Tuesday, January 21, 2014

No Room for Bears by Frank Dufresne

No Room for Bears by Frank Dufresne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My friend owns a rare book store, all collector stuff. Often when they buy a collection of books, they get some that are worthless from a financial perspective. They sell these 5 or $5 or $10. I bought this book some years ago, because of the title, as a present for my wife who is into bears.

As part of my quest to read all of the books we own, I eventually made my way to it. Before her, though my enthusiasm for this book has now put it on the top of her reading list.

When I bought it, I thought it was some sort of fiction book and put with our fiction. Turns out it is a collection of essays from the early 1960s by an old guy who spent his life as a government worker involved with Alaskan fish and game.

So how does a nonfiction book from the early 1960s hold up in 2014? Surprisingly and pleasingly well. Facts about nature and bears are timeless. It is also fascinating look into a lost time, the pre-statehood days of the Alaska frontier. Frank Dufresne had an interesting life working the Alaskan wilderness. Included are a few first hand accounts from old timers that were told to him when he was a young man in Alaska, so there is over 100 years of history here. FD knew about all types of bears, not just the ones found in Alaska.

Frank Dufresne was a very good writer. His prose was clear and tight and he could tell a story. I greatly enjoyed reading this book. The chapters are each focused on a specific topic (which tend to overlap a bit but are seldom too repetitive) and are the right length to read one or more at a sitting.

Part of FD's reason for writing this book was to draw attention to modern man's potential to quickly and permanently destroy the last habitats of some of the last existing large land carnivores, especially at danger was Admiralty Island in Alaska. Looking at AI on Wikipedia, it seems that it was mostly set aside for nature in the 1970s. Though FD may not have lived to see that.

I was enjoying this book so much, I bought Dufresne's other book (also out of print) for my wife as a birthday present. Maureen's birthday was last week, so that's not a spoiler.

This is a great little book that sadly is mostly lost to the world. I now know more about bears than I ever expected to, and enjoyed the journey. Not bad for a worthless book.

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