Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business, The Story of Clif Bar & Co. by Gary Erickson

Raising the BarThis story is about how a man saw a need and filled that need.

Gary Erickson, the founder of Clif Bar, tells how a long bike ride in his 30s led him to create the iconic, organic energy bars and other related products when there was really only one on the market at that time.

I loved reading his short stories throughout the book about his mountain biking trips and other excursions he took with friends and how the lessons he learned from those trips apply to how he runs his business.

It’s great to read about how some businesses owners, like Gary, stay true to their passions in their business instead of conforming to practices that compromise their values.

I recommend this book for anyone, especially businesses owners, outdoor enthusiasts and organic foodies.

Reviewed by Laura

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

flight behaviorExcellent. Kingsolver has taken the abstract, hard-to-grasp phenomenon of global warming, and made it personal to Dellarobbia and her family, who eke out their living in a rural logging community somewhere in the South. While climate change is of course widely discussed, I think one value in her book is in showing sympathetically why the ordinary citizen may be indifferent or perplexed. One of my favorite and funniest parts in the book comes when a well-intentioned environmentalist tries to persuade Dellarobbia to sign a pledge to reduce her carbon footprint. Going down the list of proposed actions – ride a bike for transportation, upgrade to energy-efficient appliances – it dawns on him, and us, how irrelevant these suggestions are to someone needing to get to work and get the kids shuffled around, someone always on the edge financially.

Reviewed by Sara V.


Wild Nights: Nature returns to the city by Anne Matthews

My review below considers the entire book, but much of Matthews’s research focuses on the New York-northern New Jersey area.  Eugene readers not familiar with New York City might particularly find more interest in the chapters, “The Shores of Brooklyn,” “The Old Neighborhood,” and “The City of River Lights,” with their more general discussion of ecology and urban planning.  And these are relevant to the issues we deal with here.

For most urban dwellers, encounters with nature are a mix of wonder: a glimpse of a peregrine falcon swooping down on a pigeon; frustration: deer wrecking suburban gardens; and loathing: rodents carrying plague vectors.  Matthews examines the history of wildlife in our cities, and the ways we have encouraged or damaged species.  Migrant songbirds often find city towers fatal, but the striped bass is coming back to a cleaned-up Hudson,

Who wins, who loses?  We continue to crave contact with the green and the wild. Incentive zoning attempts to maintain small public spaces, hopefully with shaded seating, maybe a water feature.  Matthews observes high school boys in baggy pants carefully feeding gray squirrels.

The research is detailed and fascinating, but the topics meander and I was often unclear as to her point.  The last chapter offers a fearful vision of the consequences of global warming.

Reviewed by Sarav

Garbology: our dirty love affair with trash by Edward Humes

While there are way too many statistics in this book to recall, I believe he says early on that America uses 40 percent of the world’s resources, and the resulting trash and waste of energies is incredible.  This is a huge wake-up call to get us to acknowledge our addiction to ‘needing’ more and newer stuff.  And you will never look at plastic in the same way after reading this. Also, if you love sea life, there are some eye-opening descriptions of the bathtub of little bits of plastic that our oceans have become!

While it brought sadness to me, it also gives me an even better feeling every time I use a cloth bag, recycle anything, donate anything for re-use, make my own cleaners or make-up, buy in bulk, choose glass storage instead of plastic, or just say “NO thanks, don’t need it!” in the first place when making a buy-it-or-not decision! A late chapter explains a bit how one modern family has gotten their trash for an entire year down to one mason jar’s worth! I recommend this book.

Reviewed by Grace

When the Killing’s Done by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Wildlife biologist Alma Takesue and animal rights activist Dave La Joy are fighting over what species should be allowed on Anacapa Island, off the California coast. Boyle excels in letting us experience the struggle of humans against nature, as  his characters take small boats across a stormy channel and fight their way across steep, chaparral-covered slopes deluged by a fierce rainstorm.

The book also carries a strong environmental theme and raises questions about the cost of protecting threatened species. The main characters are animated not by greed but by idealism and strong personal motives, making their conflict more intense. The weakness in the book is that while Alma, Dave, and other characters  are well-developed, the line between good and bad seems rather simplistically drawn.

Reviewed by Sara V.