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About Paul

Unique selections of books from our book buyer Paul Ingram. He compiles great lists of books on varying topics.

If you have any requests for recommendations, send Paul an email at paul@prairielights.com

  • Paul's Corner: Being a Beast by Charles Foster

    Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide Charles Foster

    Charles Foster is an English veterinarian, zoologist, and lunatic who longs not simply to understand the animals that are the foci of his life, but to do his best to become them, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  He believes with Frans de Waal that animals live complex emotional lives, but he feels we cannot understand these lives until we live the lives they live.

    His book, Being a Beast has been called “wilderness porn” by his English reviewers, follows Foster through badgers’ tunnels, living mostly on worms, the taste and texture of which he describes in considerable detail.  He becomes dirty by human standards in ways that might make many humans cringe.  

    He admits to disliking the ever popular otter, despite its reputation for frisky jollity.  Foster dons a wet suit and searches the small rivers of England for eel and brown trout. Does he eat them? Yes he eats them. He does what he can to become various animals in the wild, discovering the kinds of  personalities they must develop to survive in their ecological niches.  

    I know this sounds extraordinarily gimmicky, but when you read it there is little sense that this odd veterinarian is any kind of jokester at all. He wants to know. He NEEDS to know. When you read his book, you’ll want to know too and you’ll be delighted that someone else wanted to know badly enough to find out, while telling you the fascinating details. Read the book. You don’t have to eat the worms.

    “Being a Beast is a strange kind of masterpiece: the song of a satyr, perhaps, or nature writing as extreme sport”—Financial Times

    “Otters are land animals, who dabble, impressively but precariously, in the water.  They are much more stoat than seal.  Evolution has just begun to tinker with these primordial stoats, flattening their skulls, shifting their eyes  and nostrils to slightly more advantageous positions, and giving them thicker coats, tails like hairy outboard motors, an some half-hearted webbing between their toes.  And with these modest bequests, evolution threw otters into the deep, cold end and told them to get on with it, tyrannized by horrific thermodynamic arithmetic.” — Charles Foster 

  • Paul's Corner: A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

    Long Long Way Sebastian Barry

    And all the boys of Europe born in those times, thereabouts those times, Russian, French, Belgian, Serbian, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, Italian, Prussian, German, Austrian, Turkish, --and Canadian, Australian, American, Zulu, Gurkha, Cossack, and all the rest—their fate was written in a ferocious chapter of the book of life, certainly.  Those millions of mothers and their millions of gallons of mother’s milk, millions of instances of small-talk and baby-talk, beatings and kisses, ganseys and shoes, piled up in history in great ruined heaps, with a loud and broken music, human stories told for nothing, for ashes, for death’s amusement, flung on the mighty scrap heap of souls, all those million boys in all their humours to be milled by the mill-stones of a coming war.
    --A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

     

  • Paul's Book Club: 1984

    1984 George Orwell

    July Book Club
    1984

    “It was a cold day in early April, and a million radios were striking thirteen. Winston Smith pushed open the glass door of Victory Mansions, turned to the right down the passage-way and pressed the button of the lift. Nothing happened. He had just pressed a second time when a door at the end of the passage opened, letting out a smell of boiled greens and old rag mats, and the aged prole who acted as porter and caretaker thrust out a grey, seamed face and stood for a moment sucking his teeth and watching Winston malignantly.”—1984 by George Orwell

    George Orwell’s last and perhaps greatest novel, was completed just before his death from tuberculosis in 1949.  I remember my father describing it as “a cautionary tale” i.e. a story describing to our species just how bad things might become if we do not watch out.  In this scary time of Donald Trump, 1984 (the book) should be highly relevant to us.  Most of us read this book in high school.  Re-reading it in adulthood is a revelation.  

    July 20th, 7 PM At Prairie Lights