The Shack, by William P. Young

Find in catalogWhile at a camping family vacation the youngest daughter disappears, only leaving enough evidence to suggest a connection with other murders in an abandoned shack in the middle of the woods. Years after, still reeling from this insurmountable loss, the father Mac, receives a mysterious note suggesting that he come to that very shack for the weekend. What he initially thought would be walking back into his darkest moments and nightmares turned out to be something that positively changed his life forever. An amazing well told story and I would recommend it to many, especially those who seek answers and grace in the mists of tragedy.

The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown

Find in catalogWhat an excellent, non-ficition book about the experiences of the participants in the Donner party, many of whom starved trying to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains in the 1840’s. This is the same author who wrote “The Boys in the Boat”.  And this book is similarly written – lots of information about the journey with a focus on one member of the group. The book reads like fiction. It’s a highly recommend!

The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast by Bonnie Henderson

The Next TsunamiBonnie Henderson brings the science and the actual experience of earthquakes and tsunamis to life. She weaves together interesting lessons on the science of earthquakes with the biography of a geologist with a strong personal connection to coastal Oregon. Tom Horning experienced the 1964 tsunami in Seaside, Oregon as a 10 year old and to this day is active in trying to save lives in the tsunami zones in and around Seaside. Seeing many events through his eyes makes them all the more real.

Reviewed by Nancy

Cataclysms on the Columbia: the great Missoula floods by John Eliot Allen

The story of the Missoula floods is dramatic. The floods themselves were almost inconceivably large and powerful, and it took academic geology nearly fifty years to fully accept the physical evidence of massive flooding.

Briefly, in 1919 J Harlen Bretz began exploring the Columbia Plateau of eastern Washington by car and on foot, discovering the scablands, an area marked by interconnecting channels scoured out of the earth. Imagine training a hose on a dry piece of ground. What happens first, before the water chooses one channel to deepen, is that a braid of multiple channels form.

In addition to these channels Bretz also found ripples like one sees in sand at the ocean. But, like the braided channels the ripples were on a massive scale: thirty-five feet high and two hundred to three hundred feet between crests. The only conclusion Bretz could come to, though even he was unwilling at first, was that a massive flood created these features.

In the 1920s the accepted academic thinking was that all geologic formations developed over time, slowly. The idea of catastrophe shaping the earth with the exceptions of earthquakes and volcanoes was out of favor. Keeping suspense alive, the book details the conflict between Bretz and other geologists as the field slowly changed.

It took someone with courage and imagination to make sense of the unusual geological formations–without the aid of a view from the air–and Bretz was finally awarded the Penrose Medal of the Geological Society, the nation’s highest geological honor, in 1979.

It is now known that at least 40 floods inundated the northwest between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago as the last ice age closed. Ice dams at the edge of a vast inland lake near Missoula, MT, periodically failed and water coursed across eastern Washington, the Columbia River, into the Willamette Valley as far south as Eugene, and to the ocean. The water would have filled the Gorge, been as high as Crown Point, and enveloped what is now Portland under 400 feet of water. Eugene was also, like Portland, intermittently submerged–under an estimated 380 feet.

The largest Missoula flood had a force of 10 times that of the volcano that created Crater Lake. The combined forces of all forty floods has no equal on earth, including the largest fusion bomb and the meteorite that landed 66 million years ago.

Because it had such force, it should be no surprise that the Missoula floods have left erratics, house-sized boulders in the Willamette Valley, as well as fertile top soil from eastern Washington state, deposited–in some places–100 feet deep.

Interested in learning more? The library has the book and a DVD, Ice Age Flood, and there are several good web sites.

Reviewed by Lily

The Prairie Keepers: secrets of the Zumwalt by Marcy Houle

In “The Prairie Keepers,” wildlife biologist Marcy Houle tells the non-fiction story of her summer researching wildlife and habitat on the Zumwalt Prairie in eastern Oregon. Houle balances her account of studying raptors and the land with humorous anecdotes about her struggles, such as dealing with ranchers suspicious of her methods, and face-offs with belligerent cattle. But the real thorn in her boot turns out to be a co-worker, a patronizing Fish and Game biologist who takes every opportunity to sneer at her.

Written in 1979, and updated in 2002,  readers with any interest in the environment or the outdoors should enjoy this book. The characters are varied and colorful. The book  shows that a scientist with an open mind can help move people beyond their presuppositions.  And general readers involved in various issues in their own areas may find Houle’s approach valuable.  Because Houle listened to the ranchers as well as fellow biologists and developed connections in the local community she was able to elicit cooperation from both sides. In a period when many disagreements turn contentious or nasty, her experiences should be a reminder that we may be more successful if we don’t demonize people with different backgrounds and views.

Reviewed by Sara V.