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February 13, 2015

Volcano Season

I got three books today that I'm very excited about. (Okay, I got one of them yesterday.) I decided it's volcano season (now through May) and I'm going to read up. Why now? Two pressing reasons: Alex Witze gave me a copy of her new book, "Island on Fire," which she co-wrote with her husband, Jeff Kanipe, and the plan is to interview them about it on a radio show at the end of March. It's about the eruption of Laki in Iceland in 1783, which... well, here are the words from The Economist on the book's cover: "The eruption sparked the first sustained interest in climate science. But the overwhelming impression is that volcanoes have brought regional disaster, with global effects." Okay, I'm intrigued.

The other books are also volcano books. The first one I threw in the cart was "Mount St. Helens: The Eruption and Recovery of a Volcano," by Rob Carson. I justified it because I'm going to be doing some outreach at and about Mount St. Helens in May, and I know some about the volcano but it certainly wouldn't hurt to know more. I expected it to be a regular-sized book, but it's a big, magazine-sized one with glossy color pictures. At first I thought, "Shoot, I never read these kinds of books." But then I started getting sucked in by those pictures. I think it's going to be rad.

The third book is "Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions," by Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders. This one is mainly because people expect me to know everything about volcanoes since I've studied them, but I don't. Not even close. So I figured it wouldn't hurt to learn a little more, plus volcanoes+people is what I've always been most interested in. At a glance, the book looks like a fun, engaging, pretty quick read. If I like it, I'll move on to their earthquakes book next.

I put a call out to Facebook the other day to ask about recommendations for good volcano books. This is what came up:

"The Volcano Lover" by Susan Sontag, recommended by Dennis Geist and Alex Witze
"No Apparent Danger" by Victoria Bruce, recommended by Nathan Becker and Alex Witze
"Melting the Earth" by Haraldur Sigurdsson, recommended by Alex Witze
"The Last Days of St. Pierre: The Volcanic Disaster That Claimed 30,000 Lives" by Ernest Zebrowski, recommended by Heather Wright

and, perhaps most importantly, Nancy Trigg said, "It's not a book exactly, but there was this awesome episode of the Brady Bunch..."

Nancy, is it this one?

Speaking of which, one of our staff told me yesterday that her daughter's teacher, for their kindergarten science projects, told the class there could be only one volcano. Her daughter wasn't quick enough to get her hand up. I love it. The go-to volcano science project was so popular that they made a rule about it. It's like no Skynyrd in a guitar shop. Or, apparently, no Defying Gravity (a song from Wicked) in auditions. Except that they do allow one volcano. For an 8th grade science fair project, my friend Shannon and I made a model of Pangea. It was her idea. I was at a loss. I wasn't really into the science fair. It was one of the first cases I can remember of "good enough." I had no interest in being an overachiever (until I saw my peers' overachieving and got envious, but that didn't happen until the science fair itself). I just wanted to get it done. I wasn't that interested in science. And it showed—it was highly mediocre. What's more, not only was I not interested in the idea of Pangea, but it actually terrified me. It fed into my fear of infinity, the unknown, that which I have not and could not experience. Really, I guess it was a fear of things the indicated that I am not important. I mean, there was all that time before me, before all of us, when the world looked completely different than it does today. I think it probably indicated that there isn't intentionality in the way the world is today. And then, if there's not, where do I fit in?

And there you go. I had no idea I was going to get existential.

I'm excited to read volcano books. But first, I need to finish my current read: Sea of Glory. Will let you know about it when I'm done.

Posted by beth at February 13, 2015 2:02 AM

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