I just could not warm up to Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and His Restless Drive to Save the West, a meticulously researched biography of George Grinnell, stockbroker turned environmental activist, founder of the Audubon Society and proponent of the Endangered Species Act. Why? For one, the pace of the book is glacial, recounting, day by day, Grinnell’s travels in the West, along with all kinds of less relevant stories such as the amount of money he sent to his mother in law. Also, having read The Fair Chase, I already knew parts of the story. But the main obstacle was Grinnell himself, a rich New Yorker who, granted, did not spend his money on parties and cars, but still acted as if Yellowstone, once protected as a national park, should be his own playground and not shared with the hoi polloi. And while the writer defends his pretty racist views of Native Americans (always called “Indians” in the text!) as enlightened for the time, that’s a pretty low standard.
Fun fact: in Grinnell’s days, freshmen at Yale studied algebra and geometry. Not too taxing, right? They did study Latin and Greek, however, presumably not to be lumped in with the aforementioned hoi polloi.