Since 2007, Orion has given an annual award to a book that deepens our connection to the natural world, presents new ideas about the relationship between people and nature, and achieves excellence in writing. What follows are short reports from Orion staff on some of their favorite Orion Book Award contenders. In April, five books published in 2013 will be chosen as finalists for the 2014 Orion Book Award; one will win.
A book about population that is honest, clear-eyed, non-divisive, and cautiously optimistic? Yes indeed. For Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, veteran reporter Alan Weisman traveled the world in search of national policies, family planning efforts, religious ideologies, and social movements that are having the biggest impact on global population, whether reducing or growing it. Weisman’s broader focus is on how to estimate the ultimate carrying capacity of the Earth, while preserving a certain standard of living for all, and what reproductive rates we must attain, and then sustain, in order to live within it. —Jennifer Sahn
Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild is conversational, contemporary, and laugh-out-loud funny. Haupt is not only very knowledgeable about the beasts that humans are likely to encounter in suburban or semi-rural life—raccoons, opossums, et cetera—but she clearly enjoys them as well. The writing is warm, friendly, and engaging, and Haupt brings us along as she discovers these familiar animals anew. —Madeline Cantwell
Michael Stocker’s Hear Where We Are: Sound, Ecology, and Sense of Place has kept me wondering about the sounds I’ve been blind to all my life. For instance, the sound field of urban environments—electrical power and the attendant hum of all our technologies—is 60 Hz in the U.S., roughly a B- flat on the musical scale. It’s a slightly lower frequency in Europe, at 50 Hz, which translates to an A-flat. It’s fascinating to think that even our societies’ background noise can be heard like music. Read this book if you want a full immersion in acoustic ecology. —Erik Hoffner