We're only halfway through 2020, but "Desert Notebooks" is a strong contender for my best book of the year. Author Ben Ehrenreich offers a profound and lyrical meditation on history, nature, myth, and our changing concepts of time against the backdrop of our ongoing political upheaval and a climate crisis that isn't going away.
If history is your thing, you'll learn more about the Greeks, Romans, Mayans and various Indigenous cultures of the Americas and how their history and mythologies were intertwined. How about literature and philosophy? Borges, Beckett, Rousseau, Hegel and others get treatment as a means to understanding our place in the world. And if nature writing is your thing, Ehrenreich's descriptions of his beloved Mojave Desert are as good as anything you'll read anywhere. Owls continually play a part in this story as omens of death and war, but also of wisdom. I'll never look at our own resident owls quite the same again.
Set against all of this is the big-picture concept of time and how we attempt to manipulate it, not necessarily for the better. Pre-Christianity, time was a concept that was cyclical, often related to deep connections with the natural world and shared mythologies. I never really considered the idea that with the advent of BCE/CE, time was suddenly more linear. Henceforth there would always be a before and after that resultingly brought about a disassociation from the natural cycles we as a species followed for thousands of years.
This is but one small example of the ideas to be found within this book deserving of your attention. Ehrenreich may not provide answers, but you'll be better equipped for the kind of deep thinking required to look ahead into a future full of unknowns.