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Holiday Bookshelf

The gift of wildlife

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table
By Langdon Cook (Ballantine Books)

Seattle writer Langdon Cook has carved out an authorial niche for himself, congenially blending contemporary foodie reportage with natural history and ecology explorations. His debut, Fat of the Land, chronicled his nascent foraging adventures, while The Mushroom Hunters was an immersive journey into the West Coast mushroom harvest and the off-the-grid subculture that follows and competes for the valuable fungal bloom.

Cook’s latest book, Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table, is his most ambitious, a deep-dive exploration into Pacific Salmon, totem species of the Northwest with mythological and gastronomic roots stretching back to time immemorial. Using a wide-angle lens, his quest ranges from nets in the Salish Sea to dinner plates in four-star restaurants in New York and all stops in between.

Cook travels from the fecund Copper River delta in Alaska to the tamed, denuded rivers of Northern California, probing the often-fraught intersections between commercial and sport fishermen, environmentalists and Native Americans, examining controversies with hatcheries and fish farms and asking tough questions about salmon’s survival in the years ahead. The author also makes several visits to Lummi Island and tries his hand reef-netting with Riley Starks.

Upstream offers hope, like the success story of the Elwha dam removal and profiles of dozens of passionate salmon activists working to bring the runs back, while also acknowledging the many perils facing the fish, like overpopulation, deforestation, urbanization of the Puget Sound region and the ever-looming specter of climate change.

Can salmon survive us and our destructive reign? Will they spawn in Northwest rivers 10 or 20 years from now? Let’s hope Cook’s wonderful book doesn’t serve as an epitaph for these legendary swimmers.

Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest
By David Berger (University of Washington Press)

While Cook surveys rivers and bays for salmon, David Berger combs 53 miles of sandy beaches on Washington’s southern coast in search of Siliqua patula, the Pacific razor clam. Echoing Cook, he writes that “razor clamming is part of the psychic bedrock,” and “its hold on the region is strong.”

Berger’s fun book blends hands-on natural and cultural history, his own experiences chasing clams—“I became enamored of the long neck, the powerful foot, the translucent oblong body”—and a selection of recipes, from basic sauté options to chowders, ceviche and “fresh clam balls.”

Owl: A Year in the Life of North American Owls
By Paul Bannick (Mountaineers Books)

Savor this unprecedented peek in to the hidden lives of owls by a man who must be the most patient nature photographer in America. Seattleite Paul Bannick’s follow-up to his stunning book The Owl and the Woodpecker follows four species of owls—Northern Pygmy, Great Gray, burrowing, and snowy—through their life phases, revealing the secrets of their courtship, nesting, raising young, hunting and the drive to survive.

These secretive creatures peer out from cavities in trees, deliver prey to hungry owlets, glide through skies on silent wings and, more often than not, seem to be observing the reader right through the page with their bright, expressive eyes. A line of nine young burrowing owls curiously examines the world around them, a spotted owl soars through old-growth forest, two Pygmy owls stare out from a cavity in a cactus—over and over again, the reader wonders, “How in the world did the photographer capture that?!”

“You do not find owls,” Bannick explains, “owls find you,” and his new book—a 2017 Pacific Northwest Book Awards finalist—is testament to his gift for slowing down, being quiet, paying attention and getting found.

More Words...
There There
Not your typical powwow

Tommy Orange did not grow up around books or aspire to be a writer. A recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, this debut novelist who came to writing late in life is making quite a splash with his first book, There There, a polyphonic story of 12 Urban…

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Identity Crisis
A look at Lawn Boy

When Bainbridge Island author Jonathan Evison visited Whatcom County in 2017 as part of the Whatcom READS program, we met a gregarious, intelligent, self-destructive and endearing writer who loves to talk about books and drink beer—a lot of beer. 

He presents himself as a bit of a sad…

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Our Towns
Discovering the heart of America

The title of James and Deborah Fallows’ new book, Our Towns: A 100,000-mile Journey into the Heart of America, recalls Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town. But where Wilder displays a feeling of despair lingering in America’s small towns, the Fallows find a spirit of satisfaction, if not…

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Wednesday
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Tours

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