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RTPI to Host “Illuminating the Dark Side of Nature” Book Club

Posted on Jan 3, 2020

Program Theme: Illuminating the Dark Side of Nature

It’s easy to find beauty in the natural world. Literature is filled with descriptions of breathtaking landscapes, magnificent creatures, and meaningful experiences in the great outdoors. Yet, nature also has its dark places – filled with curiosities that we often fear. Participants in this new Reading and Discussion series will explore some of the strange and mysterious corners of the natural world – as they venture through contemporary pieces of literature- into places they may otherwise be reluctant to probe.

Program Description:

Participants will read a selection of books which are connected by the theme “Illuminating the Dark Side of Nature”, and gather at RTPI with others from the community to discuss what they’ve read through informal conversation. This program is free and open to the public (including a limited number of loaner books), and anyone interested is welcome to attend! You need not attend all sessions to participate – choose the titles that interest you and the dates that fit your schedule!

Please contact Melanie Smith at msmith@rtpi.org or 716.665.2473 ext 221 for more information.

Book Synopses:

Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark by Barbara Hurd

Hurd explores the idea that caves are not places of fear, but worlds of wonder and solace, as she intertwines her journey of grief over a dying friend with her physical explorations of caves. Throughout this journey, the reader is introduced to natural marvels including stalactites and stalagmites, blind cave fish, and wondrous “moonmilk”, a kind of rock that oozes.

Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants
by Robert Sullivan

Sullivan explores the world of rats through interviews with those who know them best including sanitation workers and exterminators, but he also looks at why the rat continues to survive and to thrive. There is something to be admired about rats’ resilience, and yes, while Sullivan’s research may make a reader cringe, his exploration of what many may deem as our least favorite animal will make many appreciate this creature’s role in our world.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today by Rob Dunn

Author and scientist Rob Dunn invites the reader to appreciate the complex ecosystems that our bodies are and to explore the unanticipated ways that our bodies and behaviors evolved in the context of that natural world.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Roach, who is known for both her humor and her sensitivity, invites readers into the human body after death and retells various journeys that the human body has undergone to aid in advancing science and medicine.

Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

Insects outnumber every other species in the world, yet, aside from the remarks of cute ladybugs or beautiful butterflies, we greet many insects with, at best, indifference, but at worst, repulsion. While readers may be aware of the importance of honeybees, Sverdrup-Thygeson goes one step further to elucidate the importance of the fruit fly, a variety of ants, and yes, even the cockroach.

Program Schedule:

Date Topic
Friday, February 21st, 6:30-7:30pm Discussion of Hurd text; Copies of Sullivan text distributed for March session.
Friday, March 20th, 6:30-7:30pm
POSTPONED until April 17th
Discussion of Sullivan text; Copies of Dunn distributed for April session.
Friday, April 17th, 4:30-6:30pm
via ZOOM Conference.
Discussion of Sullivan and Dunn texts; Copies of Roach text for May session available upon request.
Friday, May 22nd, 5:30-6:30pm
via ZOOM Conference.
Discussion of Roach text; Copies of Sverdrup-Thygeson for June session available upon request.
Friday, June 19th, 6:30-7:30pm Discussion of Sverdrup-Thygeson text; program feedback.


This program was made possible through the generous funding of Humanities New York and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.