The Utne Weeder

Our staff's picks of good books


| September/October 2002


ASIAThe Tiger Ladies: A Memoir of Kashmir by Sudha Koul (Beacon Press, $24). Sudha Koul was born in 1947, the year India gained independence and Pakistan was created. She now enters the hot South Asian literary scene with this evocative, wistful memoir about the tranquil Kashmir valley of her childhood-a perfumed land where grandmothers surreptitiously smoke hookahs and religious differences are noteworthy only in hindsight.
-Anjula Razdan

FOODFatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture, edited by Andrew Kimbrell (Island Press, $45 paper, $75 cloth). In groundbreaking essays and breathtaking photographs, Fatal Harvest movingly documents the high price-both environmental and social-we pay for our industrialized food while documenting the bountiful promise of sustainable agriculture.
-Jay Walljasper

BIRDSRare Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (Sasquatch Books, $21.95). It takes curiosity to lick a bird nest to learn how it tastes-and pluck to raise 37 baby chimney swifts by hand. Naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt has done these things and more. Her collection of essays peers into the lives of such common birds as crows and starlings, and examines the human-bird connection in a way that is neither romanticized nor reductive. As Haupt writes, 'The tinier the details I come to comprehend . . . the more inspiring of awe.'
-Chris Dodge

THE SOUTHWESTThe Underground Heart: A Return to a Hidden Landscape by Ray Gonzalez (University of Arizona Press, $17.95). Twenty-five years removed from his Southwestern roots, Gonzalez chronicles his return to New Mexico and West Texas in this impressionistic collage of essays. His fresh eyes see a changed landscape: Pancho Villa bus tours, jimsonweed addicts, and dead scorpions-in short, a suddenly foreign culture brought richly alive by his long absence.
-Craig Cox

GARDENS AND PHILOSOPHYThe Art of Setting Stones & Other Writings from the Japanese Garden by Marc Peter Keane (Stone Bridge, $16.95). By walking us through the gardens of Kyoto, then branching out into reflections on how we humans live on this earth, Keane, a landscape architect and resident of Japan for 17 years, has created an evocative meditation, and a visual delight: Each of these eight essays is accompanied by stunning black clayboard illustrations the author carved himself.
-Karen Olson

PAINTINGAlfredo Arreguin: Patterns of Dreams and Nature by Lauro Flores (University of Washington Press, $40). Like mosaics, tapestries, and big boxes of Crayolas, the paintings of Alfredo Arreguin enchant the eyes and carry the mind to a vibrant and dreamlike place. With Spanish and English text, this art book beautifully replicates Arreguin's lush tropical images on canvases so detailed as to be worth a thousand gazes.
-Jessica Coulter