This is a collection of thirteen simply and elegantly told nature stories, set in time over the course of a naturalist’s lifetime—from field-trip experiences as a freshman and sophomore in college, through the challenges of producing a dissertation in ecology, and on through the author’s career at a major university. Yet these stories are not the scientific reports of a research professor, nor are they an attempt at popular science writing. These are personal essays that spring forth from observation and discovery of what nature has to show anyone who is willing to pay attention. The author begins with his early experiences in deserts and continues into forests, mountains, and the sea shore.
Kenagy shares with the reader his own direct observations and transparent personal responses to meeting a wide variety of animals in their natural habitats, and he uses language that is understandable to anyone. He follows his discoveries with reflections on the values of natural history and the conservation of wildlife and habitats. This all adds up to inspire a passion for the greater care for our planet Earth and its future.
The stories and comfortable style of Everyday Creatures have attracted the acclaim of other writers:
“Biologists often begin as nature-infatuated kids, turning over rocks, chasing critters through the brush. As they pursue scientific training, many quit venturing outdoors; instead of looking at animals, they hole up in labs to study molecules. Not so George James Kenagy, who has maintained his fascination with whole organisms, the communities they form, and the landscapes they inhabit. In his lively company, you can observe geckos, beavers, pandas, ants, kangaroo rats, desert iguanas, snowy egrets, deer mice, surf smelt, spiny lobsters, ground squirrels, darkling beetles, western rattlesnakes, hoary marmots, and other marvels of the living world. One of the most interesting animals you’ll meet in these pages is the author himself.”
—SCOTT RUSSELL SANDERS, author of Earth Works: Selected Essays
“Everyday Creatures is a story of discovery, told with precision, intimacy, and wonder. Kenagy’s prose is clean and entirely accessible, informative to the scientist and non-scientist alike, a testament to a lifetime of attentiveness to the natural world.”
—GREGORY MARTIN, author of Mountain City and Stories for Boys
“Kenagy is a rare specimen among modern biologists: a true naturalist, with deep knowledge of an astonishing variety of plants and animals. This book takes you from China to New England, from eastern Washington State to western Sonora, Mexico, with rewarding stops in between, all steeped in the decades of field work that have allowed him to contribute so much to our knowledge of the natural world. To read this is to be taken to all these places, and to learn about such diverse things as the temperatures that make beetles happy, ground squirrels that prey on chipmunks, the surprising adaptations of kangaroo rats, and even the relationship between campus committees and Canada geese. I read it from beginning to end without putting it down, and suspect you will too.“
—DONALD K. GRAYSON, author of The Great Basin: A Natural Prehistory
Everyday Creatures: A Naturalist on the Surprising Beauty of Ordinary Life in Wild Places—George James Kenagy. As a biological scientist and educator, Jim Kenagy’s research career in scientific natural history has encompassed the ecology of animals. His identification as a naturalist, however, represents a personal and emotional side to his connections with landscapes, plants, and animals. In Everyday Creatures he shows us the personal dimension of discovery and awe that result from his experiences spending time outdoors, in Nature, whether on a long-term ecological investigation or just a short walk that provides a whimsical moment in Nature. This book is about the connections between places and the everyday creatures that inhabit them. The creatures in Jim’s stories range from insects to fish and to birds, reptiles, and mammals. From ants and beetles to beavers and pandas, his insights will fascinate you as he reveals the astonishing complexity and beauty of their lives. The most detailed stories are dedicated to his favorites: kangaroo rats and golden mantled ground squirrels, seen in true life from mating, to birth to desert survival.