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A Pair of Category-Defying Underground Book Reviews: Lift, and Fat Of The Land

By Tom Chandler 11/9/2010

I sometimes receive review copies of books that don't fall directly within the fly fishing category (or any category for that matter), yet they're simply too good to ignore.

Lift and Fat of the Land are two such books, and as a fan of good writing, I can't relegate either to the "Unreviewed" pile simply because they don't fall into the fly fishing category.

Who knew good writing existed outside of fly fishing?

Lift: A Memoir

Lift is a powerful book about a woman's lifelong obsession with falcons, and focuses on the year spent "training" a particularly difficult peregrine.

Lift cover

Like most good books, it covers far more ground than its one-sentence summary suggests, and in fact, it's really a memoir, though if truly pressed, I'd suggest it was the chronicle of a woman and a falcon teaching each other to trust again.

Rebecca O'Connor populates Lift with jaw-dropping honesty, and the book prompted me to write this review at

This is a wonderful book - jammed with jaw-dropping honesty, lyrical beauty, and enough information about falconry to intrigue.

Ms. O'Connor writes of the journey she takes while training a peregrine falcon, relating significant moments back to her not-always-easy life. A history of abuse haunts her, and yet - as she supposedly "trains" her falcon - it's clear the learning is a two-way street.

Ms. O'Connor trains the falcon how to hunt, yet the two are really training each other to trust.

Of the two, the latter is far more important, and by the end of the book, I was cheering for the pair.

O'Connor describes hunting with her falcon in direct - even savage - terms, yet doesn't gloss over the difficulties she faced while training her peregrine.

O'Connor even managed to write a brilliant article about the difficulties she faced getting Lift published and the lackluster sales of the book (Lift doesn't neatly fit into an established category, which makes sales difficult).

In online venues, Lift has alternately been described as a falconry book, a memoir, a "chick book" and a few others.

I think it's just plain brilliant, and worth buying if you have any interest at all in falconry - and frank, honest writing.

(You can buy Lift at one of the online stores listed here. Her blog is here.)

Fat Of The Land

Another book that defies easy categorization, Fat Of The Land is a funny and informative journal of a writer's attempts to gather and eat wild food in the Pacific Northwest.

Fat Of The Land

Written from a sportsman's perspective (he wholly avoids preaching about local foods), writer Langdon Cook adds a healthy dose of humor to each food gathering expedition, and like Lift, I read Fat Of The Land twice.

Cook finds himself foraging the ocean for clams, shrimp, salmon and ling cod, combs recently burned forests for morels, and harvests dandelions from the median strip of a busy street.

Along the way, Cook describes his expeditions - and the characters who populate them - with humor and insight.

Though he includes recipes at the end of each chapter, this is not a cook book or primer on local/organic foods.

Instead, it's a humorous journal of expeditions into the wild, told by a master storyteller.

You can compare Fat Of The Land prices here, or visit Langdon Cook's blog here.


Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

[...] p.s. — I review O’Connor’s most-excellent LIFT memoir here. [...]
[...] reviewed her category-defying memoir here, and little has changed since I wrote that; if you’re interested in jaw-dropping honesty in a [...]
Good, I'll check whether ABC here has them.
Good stuff. Fat of the Land is more fun, Lift is a deeper read. We're full service here at the Underground - even to recommending books that have nothing to do with fly fishing.Need to know which local Chinese restaurant to eat at? We got that too...
I'll read both of those. thanks for the heads up.

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