Aurora’s Anticipated New Nonfiction: July

Blight: Fungi and the Coming Pandemic, by Emily Monosson

Several summers ago, I developed an earache that dragged on for weeks until one day whilst at work blood began dripping from my ear, at which time I conceded that it might be prudent to seek medical attention. As it happened, a fungus had taken shelter in the hospitably twilit seclusion of my ear canal, growing into a horrifying, blackish glob of sliminess intent on colonizing my skull. The whole affair was something of a low point for me, but it would seem that in the scheme of things I got off easy, considering that, as Emily Monosson writes in her new book, fungi and fungus-like pathogens “are the most devastating disease agents on earth.”

Ever heard of the Great Amphibian Die-Off? Or the “white nose syndrome” currently driving several of North America’s bat species to extinction? How about the Irish Potato Famine? Well, you can blame a fungi (or fungus-like eukaryote, in the case of the potatoes) for all three, along with the many other disquieting infections Monosson chronicles in Blight. If being devoured alive by molds, mildews, and mushrooms is an end-of-days scenario you’ve not yet had the pleasure of contemplating, I highly recommend this compelling investigation into the darker side of fungi and humanity’s role in spreading killer spores far and wide. Bring it to the beach, scare your friends, and watch your ears, folks.

For fans of microbial true crime, apocalyptic ruminations, and The Last of Us.

The Ghost Forest: Racists, Radicals, and Real Estate in the California Redwoods, by Greg King

For millions of years, redwood trees towered over the earth in vast forests along the coast of what’s now called California. Individual redwoods can live for millennia, with the oldest known survivors estimated at between 2500-3000 years of age. Before the mid-19th century, redwoods covered more than two million acres. And today? Only 4% of those trees remain. To trace the history of corporate chicanery and ecological plunder that felled sprawling forests of majestic, immense trees to convert them into telephone poles, railway ties, dams, stadium seats, and sawdust, you couldn’t ask for a better guide than Greg King.

King first encountered the redwoods as a journalist covering logging controversies in the 1980s, but after the sight of a recently clear-cut forest moved him to tears, he felt urged to switch paths and defend the trees as an activist. Thus began King’s career spearheading the long, dramatic campaign to preserve the California redwoods, one which would bring him up against captains of industry, the California government, undercover infiltrators, and extremely misguided fellow environmentalists with a sinister fondness for eugenics. In The Ghost Forest, King brings together his decades of research as a journalist reporting on the shady dealings behind deforestation with a gripping memoir of his adventures in eco-activism.

For tree huggers and fans of Richard Powers’ The Overstory.

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