Be careful what you ask for

For about two years now, I have been enthralled with the website LibraryThing — if you are a book dork of any kind it’s worth checking out. You can create your own library catalog to keep track of what you own/have read/want to read and it’s great at generating reviews, recommendations and interesting online forums. It’s also got a program called Early Reviewers where you can enter to win advanced copies of books as long as you review them on LibraryThing. Being a glutton for any kind of free book — yes, I know, you’d think working at a library would give me access enough but no … — I immediately signed up and was fortunate to win several times. Fortunate, that is, until I foolishly signed up for Wildebeest in  Rainstorm by Jon Bowermaster. And won it.

It has taken me a shamefully long time to finally finish reading this book — so long that I may never win another book from LibraryThing (which is fitting punishment since this month’s Early Reviewers program features the next book in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and I REALLY WANT THAT RIGHT NOW!!!). I started reading Wildebeest months ago. This morning, I finally finished it.

It’s a collection of Bowermaster’s magazine stories for outdoor/adventure/environmental pubs like Outside, Audubon and National Geographic Traveler. The pieces are profiles of conservationists and adventurers, mostly, with a couple athletes thrown in. But it was hard to get through. Not because they weren’t perfectly fine magazine stories. They just didn’t hold up as pieces you’d want to read 10 or 20 years after publication — like, say, the work of Calvin Trillin or David Grann — and they didn’t really make the leap to interest someone who isn’t all that interested in conservation or exploration. And there were a couple (OK, two) instances of horrendous editing lapses that really irritated me. In one case, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is described, on the morning after his father’s assassination, as waking early to read the California primary results in the Washington Post and then feeding the paper into the fire at his family’s home in Virginia. This is immediately followed by a quote from Kennedy describing a priest waking him with the news while he was at boarding school. So where was he? In another case, “penultimate” is used in a way that makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, these are small, maybe even tiny quibbles. But if you’re going to bother to turn something into a book, someone should at least be making sure it holds water, no? Anyway I give it a BC. And if LibraryThing lets me back into the Early Reviewers program (I’ve got a couple more titles stacked up; this one was like the dam holding everything back) I promise to be way more careful in what titles I request.

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