Relics: Three Recent Books of Interest

In this post, I’d like to take off my mycological hat and put on the hat of a passionate reader (and reviewer) of books on both the rapidly melting North and our rapidly disappearing natural world. You could say that I’m sloshing to a different part of the bog, which has a somewhat different ecosystem…

Toward Magnetic North
(Available from The Oberholtzer Foundation, 300 N. Hill St, Marshall, MN, 56528)

Toward Magnetic NorthThis extremely handsome book which includes photographs, diary jottings, and essays by various hands details explorer conservationist Ernest Oberholtzer’s epic 1912 canoe trip from The Pas, Manitoba, to Hudson Bay. The photos, especially, are remarkable; at once lyrical and austere, they provide an eloquent window on a lost time and a distant place. A “must” for canoeists and Arctic aficionados.

The Chukchi Bible, by Yuri Rytkheu (Archipeligo Books, 2011)

Chukchi BiblePart myth, part fiction, and part family memoir, The Chukchi Bible details the history of Siberia’s Chukchi from the time when Raven created the world out of gobs of his own shit to the year 1999. But it’s not only a history. It’s also an elegy on the death of a traditional culture due to assaults from the outside world. I have no hesitation in calling the late Yuri Rytkheu’s book a master piece. Urgently recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest in the Arctic or its Native people.

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey (Knopf, 2012)

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet WormsPaleontologist Richard Fortey (author of Life: An Unauthorized Biography) rambles around the world in search of relic species, including onychophorans, gingko trees, lampreys, tuataras, chambered nautiluses, lungfish, ferrerets, horsetails, and echidnas. In his own home in England, he finds an ancient survivor known to everyone — the cockroach. Elegantly written and often very funny, this book provides an excellent complement to Piotr Naskrecki’s primarily photographic work Relics.