by | Jan 9, 2023

    Whew. It’s been a busy three years for me, mostly spent researching and writing about the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2, and its fierce journey through the human population. (See the article on Breathless, just to the left.) For most of that time, I stayed home in my little office, in Bozeman, Montana, interviewing virologists and other scientific experts by Zoom. I scarcely left home. I made it through the year 2020, with my RAV4, on one tank of gas. During 2021 and much of 2022, I worked harder, here at the desk, than I’ve ever worked before (and also harder, I hope, than I ever will again). Then in September 2022 it came time to hit the road again: book tour time. So I flew to Seattle. And then toWashington, DC. And then to Memphis, Singapore, Milan, New York, back to Milan, Rome, Trieste, and Portland. Please don’t tell Greta Thunburg. I’m aware of the carbon-footprint issue and I’m trying to deal with it. One method is Zoom. For the ninety-five interviews I did with my scientific sources while researching Breathless, the new book, I had traveled zero. But for some kinds of interaction, you simply have to show up.

    One thing my autumn travel itinerary reflected is that book tours are not quite like they used to be, except in Italy. In the U.S., publishers have found that public-radio and podcast appearances are generally more cost-effective than sending an author to a city for a personal appearance at a bookstore. But in Italy, at least in my experience, there is still a great appetite for the author to show up, give a talk, answer questions, sign books—even if his Italian language skills are nonexistent. (But I’m now working on that, with an online language app. Baby steps so far. “Andiamo al cinema stasera?”) And in Singapore—that was another matter, an international disease conference at which I was helping out as a panel moderator and converging with scientific contacts.

    Now I’ve been home again for two months, catching up on life and skiing as well as chores at the desk. In late January I did an Op Ed for the Washington Post on the topic of whether a new subcommittee of the U.S. House, its members appointed by Kevin McCarthy, should be charged with investigating, not just the U.S. insitututional response to the Covid pandemic but also the scientific question of the origin of the virus. Hint of what I said: No.


    I have another book coming out in May, from National Geographic Books, titled The Heartbeat of the Wild, and I’ll give some public talks in support of that one too. I have no desire to live amid a perrenial Book Tour, but on the other hand I’m grateful for opportunities to address audiences, meet readers, and answer their questions. So, FWIW: On February 17-18 I’ll be at the Savannah Book Festival in Georgia; on March 3-4 at the Tucson Festival of Books; on March 8 at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, MT (that one isn’t public); on March 15-16 in Telluride, CO, for their One Book One Canyon program; on March 25 at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, MT, teaming there with my wife Betsy; on April 15 at the Kennedy Center in Washington for “Flow,” their literary series on the beauties and importance of American rivers; on April 19-20 at the Society for Environmental Journalists annual conference, in Boise, ID; and on May 21 at the Santa Fe Book Fest, where I’ll chat onstage with one of the Fest’s co-founders, my old friend and editor from Outside Magazine days, Mark Bryant. Then I’ll come home and do my best to travel no more for the summer (unless I get another invitation from my friends in Italy).

    I dearly love my home, the town and state in which it sits, and the quietly chaotic good company of my family (Betsy, the three dogs, the cat, the python), but sometimes the work requires, or at least strongly suggests, travel. It can’t all be done online. Then you throw a few shirts in a bag, grab the passport and the toothbrush, and . . . zoom.