Now Read This

The most worthwhile books of 2003.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Red Stag. By Guy de la Valdene.
_ 299 pp. Published by the Lyons Press. Hardcover, $23; 888-249-7586; www.lyonspress.com_

De la Valdene grew up in France and the United States and is best known to sportsmen for his account of "building" a quail plantation in Florida, For a Handful of Feathers. Red Stag is one of the best novels I have read in years: a story set in the beautifully evoked deep countryside of Normandy, a landscape that surrounds the characters the way a river does a trout. You will learn about poachers' tricks, the tradition of hunting stags with hounds, and how to make an eel stew-from the river to the table. Red Stag encompasses all of life-and all that is hunting, fishing, and eating. -Stephen Bodio

Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind. By David Quammen. 515 pp. Published by W.W. Norton & Co. Hardcover, $27; 800-233-4830; www.wwnorton.com

The topic of this book-animals that kill and consume humans-could easily lend itself to sensationalism, but Quammen has something more interesting in mind. He travels to the Russian Far East, where the biggest tigers are holding on; to Romania, where he sees seriously managed bears; to the salt creeks of Northern Australia, home to the saltwater crocodile; and again and again to India, where the last colony of Asian lions still hangs on, surrounded by poverty and overgrazed lands. He wants to find out what the alpha predators mean, not just to those of us who admire them from afar, but to the people who must live with them, and sometimes be eaten by them.

To preserve our legendary monsters, we must understand what it feels like to be prey. Quammen veers through history and population biology, and talks to biologists, Siberian hunters, Aborigines, and Indian cattle herders, all of whom have riveting tales to tell. He leaves us with no easy answers. Guardedly optimistic in the short run, Quammen wonders how any large predator can survive the population crunch that will come in this century. -S.B.

**Fly-Fishing the 41st: Around the World on the 41st Parallel. By James Prosek. **
313 pp. Illustrated. Published by HarperCollins Publishers. Hardcover, $28; 212-207-7000; www.harpercollins.com

Prosek, the young writer and artist, embarks on a world fishing tour of the 41st parallel, which runs through his hometown in Connecticut. The line runs through Paris and Madrid, but also through Mount Ararat in Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Japan. In this picaresque fishing memoir, he adventures with sophisticated Parisians (and humbler ones who trap crayfish and fish for human-size catfish in the Seine) but also under the eyes of hostile Turkish soldiers in Kurdistan, with an old girlfriend in Japan, and with Mongolian nomads in a stream that runs by their yurt.

The best thing about Fly-Fishing the 41st is the artwork. Before this book I had seen only Prosek's trout paintings and found them a bit static. But his work here is a delight: lively fish; a traditionally dressed fisherman in Hokkaido with a char even more vivid than a spawning brookie; carp flags; a Mongol herder's kid with a grayling; and even a camel, hair blowing in the wind. Prosek's watercolors give all of us who are not so lucky as the author a vicarious sample of what it is like to fish your way around the world. -S.B.

**The Paintings of Eldridge Hardie: Art of a Life in Sport. By Eldridge Hardie. **
133 pp. Illustrated. Published by Stackpole Books. Hardcover, $60; 800-732-3669; www.stackpolebooks.com

This collection of paintings and sketches will give any of us who shoot birds, love dogs, and fish with flies a window into at least one of our obsessions. Hardie seems to have sampled all the bird hunting and flyfishing available in the United States: classic Georgia quail and Rocky Mountain cutthros, sure; but also Wisconsin grouse over a setter, Missouri spring gobblers, chukars over the Colorado rimrock. His impressionistic style captures the sculptural stillness of a good pointer as well as it does the flash of a rising fish. "Spare, clean-poignant and memorable," says the painter Thomas Daly of one of Hardie's paintings. Isn't that how a day afield should be? So, too, a good book set in our fields and streams. -S.B.

SAS Survival Handbook. New edition. By John "Lofty" Wiseman.
_ 576 pp. Illustrated. Distributed by Lewis International Inc. Softcover, $25; 800-259-5962_

SAS stands for Special Air Service, which, despite the name, is an elite unit of the British Army. The training you have to survive to become a member goes beyond merely brutal to slightly crazed, and with good reason: SAS troopers are required to deploy at a moment's notice to any part of the world, and they not only must avoid the people who want to kill them but must also be able to survive the jungles, deserts, swamps, and mountain ranges to which they are sent.

Wiseman's book tells you how to stay alive just about anywhere in the world, and it does so very clearly. The emphasis is on long-term survival rather than simply spending a night lost in the woods. There are 11 chapters, copious illustrations, and tons of information. You will never use all of the contents, but you will probably use some of it at one time or another, and I can guarantee that what Wiseman has to say will come in very handy. -David E. Petzal

**Bone Dry. By Ben Rehder. **339 pp. Published by St. Martin's Minotaur. Hardcover, $24; 212-674-5151; www.minotaurbooks.com

This novel qualifies for a review because it's about Texas and also about Texas deer hunters. Bone Dry is a humorous mystery, much like Carl Hiaasen's gore-spattered howlers based in Florida.

Rehder is very good at capturing the speech and culture of Texans and has peopled his book with a collection of oddballs, such as a New York organized-crime figure, a knockout blonde with a penchant for political micturition, a badly overweight U.S. Marshal, and a more or less sane Texas game warden. Bone Dry is not as funny as Hiaasen's stuff, possibly because it lacks the bitterness and despair that drives Hiaasen, but it is funny all the same, and to those who hunt, like most of us, it will bring a smile of recognition. -D.E.P.

The F&S; Bookshelf
Also worth a close look: two books written by our editors, as well as one that details the works of one of the magazine's most proplific illustrators.

**On the Run: An Angler's Journey Down the Striper Coast. By David DiBenedetto. **
_ 238 pp. Published by William Morrow. Hardcover, $25; 212-207-7000; www.harpercollins.com_

On the Run is eminently readable because it grabs you by the coat, shoves you in the car, and drops you off at the beach. It's a road-trip book, and a lot of fun. Even if you're not an East Coast striper guy, there is so much pure joy of pursuit in these pages, you'll keep reading.

The intense, novel-quality characters that Field & Stream articles editor David DiBenedetto encounters on his striper pilgrimage give the story its vigor. But this is also something of a diary by the author, his personal statement about his sport, backed up by a lot of historical research. The tale is full of moments of laughter and others of poignancy, such as when the long-harried world-record holder confesses that next time he would just cut the line. You'll be buying more black Bomber plugs before you finish this.

**Lynn Bogue Hunt: A Sporting Life. By Kevin C. Shelly. **
93 pp. Illustrated. Published by the Derrydale Press. Hardcover, $60; 301-459-3366; www.derrydalepress.com

The paintings of Lynn Bogue Hunt depict a golden age of American sport fishing and hunting. After a series of covers in 1919 for Sports Afield, Hunt's work appeared on the cover of Field & Stream at least once every year from 1924 through 1947. By 1951, he had created roughly 106 covers for F&S;, more than any other artist.

Kevin C. Shelly's biography of Hunt focuses mainly on the artist at work-how his life as a sportsman interplayed with his career as a painter-and doesn't delve unnecessarily into art criticism, letting the many color plates and black-and-white illustrations speak for themselves. Hunt painted it all: ducks, sailfish, upland birds, bears. If you or your children are interested in outdoor art and painting, or you want to own a collection of F&S; history, this is a must-have book.

Seasons & Days: A Hunting Life. By Thomas McIntyre.
_ 287 pp. Published by the Lyons Press. Hardcover, $25; 888-249-7586; www.lyonspress.com_

Contributing editor Thomas McIntyre's traveling companions of the past quarter century have been his rifles. But in Seasons & Days, his new book, you get to go along-to Africa, Cuba, Europe, and most of North America, hunting just about every game animal imaginable. The book is an exciting travelogue, but it is also very much a study on the whys of hunting. McIntyre closely examines his reasons for going so far afield, from home and family, and thus illuminates the mind and identity of the hunter in all of us. His prologue, a meditation on the importance of killing well, is worthy of the next big anthology on hunting.

McIntyre's style can be dense at times, with descriptive phrases sandwiched within descriptive phrases. But the stories are all written at a very readable length and are rich in detail; you can move through the collection at an enjoyable pace. Along the way, you'll read about the saga of the trollhjort (the monster red deer of Norway), learn more wild-boar history than you ever knew there was, and get a lesson in Louisiana alligator hunting. "Old No. 7," about a Cape buffalo hunt, and "The Last Black Bear" are perhaps the two most memorable tales: deeply personal stories, they hinge upon the strengths of great animals and a keen writer. -Scott Bowenerican sport fishing and hunting. After a series of covers in 1919 for Sports Afield, Hunt's work appeared on the cover of Field & Stream at least once every year from 1924 through 1947. By 1951, he had created roughly 106 covers for F&S;, more than any other artist.

Kevin C. Shelly's biography of Hunt focuses mainly on the artist at work-how his life as a sportsman interplayed with his career as a painter-and doesn't delve unnecessarily into art criticism, letting the many color plates and black-and-white illustrations speak for themselves. Hunt painted it all: ducks, sailfish, upland birds, bears. If you or your children are interested in outdoor art and painting, or you want to own a collection of F&S; history, this is a must-have book.

Seasons & Days: A Hunting Life. By Thomas McIntyre.
_ 287 pp. Published by the Lyons Press. Hardcover, $25; 888-249-7586; www.lyonspress.com_

Contributing editor Thomas McIntyre's traveling companions of the past quarter century have been his rifles. But in Seasons & Days, his new book, you get to go along-to Africa, Cuba, Europe, and most of North America, hunting just about every game animal imaginable. The book is an exciting travelogue, but it is also very much a study on the whys of hunting. McIntyre closely examines his reasons for going so far afield, from home and family, and thus illuminates the mind and identity of the hunter in all of us. His prologue, a meditation on the importance of killing well, is worthy of the next big anthology on hunting.

McIntyre's style can be dense at times, with descriptive phrases sandwiched within descriptive phrases. But the stories are all written at a very readable length and are rich in detail; you can move through the collection at an enjoyable pace. Along the way, you'll read about the saga of the trollhjort (the monster red deer of Norway), learn more wild-boar history than you ever knew there was, and get a lesson in Louisiana alligator hunting. "Old No. 7," about a Cape buffalo hunt, and "The Last Black Bear" are perhaps the two most memorable tales: deeply personal stories, they hinge upon the strengths of great animals and a keen writer. -Scott Bowen