Sometimes the noise of politicians and news broadcasts can be overwhelming, and turning off the dial and turning into a book can be a salve. A few books I’ve read lately:
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Halloween may be the same for those in denial, but for many who are cautiously protecting themselves and their loved ones, the old traditions of partying or trick-or-treat from house to house are over. Witches prevail, however; they are everywhere, both good and bad, and Alice Hoffman reminds readers of their trickery and power as well as the history of their persecution in colonial Massachusetts and seventeenth century England. In Magic Lessons, Hoffman focuses on the ancestors of the characters from Practical Magic, famously converted into a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. The story combines historical fact with fictional lives, complete with spells and potions, as well as romance, intrigue and betrayal. If you are a fan of Hoffman’s other witching stories, you will find yourself happily submersed, as I did, in an old world with magical possibilities.
A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future by Sir David Attenborough
Writing a book at ninety-four years of age is in itself an accomplishment, but Attenborough’s short tale, complete with pictures, not only recalls the highlights of his amazing adventures through the lens of the tragedy facing the environment and the world, he also proposes a solution. After chronicling how the world was and how it became desperately what it is today, Attenborough leans into his own experiences to define the planet’s evolution within his lifetime. I had expected a large heavy book, and was surprised when the small tome of under three hundred pages arrived. Attenborough is his usual charming and succinct self, not wasting words or emotions, but calling attention to the world’s dilemma and what we can do to save it.
Leave It As It Is by David Gessner
I listened and watched a zoom discussion of Leave It As It Is sponsored by Powell Books with David Gessner in conversation with Teddy Roosevelt (played by an actor). As they bantered about Roosevelt’s comment at the Grand Canyon (“leave it as it is”) that lead to creating national monuments throughout the West, they brought the discussion to the environment and the future of caring for the land.
Gessner mentioned the 1906 Antiquities Act, used by Presidents to designate national monuments that reflect the full measure of the country’s history. President Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act into law, created 18 monuments, including the Grand Canyon and Olympic National Park in Washington, totaling more than a million acres. Since then, sixteen presidents have used the act for preservation and protection. The Trump administration is now trying to rescind Obama’s declaration of Bears Ears in Utah as a protected area.
Like Attenborough, Gessner wants to motivate readers to be aware of the importance of preserving the natural beauty of the land, with the same urgency Teddy Roosevelt felt for future generations when he said: “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”
I downloaded a sample of the book, and it follows the same conversational tone the author established in the zoom interview, often including Teddy Roosevelt quoting his own famous lines. Gessner and Teddy Roosevelt on the zoom call were entertaining as well as educational.
More reviews of books by Alice Hoffman: Alice Hoffman