Author: Jack E. Davis
Reviewed by Chloe Fuksa, Putnam Six Bookstore
Your first thought may be that an entire 400-page book about the history of a single animal couldn’t be anything other than tedious and dull. But author Jack E. Davis, past winner of the Pulitzer Prize, proves otherwise in The Bald Eagle, released in March. Davis discusses the different biological facts of the eagle – its diet, habitat, etc – but more importantly, he explores what the bald eagle has meant in the cultural history of America over the years. It’s been revered and idolized, and at the same time vilified and scorned.
For each main topic of the book, Davis starts with a broad lens before gradually zooming in to focus on the eagle. For example, Davis opens by talking about coats of arms and their importance in the Revolutionary War Era. With that context established, he then describes the process by which, after many other failed designs, the bald eagle came to be on the new nation’s Great Seal. The book moves on through history, contrasting how Native Americans treated the eagle with how Manifest Destiny led to its hunting and deforestation. The last large section of the book – its most moving – is when Davis discusses the use of the pesticide DDT in the mid-20th century, and how it very nearly brought bald eagles to extinction.
The one complaint about this book is that it seems a little disorganized, especially in the beginning. Some of the tangents don’t seem to be connected to the main thread and feel instead like they have just been dropped in. But overall the book is really quite interesting. Davis very clearly did a lot of research, and he presents it well. The writing is lively – at times, almost jovial – and very readable and accessible. So, whether you’ve been following the new eaglet born at the National Arboretum or you’re in the patriotic mood after celebrating July 4th, you can read a fascinating book on an iconic symbol of America.
Visit us in Sunset Plaza or call 580-297-5089 to get your copy of The Bald Eagle today!