The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

If you’re a botanist, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben is probably going to simplify things in irritating ways. It may anthropomorphize trees more than you’re comfortable with. It refers to trees “thinking”, which some botanists are going to agree with and others are going to be uncomfortable with because the term “thinking” makes it to easy for our primate brains to think that the experience of being a tree is closer to the experience of being a primate than it actually is. If you are determined to see faults in the writing here, as with all science writing, you’re going to find them.

On the other hand, if you’re the non-biologist who thinks trees are things that grow in the yard and fall on the house, well, this book is likely to very much change your view on trees. It certainly changed my view of trees, forests, sustainability, trees’ impacts on climate change, and a whole bunch of other misconceptions that I had.

Trees are social plants. They communicate. They protect and feed their young. Their lives are long, but also fragile. They get thirsty, they get hungry, they get sleep deprivation. (Now I know why my potted trees always died!) They rely deeply on the microorganisms that live in good soil, and they can’t just be dumped anyplace and expected to grow. They’ll rebuild both the soil and the air if given the opportunity, but they do both of those tasks best when they’re allowed to live in communities of their own creation.

This book made me want to live a thousand years so I’d have the opportunity to buy a plot of land and start a forest. It made me want to go outside and apologize to the ash tree I’ve been pruning violently for years. It made me want to plant more trees, walk in the forest, and think about life from a non-mammal point of view, however narrow and inaccurate my perception of that point of view might be.

Pop Culture: Building a Better Tomorrow by Avoiding Today by Dave Kellett

The Sheldon series of comics features a young boy who accidentally became a millionaire with a dot-com. He lives with his grandfather, a talking duck, a squeeing lizard, and a farty pug.

He, like the author Dave Kellett, is a total nerd.

We know they’re nerds because Pop Culture! is 237 pages long and is wholly made up of comics about pop culture nerdery — as many as 3 per page. It contains sections like “Star Trek”, “Star Wars”, “Superheroes”, and “Nerdery of all types”.

Now, as I am also a total nerd, I enjoyed every single bit of this book — but be forewarned, it is not like the standard Sheldon collections where you get story arc after story arc merging together. It is more like Pugs: God’s Little Weirdos in that it collects all of the comics on this particular topic and puts them together.

So this book is light on the story arcs. (Pugs was, surprisingly, not as light.)

But you’ll still laugh your tail off.

And if you’re new to the comic, or just want some light humor without lots of plot, this is a great read.

Herding Cats: A Sarah’s Scribbles collection by Sarah Andersen

The first half of Herding Cats, A Sarah’s Scribbles collection is filled with Sarah’s comics and they’re so good I’m already threatening to send it to a friend.

The second half I didn’t expect at all: it’s a well-written explanation of what it’s like to be an artist on the internet in 2019 and how crazy-ass and required the internet is. (Said explanation has comics illustrating the main points, which is awesome.)

I’m definitely not a millennial, but I’ve seen everything that Sarah talks about on the web and it’s all true. If you want to give good advice to someone young who wants to be an artist (or writer or maker of any sort) and also wants to occasionally put those things somewhere that other people can see them, you can’t do much better than this primer on what to expect.

The Twisted Ones, by T. Kingfisher

I read while I’m on the exercise bike because hey, a reason to be on the exercise bike. The last few days I’ve been reading The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher (pen name for Ursula Vernon).

Tonight I biked for 80 minutes and realized my legs would fall off before I’d finish the book. As I’d reached a point where not-finishing was not an option, I kept reading after removing myself from the bike.

I think my heart raced just as much after I got off the book as when I was on it.

Everything in T. Kingfisher’s books tends to be very logical… I find myself thinking “oh well of course”, and also “oh holy shit how did I not see that coming, of course that’s made of that other thing because why else would you have one of those?” and I’m telling you, if you like your horror to be made of bits and pieces of Chekov’s Gun running around with murder on its mind, this book is for you.

A few things I’d heard about the book that are true:
* Deer are not as safe an animal as you thought
* The dog is established to live through the whole book from the very beginning so there’s no wondering
* It is apparently possible to write a jump scare.

The dialog is fantastic. The characterizations are amazing. The world building is enough to make you grit your teeth and bike for 80 minutes without realizing you’d been on the bike 80 minutes. Thank heavens I didn’t have a dog asking to go out or there’d be a puddle on the floor.

I’m not sure when or if I’ll sleep again, and I’ve never been so glad to be living in the exurbs instead of the rural neighborhood of my parents.

Anyway, read. Then keep locked in the closet the rest of the time. That might work.

The Nib

The Nib is a daily comic publication and political magazine.

Okay, that doesn’t quite capture it, let me try again.

The Nib is a website that delivers a daily political comic. It also publishes a print magazine. But it’s not a words-magazine, it’s a comics-magazine.  By that I mean the whole magazine is the size of a short graphic novel, with various sections covering infographics about that issue’s topic, short comics related to the topic, feature (longer) comics about specific items, a “letters to the editor” of one-panels on a related topic or question, etc. etc.

It’s what you’d get if you converted a political magazine from strictly words and the occasional image to sequential art and then published it on a regular basis. For me, it’s about a 45 minute read per issue.

In the first three issues (I bought the back issues from Topatoco after I subscribed to the magazine), themed Death, Family, and Empire, they cover topics from how the Day of the Dead is merging with Halloween in Latino communities to the current humanitarian crisis at our borders to Filipino cheese pimento. In other words not only do these issues teach me about the politics of the world I live in, they educate me about the people I don’t see or hear from on a daily basis. And that’s pretty damn cool.

The Nib does a fantastic job of providing context to where we are and why we’re here, without being a five-thousand-word article. It makes politics approachable for young adult and adult readers. It definitely has a position, and that position is that we’re all in this together, on one earth, and families and working together and not being toxic assholes matter.

Readers can subscribe to the daily comic email for free, or become a member at a couple of different tiers.