For the last meeting before the summer hiatus, our reading selection invites us to take a plunge into our neighboring ocean, the Atlantic, to experience its mighty waters in ways we likely never considered before. As The New York Times explained it, “From its geological origins to the age of exploration, and from World War II battles to the environmental concerns of the 21st century, Winchester sees the Atlantic as ‘the cradle of modern Western civilization—the inland sea of the civilized Western world.’ In this epic “biography” of the Atlantic Ocean, from its origins 370 million years ago through the population of its shores by humanity and their interactions with it, the popular author scrutinizes the early explorations from the Vikings and Norsemen through Columbus, and spotlights its inspiration on poets, painters, and writers. Nor does he neglect the chief tragedies of the Atlantic, like the slave trade and the maritime battles. Winchester’s sea saga is necessary reading for those who want to understand the planet better, even as, he notes, our waters are rapidly changing from pollution, overfishing, and climate change.
Looking still further ahead, an unusual experience is often among the great pleasures and most enduring memories of summer. For some of us, it may take the form of off-beat recreation. For others, an unforgettable meal. For still others, the out-of-the-ordinary event may take a more passive form, like reading a book you would have normally passed up. Our book for September will fit this bill. It will be Cannibalism: a perfectly natural history by Bill Schutt.
Don’t recoil! “Eating one’s own kind is completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans,” we are reminded. “Throughout history we have engaged in cannibalism for (many) reasons … from starvation to terrorism to the ultimate expression of filial piety.” With charming wit and an amazing trove of knowledge, author Bill Schutt familiarizes us with the breadth of the subject, all the while making the ick-factor fascinating.”