Books for 2011

Cover of "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodor...

Wilderness Warrior

Over the course of what seemed like a very busy year I found time to do more reading than I have in many years. Two themes dominated my titles: the years of the Great Depression and survival literature. My two favorites for the year were books I read very early on: Jared Diamond‘s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Douglas Brinkley‘s biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America.

Both Diamond and Brinkley are gifted writers and impressive researchers.  There’s also an interesting convergence in that Mr. Diamond and the 26th President are/were ardent birders.  Collapse is in many ways a sad, sobering tale of how some cultures persisted in stupid behaviors that so ravaged their ecosystems that the societies perished.  The final pages suggest that humanity has the wisdom to not repeat these kinds of self-destructive choices but I don’t share Mr. Diamond’s optimism.

Then there’s the phenomenon of Theodore Roosevelt. Wilderness Warrior offers wonderful insights into the unfathomable Roosevelt spirit.  Our America would be a much less beautiful place had it not been for Teddy and many of his passionate conservationist contemporaries like John Muir and Gifford Pinchot.  Reading this book certainly changed my views on the role of government vis-a-vis big business.  It’s not much of a stretch to imagine, without the efforts of these few individuals, the Grand Canyon as a massive mining pit and Yosemite and similar locales lined with countless fast-food emporiums.  I’ll never again pass through a national park or forest and fail to offer thanks to T.R. for preserving so much of America for future generations.

Here’s a list of the rest of my readings for the year:

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