I’ve read and can recommend two recently published non-fiction books.
As a child growing up in the Cleveland, Ohio area, a favorite expedition was with my Dad and Uncle Frank to Lake Erie’s waterfront. We’d fish for whatever might be biting, which at that time tended to be yellow perch and the now extinct blue pike. Since I left for college in New Jersey and then settled in California, I’ve had zero days of fishing on Lake Erie or any other of the Great Lakes. But from popular news accounts, family, and friends, I was aware of some of the changing identities of the lakes’ major personalities, such as the invasive zebra mussel and the stocked coho and chinook salmon as well as the threatening Asian Carp.
Each of the aforementioned non-natives are discussed, as well as others in The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan, a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It’s a lively, very well written survey of the non-native creatures of the Great Lakes, along with comments on related scientific research and politics. It could be called a natural history book, even though the non-native species are uniformly introduced through man’s actions, some intentional, some not.
The subject of non-native species in the Great Lakes is non-trivial, as they’ve cost utilities, municipalities, former commercial fishermen, and other lake users $billions in lost income, cleanup, increased maintenance, re-engineering, etc. And the costs aren’t confined to the Great Lakes – zebra and quagga mussels are working their way into the U.S. west, fouling water and inconveniencing boaters to the tune of many $ millions.
The book covers a lot of ground as may be evident from some of the sources the author weaved into the story: University of Michigan’s Institute for Fisheries Research, Boston Society of Natural History, Cornell’s National Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearing House, the U.S. Department of the Interior Fish Farming Experimental Lab (!, itself an endangered species), and Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative, among others.
In short, Egan’s book is an intelligent, balanced, and highly readable report on many of the more popular or vexing inhabitants of the Great Lakes.
I found The Jersey Brothers by Sally Mott Freeman especially hard to put down. It’s the story of “a missing naval officer in the Pacific and the quest to bring him home.”
What a story it is! History, family, and the realities of war are all present as the author tells the parallel paths of 3 brothers from New Jersey who served in the Navy during World War II. Researched at 20 venues including the Philippines and England, it’s a story both well constructed and well written. The author, one of the protagonist’s daughters, spent years and many dollars traveling and researching to unravel the WWII paths of the brothers, especially that of the youngest, who was taken as a Japanese prisoner just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. Details in this book, especially of the imprisoned brother, confirm that yes, “War is Hell.”
The book includes extensive notes documenting the author’s original research which included the review of a significant amount of privately held correspondence, a well curated subset of which illuminates the narrative. Freeman, a first time author, has written a book certain to take a place on many readers’ shelves as a favorite.
Endnote: The Jersey Brothers came to my attention by way of a New York Times article published a few days after a Navy reunion I attended and which sparked interest in the Battle of Midway and WWII. The reunion was in San Diego of Vietnam-era officers who served on the USS Saint Paul, and included a day-long visit on the excellent USS Midway Museum as well as a visit to the San Diego Maritime Museum and its Swift Boats at War in Vietnam exhibit, both worthwhile for any San Diego visitor.