Recently, a little resentful of the variability we laughingly call “summer” here in the Great North West, a cold tourist asked a bookseller in my hearing just what one could predict when stepping out in Seattle? “Crows,” replied my unruffled coworker. True enough.
“Morning arises stormy and pale
No sun, but a wannish glare”
Now, Tennyson might have had a summer’s day here as much in mind as any other when he wrote that. Even when “fair summer droops,” as Thomas Nashe would have it, it is just as likely to be fifty shades of . . . what shall we say? Overcast?
Summer here is an intermittent business, at best. So why, at least for those of us long out of school, are we still so committed to the “Summer reading list?” I was never one personally for beaches, beach-books or seasonal reading. I’m just as likely to read Poe in the sunshine as I am to read Wodehouse come the bleak midwinter. Don’t get me wrong, I love living on the Pacific, and even enjoy a stroll on the wet pebbles now and then, but, seriously, is it really the weather up here that turns a young man’s fancy lightly to thoughts of love in, say, Ilwaco? (This summer, I seem to be reading a fair amount of English poetry, and a lot o’ Tennyson, in case you hadn’t noticed.) I like to think that we up North are beyond all that—post-seasonal, as it were.
That in mind, may I suggest another alternative list? How about catching up on the rich and abundant literature, much of it local, and quite a bit of it brand new, on our own totemic, fair and foul-weather friends, the crows and their big, native relations, the ravens. Why not? Fascinating stuff. For example, there’s the latest from our own Marzluff & Angell, Gifts of the Crow: A Scientific Journey Into Seven Human Characteristics Shared By These Cerebral Birds—now flying off our bestseller shelves. (Do I really seem like the kind of person for whom that sort of thing is too low? I think not.) Birds in general are all over the bookstores right now, including Thor Hanson’s mind-blowing book Feathers. Anyway, I include a list of all the books pictured here, which constitute but a small part of the available flurry. (Okay, I’ll stop.)
So, who needs summer? Feh. Summer’s for soft Southerners. Up here we like our summers, and our summer reading lists, like we like our birds: tough, dark, and contrary.
Brad’s Crow Reading List
1. City of Ravens: London, the Tower and its Famous Birds by Boria Sax, Duckworth Overlook, $22.00, 9780715640814
2. Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle by Thor Hanson, Basic Books, $15.99, 9780465028788
3. Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John Marzluff and Tony Angell, Free Press, $25.00, 9781439198735
4. In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell, Yale, $19.95, 9780300122558
5. Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds by Bernd Heinrich, Ecco, $14.99, 9780061136054
6. Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, Back Bay Books, $14.99, 9780316019118
7. Dog Days, Raven Nights by John M. Marzluff and Colleen Marzluff, Yale, $28.00, 9780300167115
8. Birds of Washington: Status and Distribution, edited by Terence R. Wahl, Bill Tweit, and Steven G. Mlodinow, $65.00, 9780870710490
Brad Craft is a bookseller who eats too much, reads too much, talks too much, earns too little, writes too little, listens too little and never really learned how to play the oboe. Craft buys used books at University Book Store in Seattle and blogs at usedbuyer2.0. When asked to crow up his bio, Craft quoted Ted Hughes from Crow Blacker Than Ever:
Crying: “This is my Creation,”
Flying the black flag of himself.