If somebody would ask me to point out what is the main source of inspiration for my profession of wildlife photographer, I wouldn't hesitate and name literature, both fiction and non-fiction, instead of other photography or any other form of art. The freedom words give to talented writers and thinkers in order to express the subtle feelings elicited by nature and animals, articulate their reflections on the world and describe fleeting situations is unsurpassed in my opinion by music and visual arts.
As a wilderness "book-oholic" with an ever-growing collection, I have my little circle of similarly-affected people with whom I share the latest releases and virtually unknown highlights. Way too often, we have the feeling that so many incredible findings are appreciated just by a very small percentage of the population and, especially in the case of Europe in general and Italy in particular, those books get known only within a very limited entourage. Wether this happens because of a limited distribution or the barrier of foreign language (and because of the general lack of interest for nature), I often thought it would be worth to share authors and books that I've found exceptional and worth to be widely known. So, here comes the idea to name regularly on my blog a "Wilderness book of the Month". No matter if the book is twenty years-old or freshly published, French or American, writes about food culture or grizzly behavior, I hope to trigger your interest and create momentum for a broader diffusion of wilderness culture!
Wilderness book of the Month #1 - February 2014
Among Wolves: Gordon Haber's Insights into Alaska's Most Misunderstood Animal
by Gordon Haber and Marybeth Holleman - University of Alaska Press, 2013
From the back cover: "Alaska’s wolves lost their fiercest advocate, Gordon Haber, when his research plane crashed in Denali National Park in 2009. Passionate, tenacious, and occasionally brash, Haber, a former hockey player and park ranger, devoted his life to Denali’s wolves.He weathered brutal temperatures in the wild to document the wolves and provided exceptional insights into wolf behavior. Haber’s writings and photographs reveal an astonishing degree of cooperation between wolf family members as they hunt, raise pups, and play, social behaviors and traditions previously unknown. With the wolves at risk of being destroyed by hunting and trapping, his studies advocated for a balanced approach to wolf management. His fieldwork registered as one of the longest studies in wildlife science and had a lasting impact on wolf policies. Haber’s field notes, his extensive journals, and stories from friends all come together in Among Wolves to reveal much about both the wolves he studied and the researcher himself. Wolves continue to fascinate and polarize people, and Haber’s work continues to resonate."
Pardon my ignorance but I didn't know about Gordon Haber and his departure until I stumbled upon his great website: http://alaskawolves.org, and must thank my friend and fellow book-oholic Antonio Antonucci for recommending it to me. This book has been an incredibly pleasant read during a few days of flu and forced bed rest. Although it mostly focuses on Haber's research on wolves in Denali, Alaska, I believe his findings to be of broad interest for all the wolf enthusiasts around the world and his approach to be a very rare example of conservation commitment and scientific clarity. We should all pay homage to this great person and make sure his brave voice won't be silenced. I would like to quote his words at the end of the book, after Haber arguments his position against wolf exploitation: "(…) we are unknowingly destroying the very treasure on which we thrive and, in fact, depend. A sameness results with a numbing of the spirit, and we gradually lose our ability to marvel. The battle to protect wolves or a wild caribou herd, alligators or whales, or another tract of wilderness isn't a plot to lock wilderness and wildlife away. This battle really represents and attempt to ensure that we do not neglect some of our most basic non material needs. It is nothing less than a matter of helping ourselves toward full achievement of the human promise." In this dark age for wolf conservation across Europe and the whole world, I hope these beautiful words will echo in everyone's head.