Barnes and Noble recently asked celebrity food author Michael Pollan to list his five favorite books about food and nature. And wouldn’t you know it… two of Pollan’s five fave books were penned by writers from Bernal Heights: Nathanael Johnson and Jon Mooallem.
This is a quirky and fascinating book, one of a kind. Johnson’s parents were stalwart hippies and raised him according to the orthodoxy that whatever is most natural is best, so: natural childbirth at home, no sugar in the diet, no clothing on the baby (not even diapers!), natural medicines etc. Johnson decides to examine the scientific basis of these practices, and lo and behold, discovers more justification than you would expect for a radically less-industrialized approach to managing the various stages of development, life and death.
Mooallem, a contributing writer to the NY Times Magazine, has written a brilliant piece of what I think of as “post-wilderness” nature writing. Using the case studies of the polar bear, the little-known Lange’s metalmark butterfly, and the whooping crane, he casts a completely fresh eye on the extinctions going on around us, using them to explore our schizophrenic attitudes toward animals as well as our own place in nature. The book is as funny as it is sad, beautifully observed and written, and wiser about the human condition than anything I’ve read in a long time.
PHOTO: Michael Pollan. Hat tip: Tim Dickinson