Joseph Bernt

Joseph Bernt

Let’s start with some short reminders of upcoming events sponsored by the Cannon Beach Library, beginning with Manzanita novelist Deborah Reed’s presentation for the Northwest Authors Series via FacebookLive, Saturday, November 13, at 2 p.m.

Reed, who divides her time between Berlin and Manzanita, where she owns and manages the Cloud & Leaf Bookstore, will read from and discuss “Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan,” the latest of her seven published novels.

On Wednesday, November 17, Lila Wickham will lead members of Cannon Beach Reads in a Zoom discussion of “How to Educate a Citizen: The Power of Shared Knowledge to Unify a Nation” by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

Anyone interested in participating in Cannon Beach Reads, should email Joe Bernt asking him to send them information for joining this Zoom discussion. Since the group will decide this month on next year’s reading list, this is an excellent time to join and suggest books for future discussion.

Hirsch, an emeritus professor, literary critic and educational theorist, taught first at Yale University and then at the University of Virginia. Despite being a socialist, Hirsch was attacked for his elitism after he published “Cultural Literacy” in 1988. That book, popular with conservatives, listed five thousand cultural products with which educated citizens should be familiar in order to participate fully in our national social and political life.

Judging from his focus on educational theory in “How to Educate a Citizen,” Hirsch seems, however, to have mellowed some since issuing his prescriptive reading list thirty years ago. His view of educational content has broadened to include material not rigidly confined to the “classics” of the European and Anglo-American cultural traditions.

In “How to Educate a Citizen,” Hirsch objects to a lack of curricular content in today’s student-centered classrooms—often devoid of informed discussion of American literature, history, civics, geography or social studies—in his harsh critique of American educational practices during the last half of the twentieth century.

Hirsch holds education professors at prestigious teacher’s colleges, such as that of influential Columbia University, responsible for upending the traditional role of the K-12 teacher from being the “Sage on the Stage” to a new role as “A Guide on the Side.”

Lost in the classroom transformation is an appreciation by young students for the nation’s traditions, literature, myths, history and scientific accomplishments. Lost or never inculcated, according to Hirsch, is the students’ patriotic sense of belonging to a unique nation once largely unified by its public common schools and its print media.

Our library’s collection grew by twenty-one titles in October, adding four non-fiction, eight mystery and nine fiction books to the “green-dot” shelf.

New non-fiction titles included “Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid: The Fraught and Fascinating Biology of Climate Change” by Thor Hanson, “You Bet Your Life: From Blood Transfusions to Mass Vaccination, the Long and Risky History of Medical Innovation” by Paul Offit, “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” by Mary Roach and “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War” by Craig Whitlock.

Among new mysteries added were “The Corpse Flower” by Anne Mette Hancock, “A Line to Kill” by Anthony Horowitz, “The Night She Disappeared” by Lisa Jewell, “1979” by Val McDermid, “The Man Who Died Twice” by Richard Osman, “Death at Greenway” by Lori Rader-Day, “No One Will Miss Her” by Kat Rosenfield and “An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed” by Helene Tursten.

New fiction books purchased were “Child of Light” by Terry Brooks, “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr, “Silverview” by John le Carré, “Damascus Station” by David McCloskey, “Sankofa” by Chibundu Onuzo, “State of Terror” by Louise Penny, “Oh, William!” by Elizabeth Strout, “Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan: A Novel of a Life in Art” by Deborah Reed and “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles.

Being tipped off early about new books accessioned last month, I couldn’t pass up Thor Hanson’s new title, “Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid: The Fraught and Fascinating Biology of Climate Change.” And readers of this column shouldn’t miss reading it either.

Hanson, a conservation biologist and Guggenheim fellow, was born and raised in Washington State. He has traveled throughout the world observing the ways of flora and fauna. He now lives with his spouse and son in Friday Harbor (population 2,426), Washington, county seat of San Juan County, which is 102 miles northwest of Seattle by car and ferry.

“Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid” is Hanson’s fifth book. Others are “Buzz,” “Feathers,” “The Impenetrable Forest” and “The Triumph of Seeds.”

Given the snarky title and threatening climate-change subtitle, Hanson can be a terribly nonchalant writer and biologist when explaining ways in which plants and animals will be forced to move up mountains, find a refuge from rising temperatures or move further north or south or go extinct. These are all acceptable solutions to climate change for Hanson who notes in passing that the planet has been much hotter in the past and it’s still teeming with life.

Although Hanson keeps his readers aware that climate change is real and here to stay for a good long while, he remains quite accepting of the breeding strategy of rainbow trout moving into cooler cutthroat streams. The rainbow trout so outnumber their cousins that their DNA is becoming dominant in Montana streams once favored by cutthroat trout.

Other fauna overcome secondary effects of a warming planet—hurricanes—through evolutionary change in place. Such is the case for small lizards on a string of Caribbean islands slammed by a series of hurricanes. In a remarkably short period of time lizards that survived the storms did so through natural selection. The surviving lizards rapidly developed larger toe pads and longer front legs to better grip vegetation. They also developed shorter rear legs to reduce wind drag.

Hanson concludes his light description of our planet’s slow boil with his faith in humanity more intact than that of many of today’s youth: “Unlike any other organism on the planet, people have the ability to do more than simply react to climate change. If we so choose, we can alter the behaviors that are causing it to happen.”

The Northwest Authors Series is sponsoring the fourth annual Writer’s Read Celebration. Local writers are encouraged to submit original works. All writers of all ages may participate. This year’s theme is “Recovery?”

A panel of volunteer judges will anonymously select about 10 works to be read before a live audience during the celebration, which will be held via Zoom, Saturday, March 5. Writers who are selected to read their works will need access to Zoom. All written genres will be considered (essays, story, poetry, prose and so forth)..

Each author is limited to no more than three entries no longer than 600 words each. Although entries by email (info@ are preferred, submissions by USPS (P.O. Box 486, Cannon Beach, OR 97110) will also be accepted.

Submissions should be in Word or pdf format and include a cover letter with the writer’s name, email address and telephone number. Please do not include name or contact information on the entry manuscript. Deadline for submissions is January 24, 2022.

During the summer the library ran a popular “buy-three-books-get-one-free” sale from its used book room. Word has it that they sold like hotcakes. So, the sale will continue through the winter.


Online Poll

What winter activities do you enjoy?

You voted:

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.