Friday, April 24, 2015

Brian Fagan

Brian Fagan was born in England and spent several years doing fieldwork in Africa. He is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of New York Times bestseller The Great Warming and many other books, including Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World, and several books on climate history, including The Little Ice Age and The Long Summer.

Fagan's new book is The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m flitting from book to book at the moment, partly because I’ve been traveling a great deal. There are now so many interesting books to read that it’s getting harder and harder to choose from the shelves of new releases—and old ones.

I don’t normally read books on archaeology for pleasure, since that’s my daily diet, but Jason Thompson’s Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology, Volume 1: From Antiquity to 1881 (Oxford University Press, 2015) is a captivating account of treasure hunters, antiquarians, and archaeologists along the Nile that is both definitive and a nice read. Thompson, the author of a biography of the Victorian Egyptologist John Gardner Wilkinson, brings to life both major and especially lesser known figures in the occasionally flamboyant beginnings of Egyptology. This is a book to savor, to browse, and to read again and again.

Christopher Morris’s The Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its Peoples (Oxford University Press, 2012) has given me great pleasure, especially his perceptive analysis of the future of the Lower Mississippi, which should be required reading for anyone concerned about rising sea levels. Very readable and beautifully researched, this is a book by an author who wears his impressive learning lightly.

Another book that has captivated me is James H.S. McGregor’s Back to the Garden: Nature and the Mediterranean World (Yale University Press, 2015), which is a marvelous essay on traditional agriculture in the Mediterranean world and its sustainability. Then, in the eighteenth century, we humans got to work and separated the natural and agricultural worlds. As McGregor points out, we are living with the consequences of our ending of what he calls “sensibility” after many centuries. This book really made me think about the ecological history of the cradle of Western traditions. Beautifully written, persuasive, and thought provoking, I advise reading this before you go to Mediterranean shores.

Finally, I’ve been rereading Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler and drinking in, once again, its delicious wisdoms. The latest edition, edited by Marjorie Swann, reached my desk in 2014 (Oxford University Press). I dip into it before going to bed and it gives me a nice tranquility. Walton is like Chaucer: an author I revel in.
Visit Brian Fagan's website.

The Page 99 Test: Fagan's The Great Warming.

The Page 99 Test: The Attacking Ocean.

--Marshal Zeringue