The Naturalist by Darrin Lunde

    The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History by Darrin Lunde is a book that combines some of my favorite nonfiction topics, history, the life sciences and Theodore Roosevelt. In its essence, this book looks into Roosevelt’s life where it concerned his love for the outdoors, animals, and naturalism in general. This love of nature gripped young Theodore from an early age – he started a natural history museum in his house when he was just nine or ten – and stayed with him throughout his life. This brought him on trips all over the world throughout his life including the North Maine Woods, quite near to where I live. Even while he climbed the political ladder (and using that power when he was at the top), Roosevelt kept naturalism, hunting, and conservationism in his mind.

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    However, the book wasn’t perfect. First of all, this is one of the nonfiction books that doesn’t use in-text citation for the notes in the back of the book. While this book’s notes were mostly from direct quotations so that a reader would still know to look in the back of the book, they were not all like this. This trend in non-fiction just doesn’t make sense to me. Aside from this, probably the most glaring problem with the book is that it ends with Roosevelt’s African safari naturalist expedition. While this was certainly one of the most important (if not the most important) nature science events of Roosevelt’s life, its length of the narrative came at the expense of other things I felt. Most notably, this would be the infamous Roosevelt-Rondon Amazon Expedition, which was a disastrous natural history and exploration expedition deep in the Amazon rain-forest. This event is not even mentioned. Lastly, I felt that Roosevelt’s conservationist and naturalist efforts as governor of New York and President of the United States could have been elaborated on. They were touched upon, but did not do his efforts justice.
     Still the book demonstrated that Theodore Roosevelt had a lifelong passion for nature and wildlife. Even though he was an avid hunter, the author demonstrates Roosevelt’s philosophical outlook on conservation efforts and his ways of promoting naturalism to his contemporaries. The author lets the reader make his or her own judgments on some of these attitudes as he provides a great context for questions modern readers might have on these topics. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed with the book was that Roosevelt is shown to be an actual scholar of sorts on natural history as he indeed was to his contemporaries. He understood and read the scientific literature on the animals he hunted as well as their natural lives in the environment better than most people. One last thing I really enjoyed about the book was the incorporation of brief profiles of famous naturalists, conservationists, museum curators, and hunters throughout the narrative.
    Overall The Naturalist by Darrin Lunde was an excellent read on Theodore Roosevelt through a specific lens. If you enjoy learning about natural history, Theodore Roosevelt, or conservationist efforts, check out this book.
    4 out 5 stars.