The End of the End of the Earth by Jonathan Franzen
The book is about 50% birds, and I’m really just not that into birds, or nature or conservation writing. So, I skimmed a couple of chapters.
He’s good when he is writing from a personal perspective. I enjoyed his chapter about living in NY in the early 80s, and particularly the bookend chapters. The first was a kind of retrospective explanation/apologia/accounting for an essay previously published, where he got pissed at the Audubon Society for trying to get people to focus on climate change instead of more immediate concrete actions that would more directly help birds; and the essay itself was reprinted. Maybe one or two sentences could have been toned down; but I really thought it was a perfectly good essay and I’m sorry people all piled on him for writing it, calling him a “birdbrain” (har, har) and even a climate change denier (please).
The last essay really made my day, even though it WAS partly about birds; it was a recounting of a pricey expedition to Antarctica, and his sighting of an Emperor Penguin. I even read the good bits to my husband. It was interspersed with reminiscences of the uncle who had left him the money that made the expedition possible, which really didn’t belong; and I’m just tired of recollections of dead old relatives and pathos in general. So this essay was an exceptional instance of wishing he’d skip the personal stuff and get back to the birds.