Thursday, November 3, 2011

In Which I Cannot Properly Review a Book: A "Review" of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature

Title: The End of Nature
Author: Bill McKibben
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Anchor Books (1989)
Pages: 226
Challenges: GoodReads 2011 Reading Challenge
How I Came by This Book: This was one of several books that I checked out of my library in order to research global warming.

About the Author: Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Time Magazine called him 'the planet's best green journalist' and the Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was 'probably the country's most important environmentalist.' Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, he holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges, including the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the State University of New York, and Whittier and Colgate Colleges. In 2011 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (truncated from this bio on his website).

Synopsis: More than simply a handbook for survival or a doomsday catalog of scientific prediction, The End Of Nature is a groundbreaking plea for radical and life-renewing change. The author argues that for the world to survive, we must make a fundamental philosophical shift in the way we relate to nature. (from GoodReads)

Review: One of the reasons why I hate being behind on my reviews is that I'm reviewing books weeks (and, sometimes, months) after I've read them. Until the death of my internet connection, I had read a book, immediately written a review, and moved on to the next one. Until I get caught up, I won't be able to do that for a while. Why am I bringing this up in a book review? Because, for the life of me, I can't seem to remember much about this book. 

Bill McKibben is a well-known name for many people who have been following the climate change debate. His books are included in the reading list at and he has written numerous articles, opinion pieces, and editorials over the years since The End of Nature came out in 1989. Despite all of this, however, I had yet to read anything that he had written. When I found this book in my library, I added it to my growing pile of books on climate change. Now I wish I had written a review of it (even if I'd had to do it on a giant rock with a hammer a chisel) immediately after I had set it down.

From what I can remember, I really enjoyed this book. Like the other books on global warming that I read around the same time, McKibenn's book was readable and it provided compelling evidence for his argument. I would have loved a bibliography or at least some citations, but it was a highly intelligent book that I remember reading fairly quickly. 

As I'm flipping through the pages now, I'm remembering that the book seemed a little muted. Rather than a ranting, raving treatise, McKibben's book is a softer approach to the topic. The writing was often lyrical and the pages were brimming with calls to go back to the days where nature was revered, respected, loved. He talks about DDT and other chemicals, yes. He talks about changing weather patterns and other consequences of climate change, yes. But he does it in a way that evokes something primeval. He talks of the Appalachian Trail, of taking a hike. He raises images in the reader's head of places in the great outdoors that they've visited before. For me, it was Letchworth State Park and this little trail in a small town near Rochester. For other people, it will no doubt be their own local natural treasures. 

This is a book of muted anger, of great sadness, and of deep trepidation. It's a book that was designed for the everyday reader, so it isn't bogged down by scientific mumbo-jumbo, although you do run into the occasional multiple-syllable word (but, really, who doesn't know what a chlorofluorocarbon is?). While apparently not as memorable as Under a Green Sky, The Discovery of Global Warming, or the soon-to-be-reviewed Field Notes from a Catastrophe, McKibben's book does touch on something deep. Perhaps it is not meant to be a book that sticks with you in terms of what he says; maybe it's a book meant to stick with you in terms of how it made you feel. 

I'm not going to rate this book right now, mostly because I feel that if I had reviewed it right away, I would have had a lot more to say about it and would have been able to rate it fairly. I'm going to have to reread it sometime next year (I devoured the global warming books without taking notes, which is why I was reading them in the first place--doh!), so when I do, you can expect a much better review. 



  1. Very honest review! Do you think when your net is down maybe doing your review on notepad or something would help?


  2. Have you writen a review for Perelandera yet?

  3. Lainy: Thanks. :) Now that I have a charger cord I can use Word to write my reviews. At the time I read this book I was still completely without my computer (which was way more difficult than I'd like to admit).

    Nonners: I did, indeed: I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with Out of the Silent Planet but I'm still really looking forward to read That Hideous Strength.