Rarities Eric Dinerstein 3-15-17 9
Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do Wallace J. Nichols 5-17-17 9
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? Frans De Waal 9-20-17 11
What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins Jonathan Balcombe 11-29-17 8
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 Simon Winchester 1-24-18 10
The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration  Bernd Heinrich 3-28-18 7
The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology Simon Winchester 6-20-18 8
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants Robin Wall Kimmerer 9-19-18 9
The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert Craig Childs 1-23-19