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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Fire

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August 31, 2011

Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Fire

Book review wed Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we're recommending books about heat, flames, and lava. 

What's So Hot About Volcanoes? (by Wendell A. Duffield, $16, Mountain Press Publishing Co., Jul. 2011): If you can get beyond the punny title, this book is a no-nonsense look at the inner workings of some of Earth's most notable geologic features. Topics range from basics, like types of faults, to more advanced points, like CO2 flows and supervolcanoes. With plenty of pictures of exploding mountainsides and blast craters, this book is ideal for a young adult with a budding interest in geology.

America's Fires: A Historical Context for Policy and Practice (by Stephen J. Pyne, $10, Forest History Society, 2010): "America does not have a fire problem. It has many fire problems," claims fire guru Stephen J. Pyne. America's Fires is the story of how those problems came to be and what can be done about them now. From Smokey Bear's impact on fire management to the creation of new wildlands, Pyne details precisely how humans have influenced fires in America. Using historical data from all over the nation, he comprehensively and concisely weighs the political, biological, and philosophical concerns of fire management.

The Sun's Heartbeat (by Bob Berman, $26, Little, Brown and Co., Jul. 2011): Science writer Bob Berman takes a holistic look at the processes and peculiarities of the star that powers life on Earth. This fascinating text harnesses the interminable curiosity of a scientist, as well as the smooth tone of a long-time journalist. Berman makes concerns like the frequency of sunspots seem relevant and engaging. More than anything, Heartbeat is a call to look up every once in a while and contemplate the magnificent ball of fire in the sky (with sunglasses on, of course).

Geothermal HVAC (by Jay Egg and Brian Howard, $60, McGraw-Hill, Oct. 2010): A word of caution: beyond a few brief anecdotes about the underground fortresses that one of the authors built when he was young, this book is only worthwhile if you're considering installing a geothermal heating or cooling system in your home. For those looking for tips about geothermal HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), however, this tome has all the information you could ever need. Its pages are littered with diagrams of every conceivable setup, and the authors are very knowledgeable about the financial benefits of using the earth to warm you home. With additional sections about troubleshooting and maintenance, this is the ultimate geothermal DIY guidebook.

Winter in Fireland (by Nicholas Coghlan, $35, University of Alberta Press, June 2011): Canadian diplomat Nicholas Coghlan and his wife Jenny spent their 1978 honeymoon at a private school in Argentina, teaching during the weeks and exploring Patagonia when they could. Winter in Fireland is the tale of the couple's return to Tierra Del Fuego, the land of fire, by sailboat 25 years later. Coghlan's occasional focus on the minutiae of operating a sailing vessel is trying for non-sailors, but his descriptions of serene inlets below icy peaks and the remarkable people he encounters will interest almost any reader. For those looking for something between an adventure novel and a travelogue, Winter in Fireland is a brisk read.

--Colin Griffin

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