Fresh Pond Reading Group
Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation
See Complete Reading List through 2019 at End of Report
The Reading Group started the year with a bang, as we read Simon Winchester’s vivid description of the eruption of the volcano in Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883.  Winchester describes in detail the lives of people living nearby and their observations of the gradual buildup of the volcano toward its fiery demise. The horrific aftermath of this cataclysm, which included a massive tsunami that killed more people in Sumatra and Java than the explosion itself, left a bustling colonial culture in tatters, and may have led to the radicalization of a population which had suffered for many years under the harsh regulations of its Dutch rulers.
For our next selection, we returned to one of our favorite authors, Bernd Heinrich, and his book, The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration. We marveled at his descriptions of the arduous annual journeys made by some of the tiniest songbirds over vast expanses of ocean, at the north-to-south pole flights of some species of shorebirds, and at the mysterious ability of migrating animals to find their way back to the place where they were born. Heinrich’s moving description of the apparent joy of a pair of sandhill cranes upon returning to their nesting ground in Alaska was a powerful reminder that animals have emotions, and that all sentient creatures (ourselves included) have a strong attachment to the place that we call “home.”
Our third book, also by Simon Winchester, was not as dramatic as Krakatoa, but was equally fascinating. In The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, Winchester tells the life story of a man whose brilliant insights and unflagging persistence resulted in his production in 1815 of a map of England that illustrated fundamental geological processes which had never before been observed or understood. Smith achieved recognition for his accomplishments only after weathering the injustices of the rigid British class system and the dishonesty of prominent geologists who plagiarized his map and denied him membership in the Geological Society of London.  Eventually, Smith’s genius was recognized, and he was awarded the prestigious Wollastan Medal, geology's equivalent of a Nobel Prize.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, gave us a very different perspective on the natural world.  As a professional botanist and a Native American (member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation) she experiences the living world of which we are a part as a web of reciprocal relationships. She believes we all need to realize that plants and animals are our teachers whose wisdom can help us learn to live in harmony with the natural world, on which we depend for our very existence.
Our final adventure of the year was with Sylvia Earle a leading American marine biologist and oceanographer, who took us with her to the bottom of some of earth’s deepest marine trenches in the submersible vehicles she helped design.  In her autobiographical book, Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans, she describes her many aquatic adventures, travels around the world, and professional accomplishments, including that of chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  At 83, Earle is still active as a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.
Lance Drane, Moderator
January 25, 2019

Fresh Pond Reading Group Record: 2007 - 2019

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