Tag Archives: nature

A Look at the Kentucky Book Fair on November 17

KBF_2018_UPK_ProgramAd.jpgNow in its thirty-seventh year, the Kentucky Book Fair is expanding to become the signature piece of a larger event, the Kentucky Book Festival. Organized by Kentucky Humanities, the Kentucky Book Festival will span from November 12 to 17 and involve six days full of literary events around Lexington, culminating in Kentucky Book Fair on November 17 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. The fair will feature more than 180 authors, including over twenty-five who have been published by University Press of Kentucky (UPK):



In addition to authors who will be signing their books on the main arena floor on November 17, the Kentucky Book Fair will host a series of panel discussions and presentations for authors and readers alike on the main stage and in breakout rooms that day. Several panels include UPK authors eager to share their work:

The Kentucky Book Festival will be holding a series of events throughout the week at several different locations around Lexington. The events include readings, cocktail parties, trivia, and more:

  • Monday, November 12, 6:30 to 8:00 pm—The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning will host “New Kentucky Poetry & Prose” with readings by Willie Davis, UPK author Jeremy Paden, Robert Gipe, and Maureen Morehead. Free and open to the public; no tickets required.
  • Tuesday, November 13, 12:00 to 2:00 pm—ArtsPlace will host “A Literary Luncheon with Silas House” featuring him reading from his new novel Southernmost. Tickets are required and available for $40 at kyhumanities.org; seating is limited.
  • Friday, November 16—Jonathan S. Cullick, author of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men: A Reader’s Companion, will teach a KBF Master Class on the basic rhetoric principles of persuasion and how to use them to more than 300 students. This event is for preregistered students and not open to the public.

Dedicated to honoring the profession of writing and to providing a format for authors to meet their reading public, the Kentucky Book Fair attracts thousands of avid readers and patrons nationwide. Featuring a broad range of titles including children’s books, military history, mystery, nature, fiction, and nonfiction, the fair attracts promotes reading across genres and age levels. Founded in 1981, the Kentucky Book Fair is the state’s leading literary event.

A full list of Kentucky Book Festival activities can be found on the Kentucky Humanities website.

Clark Medallion Event featuring Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape

Topophilia, the love of place, is what drives Richard Taylor. Through his love of Elkhorn Creek and his gift of storytelling, Taylor’s new release, Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape, presents readers with a powerful picture of a location that has impacted so many with its natural beauty. Filled with photographs, illustrations, and vignettes detailing this creek and its surrounding wonders, Taylor’s book gives readers a sense of why there is such a pull to this majestic landscape. 

Elkhorn is the 2018 winner of the Thomas D. Clark Medallion. The Clark Medallion is presented by the Thomas D. Clark Foundation Inc., a private nonprofit established in 1994. The medallion is presented annually to a book highlighting the state of Kentucky’s history and culture.

In honor of Taylor and his new release, an award presentation, reception, and book signing will be held at 5:30 pm Wednesday, September 26 in the River Room at the Paul Sawyier Library in Frankfort. The event will be hosted by Kentucky Humanities, Nana Lampton, the Paul Sawyier Public Library, and the Thomas  D. Clark Foundation.

Taylor_TrueFinal_Medallion“Count among the Elkhorn’s fans white-water enthusiasts who mount kayaks on their roof racks and often drive considerable distances to glide along its rough-edged spine. Or the fishermen who wade into sun-lucent pools as they might approach a spiritual or religious experience. And the rest of us, near and far, who love nearly pristine places, land that hasn’t been subdivided into suburban citadels with a few acres of tamed lawns or converted into cultivated fields that productively but monotonously generate nicotine or a single food crop to the impoverishment of nature and local soils,” Taylor writes in Elkhorn.

The Clark Medallion event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Click here for more information.


ReadUP for Earth Day Weekend!

Earth Day is this weekend, and today we’re highlighting our best new reads to celebrate conservation, biodiversity, and sustainable living.


Kentucky Heirloom Seeds: Growing, Eating, Saving

Saving seeds to plant for next year’s crop has been key to survival around the globe for millennia. However, the twentieth century witnessed a grand takeover of seed producers by multinational companies aiming to select varieties ideal for mechanical harvest, long-distance transportation, and long shelf life. With the rise of the Slow Food and farm-to-table movements in recent years, the farmers and home gardeners who have been quietly persisting in the age-old habit of conserving heirloom plants are finally receiving credit for their vital role in preserving both good taste and the world’s rich food heritage.

Kentucky Heirloom Seeds is an evocative exploration of the seed saver’s art and the practice of sustainable agriculture. Bill Best and Dobree Adams begin by tracing the roots of the tradition in the state to a 700-year-old Native American farming village in north central Kentucky. Best shares tips for planting and growing beans and describes his family’s favorite varieties for the table. Featuring interviews with many people who have worked to preserve heirloom varieties, this book vividly documents the social relevance of the rituals of sowing, cultivating, eating, saving, and sharing.

Purchase Here.

Living Sustainably.final.indd

Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us about Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence

In light of concerns about food and human health, fraying social ties, economic uncertainty, and rampant consumerism, some people are foregoing a hurried, distracted existence and embracing a mindful way of living. Over the course of four years, A. Whitney Sanford visited ecovillages, cohousing communities, and Catholic worker houses and farms where individuals are striving to “be the change they wish to see in the world.” In this book, she reveals the solutions that these communities have devised for sustainable living while highlighting the specific choices and adaptations that they have made to accommodate local context and geography. She examines their methods of reviving and adapting traditional agrarian skills, testing alternate building materials for their homes, and developing local governments that balance group needs and individual autonomy.

Living Sustainably is a teachable testament to the idea that new cultures based on justice and sustainability are attainable in many ways and in countless homes and communities. Sanford’s engaging and insightful work demonstrates that citizens can make a conscious effort to subsist in a more balanced, harmonious world.

Purchase Here.


Water in Kentucky: Natural History, Communities, and Conservation

Home to sprawling Appalachian forests, rolling prairies, and the longest cave system in the world, Kentucky is among the most ecologically diverse states in the nation. Lakes, rivers, and springs have shaped and nourished life in the Commonwealth for centuries, and water has played a pivotal role in determining Kentucky’s physical, cultural, and economic landscapes. The management and preservation of this precious natural resource remain a priority for the state’s government and citizens.

In this generously illustrated book, experts from a variety of fields explain how water has defined regions across the Commonwealth. Together, they illuminate the ways in which this resource has affected the lives of Kentuckians since the state’s settlement, exploring the complex relationship among humans, landscapes, and waterways. They examine topics such as water quality, erosion and sediment control, and emerging water management approaches. Through detailed analysis and case studies, the contributors offer scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and general readers a wide perspective on the state’s valuable water resources.

Purchase Here.


Mammoth Cave Curiosities: A Guide to Rockphobia, Dating, Saber-toothed Cats, and Other Subterranean Marvels

Sir Elton John, blind fish, the original Twinkie, President Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service detail, and mummies don’t usually come up in the same conversation—unless you’re at Mammoth Cave National Park! Home to the earth’s longest known cave system, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America.

In this charming book, author and cave guide Colleen O’Connor Olson takes readers on a tour through a labyrinth of topics. She discusses scientific subjects such as the fossils of prehistoric animals and the secret lives of subterranean critters, and she provides essential information on dating in the cave (the age of rocks and artifacts, not courtship). Olson also explores Mammoth Cave’s rich history, covering its use as the world’s first tuberculosis sanatorium as well as its operation as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812, and shares the inspirational story of the park’s first female ranger. Whether you’re visiting the national park, thinking about visiting, or just curious about a place recognized as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, don’t miss this delightful guide to the wild and wonderful subterranean world of Mammoth Cave.

Purchase Here.


Kentucky’s Natural Heritage: An Illustrated Guide to Biodiversity

Kentucky’s ecosystems teem with diverse native species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Kentucky’s Natural Heritage brings these sometimes elusive creatures into close view, from black-throated green warblers to lizard skin liverworts. The aquatic systems of the state are home to rainbow darters, ghost crayfish, salamander mussels, and an impressive array of other species that constitute some of the greatest levels of freshwater diversity on the planet.

Kentucky’s Natural Heritage presents a persuasive argument for conservation of the state’s biodiversity. Organized by a team from the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, the book is an outgrowth of the agency’s focus on biodiversity protection. Richly detailed and lavishly illustrated with more than 250 color photos, maps, and charts, Kentucky’s Natural Heritage is the definitive compendium of the commonwealth’s amazing diversity. It celebrates the natural beauty of some of the most important ecosystems in the nation and presents a compelling case for the necessity of conservation.

Purchase Here.

Visit our website to explore all of our titles in Nature and Environmental Studies

Mammoth Cave’s Furry Fliers

It’s Bat Appreciation Day! To celebrate, we’re sharing a special excerpt from the newly released Mammoth Cave Curiosities: A Guide to Rockphobia, Dating, Saber-toothed Cats, and Other Subterranean Marvels by author and cave guide Colleen O’Connor Olson.

olson-cover-for-blogIn this charming book, Colleen O’Connor Olson takes readers on a tour through a labyrinth of topics concerning the earth’s longest known cave system. She discusses scientific subjects such as the fossils of prehistoric animals and the secret lives of subterranean critters, and she provides essential information on dating in the cave (the age of rocks and artifacts, not courtship). Olson also explores Mammoth Cave’s rich history, covering its use as the world’s first tuberculosis sanatorium as well as its operation as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812, and shares the inspirational story of the park’s first female ranger.

Throughout, Olson offers up humorous accounts of celebrity visits and astounding adventures and even includes a chapter dedicated to jokes told in the cave over the years. Whether you’re visiting the national park, thinking about visiting, or just curious about a place recognized as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, don’t miss this delightful guide to the wild and wonderful subterranean world of Mammoth Cave.

In this excerpt from Mammoth Cave Curiosities, Olson shares general bat facts, and information about the furry fliers of Mammoth Cave:

Flying Residents: Bats

About one thousand different species of bats in many genera and families make up the order Chiroptera, which means “hand wing.” Chiroptera has two suborders, Megachiroptera (megabats) and Microchiroptera (microbats). Megabats tend to be bigger than the microbats. All American bats are microbats.

Prior to white-nose syndrome, biologists estimated that two thousand to three thousand bats lived in Mammoth Cave. That’s not many bats for such a long cave, but in the past the cave was a very large bat hibernaculum. Dr. Merlin Tuttle of Bat Conservation International looked at bat stain—dark stains on the limestone where bats hung, similar to the polish where many people touch rocks—in Little Bat Avenue and Rafinesque Hall in 1997 and estimated that as many as nine to thirteen million bats hibernated there in the past.

Bats also live in other caves, trees, and structures in the park.


Contrary to the old saying “blind as a bat,” bats can see. But on dark nights and in caves, they rely on echolocation (sonar) to navigate. In echolocation, a bat uses its mouth or nose to make high-frequency sounds that humans can’t hear. If the sound hits something, it echoes back to the bat. The bat can tell the distance, size, shape, texture, and speed of the object based on the echo and thus can avoid it or eat it.

All microbats have echolocation, but, with a couple exceptions, megabats do not.


Gray bats hanging out

How Bats Know When It’s Night

Most animals know day from night by the sun. Many bats live in trees or buildings in the summer, so they can see the sun go down, but in the cave it looks like night all the time, so how do cave bats know when it’s dark outside?

Several things may cue the bats that it’s time to get up. The previous night’s meal of insects is digested, tummies are empty, so hungry bats wake up.

Perhaps bats wake up when they’ve had enough sleep. The length of days changes from spring to fall, but bats adjust as nights get shorter or longer.

Colonial bats may rely on social cues. Some bats roost near enough to entrances to see it getting dark. Bats farther back in the cave may hear the entrance-dwelling bats flying or vocalizing, which signals them to get up for dinner. The tricolored bats frequently seen in Mammoth Cave roost solo, so this method probably doesn’t work for them.

Colleen O’Connor Olson has been guiding tours at Mammoth Cave National Park for over twenty years. She is the author of Scary Stories of Mammoth Cave, Nine Miles to Mammoth Cave: The Story of the Mammoth Cave Railroad, Mammoth Cave by Lantern Light, and Prehistoric Cavers of Mammoth Cave.

Purchase her latest book here.

Thomas Merton on Man’s Dominion over “Every Creeping Thing”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As more of the world’s population begins to question the damaging use of non-renewable resources such as oil and coal, a new ecological consciousness has developed in our society. This mindset, however, begs the question, what is our true motivation for preserving our environment? Money, business, and international power undoubtedly play large roles in the burgeoning “green movement,” while at the same time push us to maintain our modern ways of life.

Trappist monk Thomas Merton, however, placed respect and responsibility at the forefront of his argument for a stronger connection to nature. For him, it was unjust to view the natural world merely as an object for manipulation according to our own purposes. Instead, he believed that people must see their surroundings on a deep and spiritual level to understand their place in the world.

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton by Monica Weis, SSJ, explores the powerful influence of nature on Merton’s spiritual development and ecological consciousness. She specifically illuminates his journey from mere delight in nature to a committed responsibility for its welfare—a movement that placed him ahead of his time on environmental issues and unique in his approach to our relationship with nature.

Merton’s commitment to increasing environmental awareness grew exponentially during his twenty-seven years at the Abbey of Our Lady Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky. His personal commitment to ecological preservation began after reading conservationist Rachel Carson’s seminal work, Silent Spring, which moved him to write to her. In his letter, he recognized and praised her commitment to the natural world. Already a prolific writer himself, Merton dedicated his talents to conveying a love and respect for nature to all of his readers, becoming a prophet of both revelation and revolution.

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton explores Merton’s acute sense of place, showing his spiritual development and increasing reverence for the natural world from his early life in Prades, France, to his entrance into the monastery in 1949. Weis delves into his writings, studying his letter to Rachel Carson and examining passages from his personal journals to offer evidence of the multiple ways in which nature and ordinary experiences influenced his writing, thinking, and praying. She examines how his years of solitude and reflection at the monastery led to a deeper understanding of his “inner and outer landscapes,” a process that was fostered by his detailed observation of his surroundings as well as his love of photography. Weis utilizes an assortment of letters, journals, reading notebooks, and published book reviews to give readers a comprehensive understanding of the causes of and influences on Merton’s passion for the world around him.

Much has been written on Merton’s spirituality, mysticism, advocacy of social justice, and promotion of interfaith understanding. The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton, however, shows how he became one of America’s most respected advocates for ecological consciousness. We are only given one world, and stewardship demands our responsibility to ensure its safety for generations to come.

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton is a volume in the University Press of Kentucky’s Culture of the Land series, edited by Norman Wirzba. Enjoy other titles from this series:

Religion and Sustainable Agriculture.final6X9.inddflaccaventoComps.indd97808131341239780813166551-PerfectHARVEST.inddviolence_pb.inddshiva.final.indd97808131300719780813125558berrycompfinal2.inddKirschenmann B97808131252209780813124186Holdrege B9780813133744978081319171397808131925819780813124193978081314108497808131258799780813124438Agrarianism_Mech.indd

The Environmental Vision of J. R. R. Tolkien

9780813124186Many readers drawn into the heroic tales of J. R. R. Tolkien’s imaginary world of Middle-earth have given little conscious thought to the importance of the land itself in his stories. As a result, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion are rarely considered to be works of environmental literature or mentioned together with such authors as John Muir, Rachel Carson, or Aldo Leopold. Nonetheless, Tolkien’s vision of nature is as passionate and has had as profound an influence on his readers as that of many contemporary environmental writers.

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the publication of Matthew T. Dickerson and Jonathan Evans’s Ents, Elves, and Eriador:The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien, we’re sharing an excerpt from this groundbreaking and charming work of ecocriticism:

Food, Cheer, Song, and Well-Tilled Earth

The idea that nature has an inherent goodness is affirmed not only in the lofty mythological passages of the Silmarillion. It is apparent also in the more homely world of The Hobbit and in the opening passages of The Lord of the Rings. Turning for a moment from the distant and mythic realm of Valinor to the more familiar farms and fields of the Shire, we can see Tolkien’s ideas further developed in the earthiness of the Hobbits and the simplicity of their lifestyle. Hobbits in general, and particularly those who are central to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, show us that the common stuff of life—including, perhaps especially, the material things of this world—should be valued and appreciated for what they are in and of themselves.

The first two paragraphs of The Hobbit afford several valuable insights. The first thing we learn about Bilbo is that he lives in a hole in the ground. As a now famous anecdote tells us, it was this seemingly accidental sentence that Tolkien wrote on a blank piece of paper while marking examinations one day in the 1930s that led to the book’s being written in the first place: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” A philologist both by trade  and by passion, Tolkien immediately wondered, “What is a hobbit?” and “Why do they live in the ground?” The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings may be seen as something of an exploration on his part into the possible answers to these questions.  It is not until Appendix F—written in 1955, after the trilogy had been completed and the first two volumes had reached print—that the reader finally learns the answer to these questions from a pair of Old English words: hol (“hole” or “hollow”) and bytla (“built structure, building, or dwelling”). There, on the last page of the book preceding the indexes, Tolkien explains that he used Old English to represent the language of the Rohirrim and that the word hobbit is “a worn-down form of holbytla, if that name had occurred in our own ancient language,” for the original Westron term kûd-dûkan, or “hole-dweller.”

Still in the first two paragraphs of The Hobbit, we can also discern something from a comment about the layout of Bilbo’s dwelling on the Hill: “The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.” There
is a subtle suggestion here about the value Hobbits place on nature: their “best rooms” are not the ones with the most conveniences, the best paintings, the largest beds, or even (tellingly) the most food—they are the ones with the clearest views of the landscape. Their best rooms look out not only on gardens—that is, nature in cultivated form—but also on meadows and the river, natural features that, though by no means truly wild, are less domesticated or cultivated.

[ . . .]

[D]welling in the ground is fundamental to the nature of Hobbits, and although in Buckland and in Bree some live in houses aboveground, Hobbits of the Shire consider this aboveground life to be unnatural. Hobbits are close to the earth, and they are closely associated with the material substance of the soil. They wear no shoes, and their walking around barefoot keeps them in direct physical contact with the earth. This literally down-to-earth image is extended further when we learn in the fourth paragraph of The Hobbit of their uncanny ability to blend in with nature: “There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along”—a point repeated at the start of the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings.

Likewise, the Hobbits’ love of growing things can be seen throughout The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo’s love of nature and gardens is evident in the fact that, though there is no mention of a housekeeper or a cook, he has a paid gardener. We see it in the names that Hobbits give to their children; little girls are most often named after flowers:
Rose, Elanor, Daisy, Primrose, Marigold. More generally, we see their appreciation for the simple pleasures of life in the songs they sing and the things they choose to take delight in: a bath at the end of the day, a mug of beer with friends, good food, a quiet walk in the woods and meadows, and—again, from the opening scene of The Hobbit—simply standing on the front step enjoying a pipe and some sunshine. They value these things over machines and technological contrivances, which do not make an appearance in their songs. When the four hobbits are imprisoned by the Barrow-wights and Tom Bombadil rescues them, he sends them running naked over the grass, thereby restoring their contact with the earth (I/viii). After hearing Merry and Pippin describe Hobbits, Treebeard comments about their earthiness, “So you live in holes, eh? It sounds very right and proper” (III/iv).

In the BBC radio interview quoted earlier, Tolkien associates the Shire with the English countryside of the central Midlands and its “good water, stones and elm trees and small quiet rivers and so on.” Hobbits, and especially our hobbits, are able to take delight in these simple things for their own sake, and not merely as means to an end or as excuses for achieving power. This is one reason—perhaps the most important reason—that they are able to resist the seductive influence of the Ring for so long: they are not fundamentally concerned with the manipulations of power, so they are able to take things for what they are.

The Value of Simplicity

Perhaps the most important overall picture we get of Hobbits and their lifestyle is one of simplicity. They are simple people with simple tastes, and they are fond of the simple comforts of modest living. As the narrator of The Hobbit tells us in the book’s second sentence, Bilbo’s home “was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” At certain points in the novel, the narrator seems critical of the Hobbits’ extreme love of comfort, suggesting that at times it can manifest itself as something other than virtue. However, there is much that is good about the Hobbits’ values. Even the particular types of comforts they prefer are associated not with modern gadgets and machinery but rather with living simply. To be sure, they are not averse to the ownership of possessions, but the Hobbits derive pleasure principally from good food, friendship, and an unhurried lifestyle that is made more leisurely not through the use of modern technology by the absence of it.

This idea runs counter to the modern orthodoxy of “bigger, better, more, faster” that lies at the heart of the relentless pursuit of technical and mechanical innovation in advanced societies. It has been pointed out that modern life can be characterized by, among other things, its frenetic pace. Colin Gunton, for example, calls “the paradox of modernity” the fact that technological advances have brought less, not more, leisure time: “The modern is less at home in the actual time and space of daily living than peoples less touched by [technological] changes. . . . The paradox is that there is to be found more genuine leisure in ‘undeveloped’ societies than in those dedicated to the creation of leisure.” Gunton cites E. F. Schumacher’s 1973 Small Is Beautiful, a classic of its time that had widespread social impact and, among other things, helped inspire the “Green” movement of environmental activism. Schumacher wrote, “The pressure and strain of living is very much less in, say, Burma, than it is in the United States, in spite of the fact that the amount of labor-saving machinery used in the former country is only a minute fraction of the amount used in the latter.”

Schumacher was a cultural forerunner in popularizing an alternative orthodoxy of simplicity that could seemingly offer people greater satisfaction in their lives. The title of Schumacher’s book became a catchphrase for an enduring theme in popular culture, championed recently in Joseph Pearce’s Small Is Still Beautiful. It is interesting —though perhaps not surprising—that Pearce also has written about J. R. R. Tolkien and sees environmental implications in Tolkien’s portrayal of Hobbits. In an essay entitled “Tolkien as Hobbit,” Pearce discusses Tolkien’s anti-industrialism in connection with Schumacher’s, seeing both writers as participants in “a long tradition of opposition to the
evils of the industrial age.”

Similarly, in his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes about the “discipline of simplicity,” which in his opinion requires both an internal spirit and an external application. Perhaps the most important application of simplicity is in the lifestyle we live and its effect on both world ecology and those who suffer most from degradation of the environment. Discussing the lack of simplicity in modern society and in most modern lifestyles, he writes: “We must clearly understand that the lust for affluence in  contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. . . . Covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudence. Greed we call industry.”

By contrast, simplicity is one of the defining features of the Shire. Rather than craving things they do not need, Hobbits enjoy what they have. They do not hoard but give freely, an attitude reflected in the habit of giving (rather than receiving) gifts on one’s birthday. Thus they practice the third of Foster’s ten principles of simplicity: “Develop a habit of giving things away.” They also do well on the fourth: “Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.” Unlike many of us, Hobbits are not collectors of gadgets. Foster’s sixth principle is “develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.” He says, “Get close to the earth. Walk whenever you can. Listen to the birds . . . enjoy the texture of grass and leaves.” Foster, Schumacher, and other advocates of simpler living might have derived this principle directly from studying Tolkien’s Hobbits. An overarching principle, and one that Foster suggests separates the positive virtue of simplicity from the negative one of asceticism, is that “the creation is good and to be enjoyed.”

The values of the Hobbits are seen most sharply when they come into contrast with those of others around them. Hoarding tendencies are most clearly exhibited by dragons, particularly the dragon Smaug, who is the archvillain of The Hobbit. But Tolkien also shows this hoarding tendency and its sad result in Dwarves, who appear frequently in connection with dragons. This connection seems to have been a commonplace of early medieval culture. A seminal source for Tolkien— both professionally and creatively—can be found in the Old Norse Völsunga Saga, where the dwarf Andvari has a golden treasure and a magic ring that are seized by Fáfnir, a man transformed into a dragon by the curse of greed, the curse of the hoard, or both. One of the most moving scenes in The Hobbit is the death of the Dwarf king Thorin, whose dying words to Bilbo are, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” (H, 348). As Thorin acknowledges only moments earlier, the specter of impending death—of going to “the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers”—forces a clearer vision and a reevaluation of what is really important. Thorin repents of his earlier unkind words to Bilbo, contrasting the traditional values of the Hobbits, which are vindicated throughout the story, with those of the Dwarves, which have brought such trouble.

Wendell Berry might take the principle of Thorin’s dying words a step further, seeing hoarding, a problem addressed by Foster as well, as the central problem to be corrected. Among other things, the hoarder cannot fully appreciate what he or she is hoarding. Tolkien certainly makes this point with respect to the dragon Smaug, who appreciates the monetary value of objects but not the objects themselves—their beauty or inherent worth. More significantly, perhaps, land itself cannot be appreciated or cared for properly when it is made the object of possessive accumulation: “It is well understood that ownership is an incentive to care. But there is a limit to how much land can be owned before an owner is unable to take proper care of it. The need for attention increases with the intensity of use. But the quality of attention decreases as acreage increases.”This idea is stated in many of Berry’s essays as a contrast between small family farms and the agricultural empires of agribusiness. For the former, success is defined in terms of producing good crops, in an environmentally sustainable manner, for the consumption of the farmer and his family, the surplus being made available for the needs of neighbors. For people involved in agribusiness, success is defined in terms of the money economy; the agribusinessman must accumulate larger tracts of land, more equipment, and larger storage capacity to survive in the agricultural market, creating an endless cycle of acquisition and dependency. Hoarding fits the goals of agribusiness; by means of hoarding, there are “corporations that have bought cheap and sold high the products that, as a result of this agenda, have been increasingly expensive for farmers to produce.” Thus hoarding is sometimes a good way to make money, but it is always a bad way to live life.

An even greater contrast can be seen between Hobbits and Orcs. When we first meet Orcs—called Goblins in The Hobbit—we learn a good deal about their values, and they are not entirely without what one might call virtues. Although “they make no beautiful things,” they at least “make many clever ones.” Cleverness or ingenuity might be seen as having the positive value of problem solving. Mechanical solutions to the problems of the physical world often bring problems of their own, however, and the Goblins are said to have invented “some of the machines that have since troubled the world,” ingenious devices that make use of “wheels and engines and explosions.” Like us, Orcs are interested in saving labor, but they are described as “not working with their own hands more than they could help,” suggesting not a pursuit of efficiency to liberate them from tedium for the sake of higher interests but rather lethargy or slothfulness. Their slothfulness has a particularly sinister side, too: whatever labor cannot be done by machines, the Orcs avoid by using slaves, who “have to work till they die for want of air and light.” Tolkien’s narrator passes judgment on the Orcs’ badly applied value system, calling them “wicked and bad-hearted” (H, 108–9). The implications for modern life in the real world should not be lost. People in technologically advanced, consumer-oriented societies often find themselves enslaved to the very machines meant to free them from toil—machines that contribute in no small way to pollution of the soil, water, and air and thus to the general endangerment of life and health.

By contrast, Hobbits not only love beautiful things but also love to work with their hands. They particularly like good earth and wellfarmed countryside. Though they are “skilful with tools,” they dislike and do not understand any machines “more complicated than a forgebellows, a water-mill, or a handloom” (Pro). We will postpone lengthier remarks on the agrarian nature of Hobbit society until chapter 3, but for now we want to connect this with several earlier points. The first is that the Hobbits’ appreciation for the simple pleasures of good food, singing, hot baths, and the like is related to the value they place on nature: the grass, the brown earth beneath their feet, the river in the meadow, the blue sky overhead. The second is that they turn away from the sort of power over others—enslavement and war making—that technology affords: the kind of technology devised by Saruman and employed by Orcs. Instead, Hobbits prefer the work of their own hands and closer connections to the things of the earth they love.

Here it must be noted with some concern that neither of the Bagginses—neither Bilbo nor Frodo, the primary heroes of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—do any such work themselves. As far as the reader is informed, Bilbo and Frodo never actually get their own hands dirty in their gardens; instead, they pay the Gamgees to do it for them. However, there are four important observations to make with respect to this fact. The first is that although the Bagginses are not farmers or even gardeners, their personal sympathies seem wholly consistent with those of their surrounding culture. Early in The Lord of the Rings, the fellow hobbits with whom the Bagginses are most closely and even affectionately related—Sam Gamgee, Hamfast “the Gaffer” Gamgee, Farmer Cotton, and Farmer Maggot, for example—do perform such work. Pippin is also from a farming family. Second, and more important, the narrator (at least in The Hobbit) seems critical of the Bagginses precisely because they are becoming too much like the snobby upper class: people who say the opposite of what they mean and make others do their work for them. As Tom Shippey points out, Gandalf is trying to rescue Bilbo from being a member of the bourgeoisie—a simple, selfish materialist like his relatives the Sackville-Bagginses, whom the narrator is clearly critical of. Bilbo is not there yet, but he is “heading that way.” Third, upon the return of the four heroes in The Lord of the Rings, the reconstruction of the Shire is clearly supported by Frodo, even though Sam and many others do the actual work of rebuilding, requiring simple manual labor. And finally, it is not Frodo but Sam, the gardener and forester, who emerges as the real “hero” of the reconstruction—and the only Hobbit ever elected mayor for four terms in the Shire—while Frodo, for various reasons, is unable to cope.

In the words of environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, “[a]nyone who ever thrilled to Tolkien’s fighting trees, or to the earthy Tom Bombadil, or to the novel charm of the Shire will want to read this important and lovely book.” We hope you enjoyed this excerpt of Ents, Elves, and Eriador:The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien by Matthew T. Dickerson and Jonathan Evans.

Top Ten Disappearing Flora of Kentucky

9780813124964Kentucky, known for its rich soil and temperate climate, is the perfect location for a stunning growth of diverse and beautiful flora. However, due to climate and land use changes, these flowers are quickly disappearing. In Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky, Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White, and Marc Evans write to spread awareness and promote environmental preservation. Here is a list of the top ten endangered wildflowers in the state, with some even endangered on the national level:

  1. Large-leaf grass of Parnassus

    Large-Leaf Grass-of-Parnassus

    Rosy twisted stalk (image featured at the top of this post)— Rosy twisted stalk is known only from Black Mountain, an area of the highest elevation in the state and home to many rare plants and natural communities. The flowers of the plant hang from its stem like bells.

  1. Sweet fern—The sweet fern is a low-growing shrub, not a fern, despite what the name suggests. The fern is known for its fragrant odor. It can be found only near the Big South Fork River.

    Cumberland Rosemary

    Cumberland Rosemary

  1. Large-leaf grass-of-parnassus—This grass-of-parnassus species is found in wetland seeps and has fewer than three locations in Kentucky, all near the southern border of the state.
  1. Cumberland rosemary—Cumberland rosemary, a member of the mint family, only grows in sandy river deposits among boulders. It is endangered in Kentucky and federally threatened.
  1. Rose pogonia orchid—The rose pogonia orchid is one of nineteen endangered plants located in Bad Branch, the deepest gorge of Pine Mountain.

    Copper Iris

    Copper Iris

  1. Copper iris—The copper iris, a regal-looking perennial plant with a reddish color, can only be found in the wetlands of far western Kentucky. It attracts the insects, hummingbirds, as well as gardeners.
  1. Dwarf sundew—The dwarf sundew, exclusive to a single region of southern Kentucky, is a mere inch or two tall and wide. To obtain nutrients, the sundew captures small insects on its sticky leaves.
  1. Grass pink orchid—The grass pink orchid has disappeared from several wetland sites in the last twenty years and is now known from only one location in the eastern part of the state.

    Blue-Flower Coyote-Thistle

    Blue-Flower Coyote-Thistle

  1. Royal catchfly—A striking red flower, the royal catchfly is pollinated by hummingbirds. This plant is found in prairies, and very little of this grassland habitat remains in the state.
  1. Blue-flower coyote-thistle—The blue-flower coyote-thistle of Western Kentucky has decreased due to changes in hydrology and land use. These flowers are characterized by their tiny flowers, similar to those of thistles.

The Sale is on!


We hope you enjoyed our Halloween ghost stories all week, but now that the ghoulish night is over, we can move on to more exciting things like The Holidays! Personally, this is my favorite time of the year. When else can you get amazing food, spend much-needed quality time with loved ones, and find the best shopping deals? We know you guys can take care of the first two things in that list, but if you find yourself asking, “What awesome shopping deals?”, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve got you covered there!

Every year, UPK hosts their annual Holiday Sale where we discount books left and right for your holiday reading and gift-giving pleasures. This year, we’re featuring over 1500 books in our sale! We know that number can be a bit overwhelming and you may not know where to begin, so we’ve created a “Best of the Books on Sale” list that features the highlights from multiple categories of book genres. Whether you’re shopping for a history buff, local foodie, or poetry fanatic, this guide will help you find the perfect gift.

The way the holiday sale works is when you order from our website, you will enter a code (either “FHOL” or “FSNO”) at the time of check out and you will receive either 20% or 80% off your purchase depending on the title. In order to ensure that your package arrives before Christmas, all books should be ordered before December 4, 2015.


Military History: Kentucky Maverick: The Life and Adventures of Colonel George M. Chinn
20% off
Colonel George M. Chinn’s (1902–1987) life story reads more like fiction than the biography of a Kentucky soldier. A smart and fun-loving character,Chinn attended Centre College and played on the famous “Praying Colonels” football team that won the 1921 national championship. After graduation, he returned to his home in Mercer County and partnered with munitions expert “Tunnel” Smith to dynamite a cliff. The resulting hole became Chinn’s Cave House—a diner that also functioned as an underground gambling operation during Prohibition. He even served as Governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler’s bodyguard before joining the Marine Corps in 1943.

Biographies: My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider’s Journey through Hollywood80% off
The son of famed director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve [1950], Guys and Dolls [1955], Cleopatra [1963]) and the nephew of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz was genuine Hollywood royalty. He grew up in Beverly Hills and New York, spent summers on his dad’s film sets, had his first drink with Humphrey Bogart, dined with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, went to the theater with Ava Gardner, and traveled the world writing for Brando, Sinatra, and Connery. Although his family connections led him to show business, Tom “Mank” Mankiewicz forged a career of his own, becoming a renowned screenwriter, director, and producer of acclaimed films and television shows. He wrote screenplays for three James Bond films—Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)—and made his directorial debut with the hit TV series Hart to Hart (1979–1984). My Life as a Mankiewicz is a fascinating look at the life of an individual whose creativity and work ethic established him as a member of the Hollywood writing elite.

Classic Film: Rex Ingram: Visionary Director of the Silent Screen
20% off
In Rex Ingram, Ruth Barton explores the life and legacy of the pioneering filmmaker, following him from his childhood in Dublin to his life at the top of early Hollywood’s A-list and his eventual self-imposed exile on the French Riviera. Ingram excelled in bringing visions of adventure and fantasy to eager audiences, and his films made stars of actors like Rudolph Valentino, Ramón Novarro, and Alice Terry—his second wife and leading lady. With his name a virtual guarantee of box office success, Ingram’s career flourished in the 1920s despite the constraints of an increasingly regulated industry and the hostility of Louis B. Mayer, who regarded him as a dangerous maverick.

Civil Rights: The Antislavery Movement in Kentucky
80% off
As one of only two states in the nation to still allow slavery by the time of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, Kentucky’s history of slavery runs deep. Based on extensive research, The Antislavery Movement in Kentucky focuses on two main antislavery movements that emerged in Kentucky during the early years of opposition. By 1820, Kentuckians such as Cassius Clay called for the emancipation of slaves—a gradual end to slavery with compensation to owners. Others, such as Delia Webster, who smuggled three fugitive slaves across the Kentucky border to freedom in Ohio, advocated for abolition—an immediate and uncompensated end to the institution. Neither movement was successful, yet the tenacious spirit of those who fought for what they believed contributes a proud chapter to Kentucky history.

Bourbon: The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries
20% off
More than two hundred commercial distilleries were operating in Kentucky before Prohibition, but only sixty-one reopened after its repeal in 1933. As the popularity of America’s native spirit increases worldwide, many historic distilleries are being renovated, refurbished, and brought back into operation. Unfortunately, these spaces, with their antique tools and aging architecture, are being dismantled to make way for modern structures and machinery. In The Birth of Bourbon, award-winning photographer Carol Peachee takes readers on an unforgettable tour of lost distilleries as well as facilities undergoing renewal, such as the famous Old Taylor and James E. Pepper distilleries in Lexington, Kentucky. This beautiful book also includes spaces that well-known brands, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace, have preserved as a homage to their rich histories.

Politics: Writing Southern Politics: Contemporary Interpretations and Future Directions
In Writing Southern Politics, leading scholars review the key research and writing on southern politics since World War II. This essential volume covers topical areas such as civil rights, public opinion, political behavior, party development, population movement, governors, legislatures, and women in politics.
“Provides the most comprehensive overview of the southern politics literature. The subfield has been crying out for a volume such as this … it will likely become required reading for both students and scholars of southern politics.” — Jonathan Knuckey, University of Central Florida

Cultural Studies: Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century
Virtual Afterlives investigates emerging popular bereavement traditions. Author Candi K. Cann examines new forms of grieving and evaluates how religion and the funeral industry have both contributed to mourning rituals despite their limited ability to remedy grief. As grieving traditions and locations shift, people are discovering new ways to memorialize their loved ones. Bodiless and spontaneous memorials like those at the sites of the shootings in Aurora and Newtown and the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as roadside memorials, car decals, and tattoos are contributing to a new bereavement language that crosses national boundaries and culture-specific perceptions of death.

Food: Eating as I Go: Scenes from America and Abroad
What do we learn from eating? About ourselves? Others? In this unique memoir, Doris Friedensohn takes eating as an occasion for inquiry. Munching on quesadillas and kimchi in her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, she reflects on the meanings of cultural inclusion and what it means to our diverse nation. Enjoying couscous in Tunisia and khatchapuri (cheese bread) in the Republic of Georgia, she explores the ways strangers maintain their differences and come together. Friedensohn’s subjects range from Thanksgiving at a Middle Eastern restaurant to fried grasshoppers in Oaxaca. Her wry dramas of the dining room, restaurant, market, and kitchen ripple with geopolitical, economic, psychological, and spiritual tensions. Eating as I Go is Friedensohn’s distinctive combination of memoir, traveler’s tale, and cultural commentary.

Poetry: Many-Storied House
Collectively, the poems tell the sixty-eight-year-long story of the house, beginning with its construction by Lyon’s grandfather and culminating with the poet’s memories of bidding farewell to it after her mother’s death. Moving, provocative, and heartfelt, Lyon’s poetic excavations evoke more than just stock and stone; they explore the nature of memory and relationships, as well as the innermost architecture of love, family, and community. A poignant memoir in poems, Many-Storied House is a personal and revealing addition to George Ella Lyon’s body of work.

Nature Books: Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky
Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky provides an introduction to Kentucky’s signature rare plants with 220 full-color photographs by naturalist and award winning photographer Thomas G. Barnes. The book draws attention to the beauty of Kentucky’s old-growth forests, prairies, wetlands, and other habitats while focusing on the state’s endangered flora. The authors note that as of this year, 275 plant species in Kentucky are considered endangered or threatened, with more than 50 potential additions to the list. The book includes an overview of ecological communities and the ways in which they are threatened, an explanation of how various plants have become endangered, and suggestions for conservation and preservation. The Bluegrass State’s rare wildflowers take center stage with gorgeous color photography and descriptions, organized by habitat. Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky will appeal to any nature lover, and the inclusion of references, a complete list of scientific and common species names, and a list of each plant’s endangered status makes the book especially useful to gardeners and to botanists and horticultural professionals.

Come Take a Journey through the Bluegrass with us!

Journey Through the Bluegrass cut

This week, the crew here at the press is kicking off a series titled “Journey Through the Bluegrass”!! We gave you a taste of bourbon country last week, but there’s so much more to Kentucky than just bourbon, basketball, and barbecues. We’re going to be taking you on a tour through some of the Bluegrass State’s finest locations and moments in history. Here’s a sneak preview of some of the books we’ll be talking about this week:



Thomas G. Barnes

“This isn’t a memorial to lost places; it’s a call to action, a reminder to readers of what exactly there is to lose if economic development continues to take precedence over the environment in both social and political arenas.”

Back Home in Kentucky


Greg Abernathy, Deborah White, Ellis L. Laudermilk, and Mark Evans

Richly detailed and lavishly illustrated with more than 250 color photos, maps, and charts, Kentucky’s Natural Heritage is the definitive compendium of the commonwealth’s amazing diversity. It celebrates the natural beauty of some of the most important ecosystems in the nation and presents a compelling case for the necessity of conservation.



Tom Kimmerer

Featuring more than one hundred color photographs, this beautifully illustrated book offers guidelines for conserving ancient trees worldwide while educating readers about their life cycle. Venerable Trees is an informative call to understand the challenges faced by the companions so deeply rooted in the region’s heritage and a passionate plea for their preservation.


One last thing! We’ve compiled the perfect playlist to accompany you on your trip this week! The playlist has been left open to the public, so if you feel like there is something missing, please add it! We would love to see what you guys are listening to on this awesome adventure!

playlist cover

If you want to add something to the playlist, click here!

Discovering Kentucky’s Great Places

9780813122304We’re just hours away from the start of Memorial Day weekend and all the outdoor fun that brings. It seemed like an appropriate time to turn the spotlight on the people who are working to protect and conserve Kentucky’s natural heritage. Enjoy an excerpt and photos from the beautifully illustrated Kentucky’s Last Great Places by Thomas Barnes:

Kentucky’s natural biological wealth and beauty have drawn the attention of people for centuries. The state is home to eleven rare ecological communities, two of which are rare globally. The bluegrass savanna, unique to central Kentucky, is now functionally extinct, having succumbed to horse farms, agriculture, and urban development. All that remains are a few groves of the old bur or chinquapin oaks, blue ash, and shellbark hickory. The best remnant savanna is a two hundred acre tract in Harrison County, but it has been heavily grazed and the understory is dominated almost completely by exotic plants, that is, plants not native to Kentucky.

More than 80 percent of the state’s wetlands have been destroyed, and two wetland types—the bottomland hardwood forest and the stream-head seeps—are highly threatened. The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission estimates that only 1 percent of our state’s bottomland hardwoods remain. Unfortunately, most of these forests have been heavily logged or adversely affected by agriculture or development that results in hydrological changes. These communities, once dominated by oaks, are now dominated by early-successional species such as red maple and tulip poplar, and their understories are usually dominated by exotic plants, including bedstraw, Japanese stilt grass, multiflora rose, and common chickweed.

Seeps occur where groundwater more or less permanently percolated through sandy or gravelly soil to the surface. Both acid and calcareous seeps are found in the state; each is characterized by the pH of the water that moves through it. There are probably fewer than two dozen high-quality seeps left in the state, mostly in the Cumberland Plateau and Mountains.

More than two million acres of tallgrass prairies and barrens have been reduced to less than twelve hundred acres (about .05 percent) in scattered remnants. Those that remain are usually found on land that is unsuitable for either agriculture or development, often on steep slopes, rock outcrops, or poor soils.

The flora and fauna of Kentucky’s forests, though diverse, are in conditions ranging from almost pristine to pitiful. Less than fifteen thousand acres of older growth or unmanaged forests remain in the state, about 0.1 percent of Kentucky’s thirteen million forested acres.

In the state’s natural areas, the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission thus far has discovered about 20,700 acres (approximately 0.08 percent of the state’s land area) of high quality land that could be classified ecologically as in a “pre-European” condition that deserves significant protection. Of this, only about 2,600 acres (or about 0.01 percent of the state) are actually protected.

Time is of the essence in protecting Kentucky’s remaining natural areas. More than one-third of the state still needs to be inventoried for rare species and communities. In the most recent inventory efforts, Nature Preserves did not find even one tract of older-growth forest in the ten counties they surveyed. Several barrens and glades were found, but most of these were too small to justify protection efforts. During this same period, two mature, diverse forest tracts on Pine Mountain and a near-old-growth tract in Jackson County became victims of the chain saw. And in the period between finding and actually purchasing Blanton Forest in Harlan County, approximately fifteen acres of the forest’s old-growth succumbed to an unethical timber company. The message is quite clear: the time to protect our remaining high-quality natural areas is now.