Summer Media: A Corona Awakening
By Jennie Lay
Spencer Shaver and Hal Herring paddle through the threatened Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. Photo courtesy Jim Hurst/Public Trust
The coronavirus has served up tough challenges. By contrast, it has bestowed upon us rare bounties of access and time.
If you’ve been fortunate to remain healthy, consider the great 2020 pause a once-in-a-lifetime reprieve. During these months, we’ve gained smaller, more manageable schedules; deeper opportunities for personal focus; global culture at our doorsteps; streaming infusions of thoughtful ideas and a spark of commitment to realign community priorities. Humans were stopped in our tracks and forced to examine our lives, our environment and how we treat one another.
Many of us realized there’s alternative work to be done – more than showing up at a job site or the cubicle. Nothing is as it was – neither the toil, nor the fun.
As we continue without concerts, camps and far-flung vacations that kept us incessantly occupied this time last year, a rich media landscape bridges the gap. When film, literary and music festivals went virtual, the playing field leveled for rural folks like us in Steamboat – at least until a vaccine again locks away the world’s cultural and educational riches in distant venues. From our Yampa Valley living rooms, we’ve attended full seasons of the world’s finest opera and dance companies, watched first-run documentaries we’re usually last to see, and grooved out at more Phish and Dead & Company concerts than most can afford to attend in a decade.
Behind that crush of newfangled content, a constant flow of books, podcasts and in-depth reporting never flinched. Despite all that has been lost, this is a moment of rare abundance.
Perhaps coronavirus is fostering a renaissance.
This summer, lead your curiosity to science, politics, art and culture as you read, listen, watch and wrap your mind around new ideas about everything from public health to social justice, to wild Colorado wolves.
No matter your penchant for paper, tablet or audio, these are some of the best books to illuminate current events unfolding globally and locally right now.
Black Lives Matter
How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
Bud Werner Memorial Library announces the One Book Steamboat community read for 2020 – except this year, it’s three books designed for whole families to engage in the conversation. Together, the community is invited to read the work of author, historian and Boston University Center for Antiracism Research founding director Ibram X. Kendi.
Kendi’s bestselling book, “How to be Anti-Racist,” is about how we can actively transform racial justice in our community and our country. For those who aim to dig deeper, Kendi’s book “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” won the National Book Award, and it serves as a foundational work for understanding how and why we got to this juncture. The library will host facilitated dialogues about “How to be Anti-Racist,” along with films and other free virtual community events designed to spur understanding and action around the community read.
Two of Kendi’s other books are featured as companion reads, making this conversation accessible to all ages. Read Kendi’s young adult remix “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” co-written with award-winning YA author and poet Jason Reynolds. Dive in with your littlest ones to his new picture book, “Antiracist Baby” – because you’re never too young to start being antiracist.
Bonus! The library has built valuable resource lists for further reading, discovery and action, available on the One Book Steamboat web pages. In addition, the library has 30 hard copies of “How to Be Antiracist” in local circulation (free with your library card), and is offering unlimited, simultaneous user check-outs in both ebook and e-audio book formats via Overdrive. “Antiracist Baby” is also available without check-out limits on the digital platform.
November Election Prep
“American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West” by Nate Blakeslee
The only way to finish “American Wolf” is with a gritty howl of appreciation. This is thrilling nature writing that’s destined to become an American classic. Author Nate Blakeslee tells a gripping tale about Yellowstone’s wolves that’s equal parts science, adventure and Wild West drama. If you’re looking for well-rounded perspective on living with this controversial carnivore, look no further.
Shallow “good vs. evil” narratives dishonor the depth of the wolf debate, and Blakeslee shows us something more complicated, and more meaningful. Get inside the heads of outfitters, game wardens, sheep and cattle ranchers, biologists, park rangers, politicians, judges, lawyers and devoted wolf watchers. Share their triumphs and frustrations. And, gleaned from decades of intimate and daily detailed observations, be swept away as you roam the Lamar Valley environs like a wolf.
A Perfect Pandemic Pairing
“The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris” by Mark Honigsbaum & “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” by David Quammen
Two venerable science writers from opposite sides of the Atlantic have spent decades plumbing the depths of scientific literature to research global contagion. Mark Honigsbaum is a medical historian who specializes in the history and science of infectious disease. David Quammen is a contributing writer for National Geographic, three-time National Magazine Award winner and past Literary Sojourn author.
As top-notch science communicators, they’ve honed primary sources, a complex body of technical literature, and remote field reporting to write digestible recaps laden with rich storytelling. If the trajectory of conflicting news has proven anything during the unfolding of our current pandemic, theirs is an important and powerful job.
Honigsbaum and Quammen offer deeper context about all things pandemic, because the number-one takeaway from these insightful books is that today’s predicament was predictable. Dive in to both “Spillover” and “The Pandemic Century” without trepidation – they make outstanding companion reads. Honigsbaum and Quammen instill confidence behind a daily news cycle that’s making our heads spin. Their books arm you with knowledge, history and a deep appreciation not only for science, but how science gets done despite insurmountable odds of discovery, egos, prizes, politics and the very real human toll of horrific diseases.
Bonus! In June, Bud Werner Library hosted a live author talk with Quammen and Honigsbaum, talking about everything from bats to pandemic healthcare disparities, the emergence of coronaviruses and comparative national responses. Their conversation was recorded, and it’s available to watch for a limited time at www.crowdcast.io/e/quammen-honigsbaum-bwml.
Summer hikes are idyllic opportunities to tune out and tune in to new podcasts. Here are two great new picks from a sea of golden listening opportunities – available wherever you get your podcasts.
Everybody could use a little Brené Brown right now. Her brand-new podcast was supposed to launch with a live splash during SXSW. When the festival didn't happen, she started producing her new pet project at home in quarantine, in what she calls our shared “cringy moment.” Brown is vulnerable, as we’ve come to expect. But she’s also digging wider and deeper than we’ve heard her before. Her wise and humble conversations with social justice changemakers including Tarana Burke, Ibram X. Kendi and Austin Channing Brown are exactly what your earbuds need right now.
“Public Trust”: America’s must-see nature film
This (public) land was made for you and me…and David Garrett Byars’ new feature documentary, “Public Trust,” stands firm in illuminating that fact. The film made its Colorado debut this spring at Mountainfilm, winning the Audience Award and launching its sweeping imagery and powerful Native, whistleblower and journalistic voices into the forefront of an election year that could be pivotal for America’s 640 million acres of public land.
Powerful forces are deciding how environmentally and culturally significant landscapes in the public domain will (or won’t) be preserved, and this storytelling effort showcases poignant conflicts of interest in Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness and Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Byars’ film makes an urgent call for action. He shows how public land engagement is essential to our democracy, whether you’ve got a national park at your back door or you’re still dreaming of visiting one someday.
“Public Trust” is available to watch for free starting Sept. 25 at www.patagonia.com.