front cover of Sanctuaries of Earth, Stone, and Light
Sanctuaries of Earth, Stone, and Light
The Churches of Northern New Spain, 1530-1821
Gloria Fraser Giffords
University of Arizona Press, 2007
Over nearly three centuries, Jesuit, Franciscan, and Dominican missionaries built a network of churches throughout the “new world” of New Spain. Since the early twentieth century, scholars have studied the colonial architecture of southern New Spain, but they have largely ignored the architecture of the north. However, as this book clearly demonstrates, the colonial architecture of Northern New Spain—an area that encompasses most of the southwestern United States and much of northern Mexico—is strikingly beautiful and rich with meaning. After more than two decades of research, both in the field and in archives around the world, Gloria Fraser Giffords has authored the definitive book on this architecture.

Giffords has a remarkable eye for detail and for images both grand and diminutive. Because so many of the buildings she examines have been destroyed, she sleuthed through historical records in several countries, and she discovered that the architecture and material culture of northern New Spain reveal the influences of five continents. As she examines objects as large as churches or as small as ornamental ceramic tile she illuminates the sometimes subtle, sometimes striking influences of the religious, social, and artistic traditions of Europe (from the beginning of the Christian era through the nineteenth century), of the Muslim countries ringing the Mediterranean (from the seventh through the fifteenth centuries), and of Northern New Spain’s indigenous peoples (whose art influenced the designs of occupying Europeans).

Sanctuaries of Earth, Stone, and Light is a pathbreaking book, featuring 200 stunning photographs and over 300 illustrations ranging from ceremonial garments to detailed floor plans of the churches.
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A Scientist Audits the Earth
Pimm, Stuart L
Rutgers University Press, 2004

Humans use 50 percent of the world’s freshwater supply and consume 42 percent of its plant growth. We are liquidating animals and plants one hundred times faster than the natural rate of extinction. Such numbers should make it clear that our impact on the planet has been, and continues to be, extreme and detrimental. Yet even after decades of awareness of our environmental peril, there remains passionate disagreement over what the problems are and how they should be remedied.

Much of the impasse stems from the fact that the problems are difficult to quantify. How do we assess the impact of habitat loss on various species, when we haven’t even counted them all? And just what factors go into that 42 percent of biomass we are hungrily consuming? It is only through an understanding of the numbers that we will be able to break that impasse and come to agreement on which environmental issues are most critical and how they might best be addressed.

Working on the front lines of conservation biology, Stuart Pimm is one of the pioneers whose work has put the “science” in environmental science. In this book, he appoints himself “investment banker of the global, biological accounts,” checking the environmental statistics gathered by tireless scientists in work that is always painstaking and often heartbreaking. With wit, passion, and candor, he reveals the importance of understanding where these numbers come from and what they mean. To do so, he takes the reader on a globe-circling tour of our beautiful, but weary, planet from the volcanic mountains and rainforests of Hawai’i to the boreal forests of Siberia.

At times, the view looks rather grim. Yet Pimm, ever the optimist, presents a world filled with mysterious beauty, the infinite variety of nature, and an urgent hope that through an understanding of our planet’s environmental past and present, we will be inspired to save it from future extinction.

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Seasick
Ocean Change and the Extinction of Life on Earth
Alanna Mitchell
University of Chicago Press, 2009

We have long lorded over the ocean. But only recently have we become aware of the myriad life-forms beneath its waves. We now know that this delicate ecosystem is our life-support system; it regulates the earth’s temperatures and climate and comprises 99 percent of living space on earth. So when we change the chemistry of the whole ocean system, as we are now, life as we know it is threatened.

In Seasick, veteran science journalist Alanna Mitchell dives beneath the surface of the world’s oceans to give readers a sense of how this watery realm can be managed and preserved, and with it life on earth. Each chapter features a different group of researchers who introduce readers to the importance of ocean currents, the building of coral structures, or the effects of acidification. With Mitchell at the helm, readers submerge 3,000 feet to gather sea sponges that may contribute to cancer care, see firsthand the lava lamp–like dead zone covering 17,000 square kilometers in the Gulf of Mexico, and witness the simultaneous spawning of corals under a full moon in Panama.

The first book to look at the planetary environmental crisis through the lens of the global ocean, Seasick takes the reader on an emotional journey through a hidden realm of the planet and urges conservation and reverence for the fount from which all life on earth sprang.

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Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth, Second Edition
Weather, Climate Change, and Finding Deep Powder in Utah's Wasatch Mountains and Around the World
Jim Steenburgh
Utah State University Press, 2023

Utah has long claimed to have the greatest snow on Earth—the state itself has even trademarked the phrase. In Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth, Jim Steenburgh investigates Wasatch weather, exposing the myths, explaining the reality, and revealing how and why Utah’s powder lives up to its reputation. Steenburgh also examines ski and snowboard regions beyond Utah, providing a meteorological guide to mountain weather and snow climates around the world.

Chapters explore mountain weather, avalanches and snow safety, historical accounts of weather events and snow conditions, and the basics of climate and weather forecasting. In this second edition, Steenburgh explains what creates the best snow for skiing and snowboarding using accurate and accessible language and 150 color photographs and illustrations, making Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth a helpful tool for planning vacations and staying safe during mountain adventures.

This edition is updated with two new chapters covering microclimates and climate change in greater depth. Steenburgh addresses the declining snowpack and the future of snow across the western United States, as well as the declining snow and ice in several regions of the world—the European Alps in particular. Snowriders, weather enthusiasts, meteorologists, students of snow science, and anyone who dreams of deep powder and bluebird skies will want to get their gloves on this new edition of Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth.

Praise for the first edition:
“Everything you always wanted to know about how snow forms and how to follow forecasts so you see
how much an”d where is in the book. It’s a must-have for any fan of snow, sure to get you excited about
winter, and give you a bevy of conversation topics for the chairlift ride.”

—Utah Adventure Journal

“For backcountry enthusiasts that find themselves infatuated with weather patterns, snow-water
equivalents, microclimates, and Utah, this book is a dream come true.”

—The Backcountry Skiing Blog

“Steenburgh shares a career’s worth of knowledge in this book. His love of both snow science and skiing
is obvious, and he adds humor and personality to the scientific discussion.”

—First Tracks!! Online Skiing Magazine

“When it comes to snow, the details—both small- and large-scale—do matter. If we all observed our
surroundings with as much curiosity and enthusiasm as Steenburgh, the world could be a much better-
tended place.”

—American Scientist

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Shake Terribly the Earth
Stories from an Appalachian Family
Sarah Beth Childers
Ohio University Press, 2013
Sarah Beth Childers grew up listening to stories. She heard them riding to school with her mother, playing Yahtzee in her Granny’s nicotine cloud, walking to the bowling alley with her grandfather, and eating casseroles at the family reunions she attended every year.

In a thoughtful, humorous voice born of Appalachian storytelling, Childers brings to life in these essays events that affected the entire region: large families that squeezed into tiny apartments during the Great Depression, a girl who stepped into a rowboat from a second-story window during Huntington’s 1937 flood, brothers who were whisked away to World War II and Vietnam, and a young man who returned home from the South Pacific and worked his life away as a railroad engineer.

Childers uses these family tales to make sense of her personal journey and find the joy and clarity that often emerge after the earth shakes terribly beneath us.
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Simple Things Won't Save the Earth
By J. Robert Hunter
University of Texas Press, 1997

We drive cars with "Save the Whales" bumper stickers, buy aerosol sprays that advertise "no chlorofluorocarbons," and wear T-shirts made from organically grown cotton. All of these "earth friendly" choices and products convince us that we are "thinking globally, acting locally" and saving the planet. But are we really?

In this provocative book, J. Robert Hunter asserts that using catchy slogans and symbols to sell the public on environmental conservation is ineffective, misleading, and even dangerous. Debunking the Fifty Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth approach, Hunter shows that there are no simple solutions to major environmental problems such as species extinction, ozone depletion, global warming, pollution, and non-renewable resource consumption.

The use of slogans and symbols, Hunter argues, simply gives the public a false sense that "someone" is solving the environmental crisis—while it remains as serious now as when the environmental movement began. Writing in plain yet passionate prose for general readers, he here opens a national debate on what is really required to preserve the earth as a habitat for the human species.

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Solvable
How We Healed the Earth, and How We Can Do It Again
Susan Solomon
University of Chicago Press, 2024
A compelling and pragmatic argument: solutions to yesterday’s environmental problems reveal today’s path forward.
 
We solved planet-threatening problems before, Susan Solomon argues, and we can do it again. Solomon knows firsthand what those solutions entail. She first gained international fame as the leader of an expedition to Antarctica in 1986, making discoveries that were key to healing the damaged ozone layer. She saw a path—from scientific and public awareness to political engagement, international agreement, industry involvement, and effective action. Solomon, an atmospheric scientist and award-winning author, connects this career-defining triumph to the inside stories of other past environmental victories—against ozone depletion, smog, pesticides, and lead—to extract the essential elements of what makes change possible. 

The path to success begins when an environmental problem becomes both personal and perceptible to the general public. Lawmakers, diplomats, industries, and international agencies respond to popular momentum, and effective change takes place in tandem with consumer pressure when legislation and regulation yield practical solutions. Healing the planet is a long game won not by fear and panic but by the union of public, political, and regulatory pressure.

Solvable is a book for anyone who has ever despaired about the climate crisis. As Solomon reminds us, doom and gloom get us nowhere, and idealism will only take us so far. The heroes in these stories range from angry mothers to gang members turned social activists, to upset Long Island birdwatchers to iconoclastic scientists (often women) to brilliant legislative craftsmen. Solomon’s authoritative point of view is an inspiration, a reality check, a road map, and a much-needed dose of realism. The problems facing our planet are Solvable. Solomon shows us how.
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The Song of the Earth
Jonathan Bate
Harvard University Press, 2002

As we enter a new millennium ruled by technology, will poetry still matter? The Song of the Earth answers eloquently in the affirmative. A book about our growing alienation from nature, it is also a brilliant meditation on the capacity of the writer to bring us back to earth, our home.

In the first ecological reading of English literature, Jonathan Bate traces the distinctions among "nature," "culture," and "environment" and shows how their meanings have changed since their appearance in the literature of the eighteenth century. An intricate interweaving of climatic, topographical, and political elements poetically deployed, his book ranges from greenhouses in Jane Austen's novels to fruit bats in the poetry of Les Murray, by way of Thomas Hardy's woodlands, Dr. Frankenstein's Creature, John Clare's birds' nests, Wordsworth's rivers, Byron's bear, and an early nineteenth-century novel about an orangutan who stands for Parliament. Though grounded in the English Romantic tradition, the book also explores American, Central European, and Caribbean poets and engages theoretically with Rousseau, Adorno, Bachelard, and especially Heidegger.

The model for an innovative and sophisticated new "ecopoetics," The Song of the Earth is at once an essential history of environmental consciousness and an impassioned argument for the necessity of literature in a time of ecological crisis.

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Sown in Earth
Essays of Memory and Belonging
Fred Arroyo
University of Arizona Press, 2020
Sown in Earth is a collection of personal memories that speak to the larger experiences of hardworking migratory men. Often forgotten or silenced, these men are honored and remembered in Sown in Earth through the lens of Arroyo’s memories of his father. Arroyo recollects his father’s anger and alcohol abuse as a reflection of his place in society, in which his dreams and disappointments are patterned by work and poverty, loss and displacement, memory and belonging.

In Sown in Earth, Arroyo often roots his thoughts and feelings in place, expressing a deep connection to the small homes he inhabited in his childhood, his warm and hazy memories of his grandmother’s kitchen in Puerto Rico, the rivers and creeks he fished, and the small cafés in Madrid that inspired writing and reflection in his adult years. Swirling in romantic moments and a refined love for literature, Arroyo creates a sense of belonging and appreciation for his life despite setbacks and complex anxieties along the way.

By crafting a written journey through childhood traumas, poverty, and the impact of alcoholism on families, Fred Arroyo clearly outlines how his lived experiences led him to become a writer. Sown in Earth is a shocking yet warm collage of memories that serves as more than a memoir or an autobiography. Rather, Arroyo recounts his youth through lyrical prose to humanize and immortalize the hushed lives of men like his father, honoring their struggle and claiming their impact on the writers and artists they raised.
 
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Spirits of Earth
The Effigy Mound Landscape of Madison and the Four Lakes
Robert A. Birmingham
University of Wisconsin Press, 2010
Between A.D. 700 and 1100 Native Americans built more effigy mounds in Wisconsin than anywhere else in North America, with an estimated 1,300 mounds—including the world’s largest known bird effigy—at the center of effigy-building culture in and around Madison, Wisconsin. These huge earthworks, sculpted in the shape of birds, mammals, and other figures, have aroused curiosity for generations and together comprise a vast effigy mound ceremonial landscape. Farming and industrialization destroyed most of these mounds, leaving the mysteries of who built them and why they were made. The remaining mounds are protected today and many can be visited.   explores the cultural, historical, and ceremonial meanings of the mounds in an informative, abundantly illustrated book and guide.
 
Finalist, Social Science, Midwest Book Awards
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front cover of The Spirits of the Earth
The Spirits of the Earth
Catherine Colomb
Seagull Books, 2016
Swiss novelist Catherine Colomb is known as one of the most unusual and inventive francophone novelists of the twentieth century. Fascinated by the processes of memory and consciousness, she has been compared to that of Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. The Spirits of the Earth is the first English translation of Colomb’s work and its arrival will introduce new readers to an iconic novel.

The Spirits of the Earth is at heart a family drama, set at the Fraidaigue château, along the shores of Lake Geneva, and in the Maison d’en Haut country mansion, located in the hills above the lake. In these luxe locales, readers encounter upper-class characters with faltering incomes, parvenues, and even ghosts. Throughout, Colomb builds a psychologically penetrating and bold story in which the living and the dead intermingle and in which time itself is a mystery.
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Structures of the Earth
Metageographies of Early Medieval China
D. Jonathan Felt
Harvard University Press, 2021

The traditional Chinese notion of itself as the “middle kingdom”—literally the cultural and political center of the world—remains vital to its own self-perceptions and became foundational to Western understandings of China. This worldview was primarily constructed during the earliest imperial unification of China during the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BCE–220 CE). But the fragmentation of empire and subsequent “Age of Disunion” (220–589 CE) that followed undermined imperial orthodoxies of unity, centrality, and universality. In response, geographical writing proliferated, exploring greater spatial complexities and alternative worldviews.

This book is the first study of the emergent genre of geographical writing and the metageographies that structured its spatial thought during that period. Early medieval geographies highlighted spatial units and structures that the Qin–Han empire had intentionally sought to obscure—including those of regional, natural, and foreign spaces. Instead, these postimperial metageographies reveal a polycentric China in a polycentric world. Sui–Tang (581–906 CE) officials reasserted the imperial model as spatial orthodoxy. But since that time these alternative frameworks have persisted in geographical thought, continuing to illuminate spatial complexities that have been incompatible with the imperial and nationalist ideal of a monolithic China at the center of the world.

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