3 new books on nature and the environment explore the effect of humans on the landscape – OCRegister

This week’s books section features some interesting works involving the natural world: a YA book about a California wildfire; a reissue of an 80-year-old novel about a storm slamming into the West Coast and a work of nonfiction about our most precious resource, water.
Before we get to those, however, there are a few more titles we’d like to highlight.
‘Islands of Abandonment’ by Cal Flyn
An excellent work of page-turning nonfiction, the book explores once-inhabited landscapes after humans have left them behind. In one fascinating chapter that has the feel of a ghost story, a small boat pulls away from the author, leaving her alone on a remote Scottish island with a call of warning to “stay in the house at night” and lock the door or the island’s animals – a herd of feral cattle left behind when humans quit the island — might trample her. Whether it’s the poisoned landscape of Chernobyl or a shadowy community operating in a factory-scarred section of New Jersey  — Flyn finds fascinating stories and tells them with the skill of a novelist.
‘Island Dreams’ by Gavin Francis
Would you like to get away after more than a year and a half of the pandemic? In this beautifully illustrated and designed book, author Francis is a thoroughly entertaining guide with an obsession for islands, though the ones he likes tend not to be the tropical wonderlands but wind-blown, desolate places perfect for his musings on life, love, religion, history, maps and more. A doctor and, let’s face it, incredible overachiever, Francis writes about his time in such far-flung places as Tierra del Fuego and the Halley Research Station in Antarctica in lovely, impressionistic passages you’ll want to return to (even if you don’t leave your chair).
‘Pastoral Song’ by James Rebanks
Americans may know this English farmer from his appearance in Nick Offerman’s new book, but he’s a best-selling author in his native land with “The Shepherd’s Life” and this new work. Born into a farming family, Rebanks offers a fascinating look at how industrial farming is changing the landscape — literally — of England (and he describes visits to America and Australia, too) by pushing out family farms and more sustainable methods. He writes lovingly of farm life, but he’s no traditionalist stick in the muck: He embraces smart, environmentally sound improvements to the land that provide benefits even to those who live far away from him.
For those looking for more, consider “Waterlog” by Roger Deakin, a beautiful new edition of a 1999 work about swimming through Britain’s waters that many cite as the first of a new breed of nature book; “Northern Light” by Kazim Ali, in which the poet and writer returns to Canada in search of a town where he spent time as a child; and “The Nation of Plants” by Stefano Mancuso, a brief environmental polemic by an expert in plant neurobiology that seeks to defend the rights of plants and show humans a fresh way to look at the world and our place in it.
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