I sometimes receive review copies of books that don’t fall directly within the fly fishing category (or any category for that matter), yet they’re simply too good to ignore.
Who knew good writing existed outside of fly fishing?
Lift: A Memoir
Lift is a powerful book about a woman’s lifelong obsession with falcons, and focuses on the year spent “training” a particularly difficult peregrine.
Like most good books, it covers far more ground than its one-sentence summary suggests, and in fact, it’s really a memoir, though if truly pressed, I’d suggest it was the chronicle of a woman and a falcon teaching each other to trust again.
Rebecca O’Connor populates Lift with jaw-dropping honesty, and the book prompted me to write this review at Goodreads.com:
This is a wonderful book – jammed with jaw-dropping honesty, lyrical beauty, and enough information about falconry to intrigue.
Ms. O’Connor writes of the journey she takes while training a peregrine falcon, relating significant moments back to her not-always-easy life. A history of abuse haunts her, and yet – as she supposedly “trains” her falcon – it’s clear the learning is a two-way street.
Ms. O’Connor trains the falcon how to hunt, yet the two are really training each other to trust.
Of the two, the latter is far more important, and by the end of the book, I was cheering for the pair.
O’Connor describes hunting with her falcon in direct – even savage – terms, yet doesn’t gloss over the difficulties she faced while training her peregrine.
O’Connor even managed to write a brilliant article about the difficulties she faced getting Lift published and the lackluster sales of the book (Lift doesn’t neatly fit into an established category, which makes sales difficult).
In online venues, Lift has alternately been described as a falconry book, a memoir, a “chick book” and a few others.
I think it’s just plain brilliant, and worth buying if you have any interest at all in falconry – and frank, honest writing.
Fat Of The Land
Another book that defies easy categorization, Fat Of The Land is a funny and informative journal of a writer’s attempts to gather and eat wild food in the Pacific Northwest.
Written from a sportsman’s perspective (he wholly avoids preaching about local foods), writer Langdon Cook adds a healthy dose of humor to each food gathering expedition, and like Lift, I read Fat Of The Land twice.
Cook finds himself foraging the ocean for clams, shrimp, salmon and ling cod, combs recently burned forests for morels, and harvests dandelions from the median strip of a busy street.
Along the way, Cook describes his expeditions – and the characters who populate them – with humor and insight.
Though he includes recipes at the end of each chapter, this is not a cook book or primer on local/organic foods.
Instead, it’s a humorous journal of expeditions into the wild, told by a master storyteller.