Book Review: THE END OF NIGHT

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download.jpegI saw The End of Night for the first time on our recent family trip. We had just hiked the Hermit’s Rest Trail on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, then took a shuttle bus back to the parking area to get out of the rain. In the gift shop, I noticed the book’s cover—all indigo sky and swirled starlight—and wished we’d planned for another night at the canyon so we could experience its darkness; instead, a four-hour drive to Boulder City loomed ahead. Next to the book were signs about light pollution, a term I’d heard of but didn’t really know anything about. I took a picture of the book so I’d remember to buy it eventually, once I finished the (literally) hundreds of other books on my to-read list.

But this book niggled at me. Walking home from the train station, I’d look up at the sky and think, I see a star! Then realize it was just a plane. There’s surely light pollution here, I thought, along with all the regular pollution in New York City. I found myself researching the logistics of a 2018 trip to Sark, an island off the coast of Normandy that I knew had been designated the world’s first dark sky island (no cars, no trucks, lighting designed to minimize light pollution, which is technically defined as excessive artificial light that taints the darkness of the sky, trespasses where it doesn’t belong or isn’t needed, or causes glare and visual discomfort). Within two weeks of our return home, I ordered The End of Night.

In my opinion, the book successfully achieves the goal of nonfiction: with every chapter, I learned something new, and the author relays his information in a way that feels like a story, with a cast of characters (experts, scientists, the author as narrator) I cared to hear from and a setting that ranged from Las Vegas to the desert to, yes, even Sark. In each place, author Paul Bogard searches for a truly dark sky, or talks to someone who can shed light (ha, ha) on some big related questions: How much artificial light (think security lights, gas station lights, street lights) do we need? Is there really a correlation between light and safety? How are night-shift workers affected by artificial light? How does darkness protect species, the planet? And, maybe most important, how can we ever know darkness if we don’t experience it?

Bogard, an associate professor of English and a dark sky enthusiast, tackles these issues and more in his well-researched book. It often reads like poetry rather than nonfiction; even the fact-heavy portions kept me engaged and interested. Bogard’s writing moved me, both in its skillful wielding of language and the weightiness of its content. Plus, I also really enjoyed the book’s cleverness: I only realized partway through that the chapters are numbered backward from 9 to 1 to correspond with the Bartle scale of darkness (9 = brightest sky, like that over Vegas or NYC; 1 = darkest sky, which can be found in the U.S. in only two remaining locations).

The more of this book that I read, the more I wanted to read, and the more I wanted to know how I could help protect the night sky—an important endeavor that not enough people are aware of. I’d really encourage you to check out this book if you’re looking for a good, meaningful read; I promise it will change the way you look at the world around you.

I’ll leave you with one of the many passages I starred while reading The End of Night:

“In the mythology of countless cultures, the hero is called one a journey that must include an experience of a dark time or dark place. For the Greek hero Perseus that meant venturing to kill the Gorgon, Medusa, but many different stories have the same message about the value of experience darkness. Are we to imagine that these heroes—heroes we were to model ourselves after—felt no fear? I bet Perseus was scared, and that the same was true of other real heroes in other cultures. Because if he wasn’t, why would I believe his story? Why would I follow his lead? What would I learn about real life, my life, this life now—a lift that has plenty of fear? With all our lights we push away our fear, and by pushing away our fear, we are a little less alive.”

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A Halloween Treat: Fall Foliage and Spooky Snacks

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I have a tendency to overindulge in sweets, especially on Halloween—candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!—and especially when watching bad horror movies with my boyfriend and my best friend. This year I decided to prepare for the evening’s sugary feast by going for a four-mile morning jog in the New York Botanical Gardens. Continue reading

Growing My Green Thumb: Learning about Thyme

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When sharing some herbs with my friend Beyza today, I realized I didn’t know much about thyme, except that it does best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Curious about where the herb originates and what it can be used for, I decided to make it the next garden plant that I would research and learn some facts about. And it turns out that thyme has quite a history!

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My Garden, Almost Two Months Later

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I spent some time weeding and trimming my garden this weekend, and my mom used some of my herbs as seasoning for grilled corn during our Sunday barbecue. I can’t believe how big some of my plants have gotten since I first planted the garden, and even since my one-month update. A couple of plants are even starting to bear some veggies! I wanted to share some pictures of it with you so that you can see how much it has grown in the nearly two months since planting.

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Exploring New York: Brooklyn Bridge Park

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On one of our first dates, Todd and I met up at City Hall Park in the Financial District and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. On the other side of the river, we stumbled upon Brooklyn Bridge Park, which seemed like a hidden gem amid crumbly brick buildings and a quaint ice cream parlor. On Saturday, we revisited the park as part of Todd’s birthday celebration in the city. Although some things have changed since our first visit, it remains a peaceful getaway where you can view the city from afar.

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Growing My Green Thumb: Italian Parsley

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I almost forgot that along with my purple basil and pineapple sage–the two herbs I rely on most from my garden–I’m growing flat Italian parsley, which is “probably the most commonly used herb in the world!” (One day soon I’ll share with you a healthy and delicious pasta recipe that relies primarily on Italian parsley, roasted tomatoes, and cottage cheese.)

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