Joseph Bernt

Joseph Bernt

In August, the Cannon Beach Library added 20 recently published titles to its collection for the enjoyment of patrons. These new “green dots” include nine novels, seven mysteries and four works of nonfiction.

New novels added include “The Husbands” by Chandler Baker, “Fierce Little Thing” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, “Blind Tiger” by Sandra Brown, “Damnation Spring” by Ash Davidson, “Cul-de-sac” by Joy Fielding, “The Guide” by Peter Heller, “Falling” by T.J. Newman, “A Woman of Intelligence” by Karin Tanabe and “Black Ice” by Brad Thor.

The new mysteries are “Another Kind of Eden” by James Lee Burke, “No Witness” by Warren C. Easley, “Sirocco” by Dana Haynes, “Lightning Strike” by William Kent Krueger, “The Madness of Crowds” by Louise Penny, “Bloodless” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child and “The Coldest Case” by Martin Walker.

New nonfiction titles include “The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line: Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of WWII” by Mari Eder, “Fast Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (And Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents” by Gary Ginsberg, “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year” by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker and “The Reckoning: Our Nation’s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal” by Mary Trump.

Enjoy science fiction, dystopian yarns, magical narratives? If so, don’t miss Portland Author Karen Thompson Walker’s discussion of and readings from her bestselling novels, “The Age of Miracles” and “The Dreamers,” when she is hosted by the Cannon Beach Library’s Northwest Authors Series via Facebook LIVE, Saturday, October 16, at 2 p.m.

“The Age of Miracles,” which portrays the earth slowing its rotation and the turmoil and terror this phenomenon spawns, created a buying frenzy among publishers eager to publish Walker’s debut novel in 2012.

“The Dreamers,” in which a sleeping disease breaks out at a small college in Southern California and spreads from there, causing students and then town residents to sleep and dream intensely for days,” was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and identified by Glamour, Real Simple and Good Housekeeping magazines as one of the best books published in 2019.

Walker studied creative writing at UCLA and completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Columbia University before working as an assistant and then an editor of nonfiction books for Simon & Schuster. She is now an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon.

Members of Cannon Beach Reads will meet via Zoom on Wednesday, October 20, at 7 p.m., to discuss “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. Wanda Meyer-Price will lead the discussion of this life-affirming novel.

Haig follows Nora, his alienated character who now in her thirties feels unneeded by her world, as she enters the Midnight Library. Here every book opens a door to various versions of her life, relationships she might have developed and career paths she might have taken.

As Nora explores these alternatives, a life-affirming story unfolds about choices made, paths taken and worldly purpose identified.

A British author and journalist who lives in Brighton, Haig has published six quirky adult novels, eleven children’s titles and seven non-fiction books.

Anyone interested in joining these Cannon Beach Reads discussions is encouraged to do so. Contact Joe Bernt by email ( for information about joining this Zoom discussion. He will send the Zoom information a couple of days before the group’s meeting on October 20.

Members of Cannon Beach Reads usually interpret books being discussed through the lens of their own life experiences, current events or recent history.

The group’s vigorous discussion last month of David Attenborough’s “A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future” offers a fair example of the lively analysis and exchange that an important book can prompt.

Attenborough, long a producer of nature documentaries for the British Broadcast Corporation, became popular with most members of CB Reads as his nature series were rebroadcast in this country on the Public Broadcasting System.

“A Life on Our Planet” could only have been written by someone who has lived a long life focused on the biodiversity and inter-relationships throughout the natural world, particularly those between humans and what Attenborough labels a Garden of Eden.

Attenborough published his report on the health of the planet as he reached his 94th year in what he frequently calls a Garden of Eden left to the stewardship of humans, the most clever of species on Earth during the past 70,000 years.

Attenborough, unfortunately, must report that humans confused stewardship of the planet with conquest, domination and exploitation of a natural world, one perfectly capable of maintaining and extending its biodiversity, particularly absent human meddling.

He finds the world he knew as a child no longer exists, a finding with which members of Cannon Beach Reads mostly agreed. This stewardship brought whales to the brink of extinction; now threatens the survival of polar bears, cheetahs and tigers in what remains of the wild; and brought Columbia River salmon and steelhead runs to a mere trickle of those present in the last century.

To document the persistent decline of planetary health. Attenborough uses his own lifetime as a measuring stick. He begins his report with statistics from his life on Planet Earth in 1937, when he was 11 years old. At that point, the world’s population was 2.5 billion; carbon in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million, and remaining wilderness covered 66 percent of the planet.

Eighty-three years later in 2020, when Attenborough attained 94 years of age and experience, the world population had reached 7.9 billion, carbon in the atmosphere rose to 415 parts per million, and wilderness covered only 35 percent of the Earth’s land mass.

Despite the grim report on future prospects, Attenborough remains positive about the future of the planet, less so, however, for the future of humans:

He writes, “The living world has survived mass extinctions several times before. But we humans cannot assume that we will do the same. We have come as far as we have because we are the cleverest creatures to have ever lived on Earth. But if we are to continue to exist, we will require more than intelligence. We will require wisdom.”

Attenborough truly is an optimist.

He begins this book by describing Pripyat, a deserted, decaying city the Soviets built in the Ukraine to serve the needs of technicians, engineers and scientists supporting the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, usually referred to as Chernobyl.

Chernobyl, the most expensive environmental catastrophe in history, left Pripyat essentially deserted 30 years after the power-plant explosion dispersed 400 times the radioactive material over much of Europe than was produced by the combined bombs dropped in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the end of his report on Earth’s current health and future prospects, Attenborough demonstrates his hope for the planet by returning to Pripyat and describing the entombed power plant and the still deserted, now crumbling city.

“With or without us, the wild will return,” Attenborough writes. “Evidence of this is no more dramatic than that to be seen in the ruins of Pripyat, the model city that had to be abandoned when the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded.

“When you step outside the dark and empty corridors of one of its deserted apartment blocks, you are greeted by a most surprising sight. In the 34 years since the evacuation, a forest has taken over the deserted city. Shrubs have broken up the concrete and ivy pulled apart the bricks. Roofs sag under the weight of accumulating vegetation, and saplings of poplar and aspen have burst through the pavements. . . .

“The land including the town and the ruined reactor has now been designated a sanctuary for animals that are rare elsewhere,” Attenborough continues.

Attenborough seems far more hopeful for the planet, but far less sanguine about the future of homo sapiens.

Members of Cannon Beach Reads ended their discussion far less hopeful than Attenborough. That life on the planet will continue, even though humans disappear, seemed of  little comfort.


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