December 09, 2009
Chad Love: Why Old Hunting Books are Better than New Ones
By Chad Love
I was perusing the outdoors section of a large chain bookstore not long ago and I was struck by something that perhaps some of you have also noticed: hunting books are disappearing. And by hunting books I don't mean how-to, where-to type books. I mean literary hunting books: anthologies, collections of essays, ruminations, books that make you think.
At the same time, you can't walk into a bookstore and chuck a rock without it hitting a book about the joys, the wonders, the search for the ultimate meaning of life as it relates to...flyfishing.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking flyfishing. But I would argue that ...
... hunting is a far richer vein to mine than anything fishing can offer. Fishing, if one so chooses, can avoid the irrevocable moral consequences of taking a life that hunting, by its very nature, cannot.
Unfortunately, judging by the titles on the bookstore shelves it seems modern hunting books have gone in the opposite direction: abandoning complexity in favor of instruction on how best to kill more things quicker. You see damn few well-written, thoughtful books on hunting any more.
Why is that? It certainly wasn't always that way. Take this book for example. I found my copy in a dusty corner of a used bookshop. You won't find it at Barnes & Noble or Borders, because A. it's out of print and B. it doesn't tell or show you how to do a damn thing. All it does, through twenty original essays and a wonderful introduction penned by Vance Bourjaily, is make the reader think, a quality I find less and less of in today's hunting literature.
No offense to the fly anglers, but we need another book of personal reflections on flyfishing through the midlife crisis like we need avian flu. No offense to hunters, but we need another book on advanced whitetail tactics like we need a Hanson reunion tour. What we do need more of are books about hunting that teach you absolutely nothing about hunting, but everything about life. Sure, the classics are out there, but are there any modern books on hunting that fit that description? If there are, I'd like to hear your favorites.