Thursday, August 27, 2009

Richard Mahler

Richard Mahler is the New Mexico-based author or co-author of eleven published books on travel, self-transformation, nature, social trends, and cooking. His newest book, entitled The Jaguar's Shadow: Searching for a Mythic Cat, is available now from Yale University Press.

Richard Knight of Colorado State University calls The Jaguar's Shadow “A wonderful book. Not only is it a detailed compilation of the economic, cultural, and ecological issues swirling around the jaguar, it is a balanced account of these complex issues.”

Not so long ago I asked Mahler what he was reading. His reply:
I'm a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell and am half-way through his Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown & Co., 2008). Gladwell has a pitch-perfect ear for the telling anecdote and is not afraid to reveal himself through interaction with his interview subjects. I identify with him because he asks questions and confesses ignorance in the same way most of us would. More importantly, I find his topics simply fascinating. They are rich, unmined veins of human behavior and psychology: how little things in life add up to big differences, the power of subliminal thinking, and what contributes to a person excelling at what he or she does. I suppose writers have discussed these sorts of things before, in academic journals and specialized books, but Gladwell has a wonderful way of keeping the conversation as lively as a good dinner party while at the same time introducing the little-known facts and up-to-the-deadline research results that are the hallmark of a champion reporter.

Another truly fun book I've just started is Jennifer Ackerman's Sex Sleep Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Like Gladwell, this author takes a seemingly simple, even mundane topic and engages me with one surprise after another. With both clarity and eloquence, Ackerman dissects what happens inside our bodies, for instance, when we try to do two things at once. Or what is going on biochemicaly when we begin to feel hungry. Or why young men have erections for an average of three hours in any given day. As someone who regards his physical aging with some trepidation, I am enjoying how this book takes apart the myriad systems of the human organism and explains their function. Sure, I should have learned this 40 years ago, but it seems much more relevant now to understand—and perhaps begin to accept—why my skin is getting thinner, my memory isn't as sharp, and there's intermittent ringing in my ears.

The most fun book of all on my nightstand is the illustrated autobiography of Frank Lima entitled The Great Morgani: The Creative Madness of a Middle-Aged Stockbroker Turned Street Musician (self-published through Diversified Printers, 2007). This is largely a collection of color photographs showing Lima in all manner of costume, playing his accordion on the sidewalks of Santa Cruz, CA, where I lived for three years. As the title implies, this 50-ish musician was a successful stockbroker for many years in his eclectic hometown, tucked on the northern end of Monterey Bay on California's Pacific Coast. So successful, in fact, that he earned enough money by mid-life to do exactly what he wanted to do from then on. Lima has chosen to dress in outlandish, even bizarre, costumes that he makes himself, while making music for passersby. There is no busker like this one.
Visit Richard Mahler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue