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Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic's Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows Hardcover


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Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic's Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows + Working Fire: The Making of a Fireman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306821168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306821165
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Dan Rubenstein, Canadian Geographic
“Zac Unger's deep dive into the health of polar bear populations around the world cuts through the sound-bite science typically reported by the mainstream media to explore the truth about the status of this species. It's also a very engaging and entertaining book to read—no small feat when tackling such complex subject matter.”

Parents, February 2013
“[A] hilarious and informative memoir… Cozy up to a fire and check out this funny, insightful wintry read. Fans of Wild, Into the Wild and other outdoorsy tomes will love Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye.

Shelf Awareness
, 2/1/13
“Well-researched, highly detailed… Unger’s prose is gritty, sometimes snarky, but well-intentioned… Since few of us will ever see a polar bear in the wild, Unger gives us a close a look as we’re likely to get.”

San Jose
Mercury News, 1/31/13
“In this amusing and informative account of their two years in a tiny town, the author interacts with tourists and locals, scientists and conservationists—and, of course, the bears themselves.”

Topeka Capital Journal, 2/7/13
“Part travelogue, part history lesson and part memoir, Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye bear-ly scratches the surface of ecopolitics, too, although author Unger surely tries to look at the subject from all sides. Unger is serious in the research he presents, but that’s about as far as the solemnity goes: This book will make you laugh, it will entertain you, and it will make your heart pound just a little.  It’s also a good argument-starter, so if you’re looking for discourse on global warming, you’ll find it here. Read Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye, because even in the snow, nothing is ever black and white.”

Winnipeg
Free Press, 2/2/13
“[An] often hilarious but deeply informed page-turner.”

San Francisco Chronicle, 2/10/13
“An engaging book that’s equal parts adventure story, family memoir and environmental expose.”

Lawrence Eagle Tribune
, 2/10/13
“This book will make you laugh, it will entertain you, and it will make your heart pound just a little.  It’s also a good argument-starter.  So if you’re looking for discourse on global warming you’ll find it here.”

San Francisco Book Review, 2/12/13
“[Zac Unger is] quick with a witty twist of a phrase.”

Yahoo.com, 3/4/13
“Entertaining…More than an adventure story and beyond a cautionary tale, Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye provides food for thought for anyone concerned about the future of our planet and its creatures… an intriguing story of a man's search for the facts told with a healthy dose of common sense.”

Brown Alumni Magazine
, 3/1/13
“A self-mocking and witty observer, Unger learns as much about scientific politics as he does about bears.”

Maclean’s, 4/1/13
“[A] hilarious book about the process of becoming disillusioned.”

BBC Wildlife Magazine
(UK), April 2013
“[A] frequently bitingly accurate look at the circus that surrounds the polar bears’ presence, and at the animals themselves, which go about their business inured to the hysteria their annual routine provokes…The author is clearly a thoughtful and concerned observer who cares deeply about polar bears and their future, and has provided [an] entertaining—and certainly unique—addition to the canon of polar bear literature.”

Library Journal (website), 4/10/13
“[A] terrifically energetic, dude-friendly adventure…Mixes ecology with travel and is informative and endearingly funny…Charming.”

About the Author

Zac Unger is a writer as well as a firefighter and paramedic with the Oakland Fire Department. He is the author of Working Fire: The Making of a Fireman and has written for Slate, The Economist, Men's Journal, and other publications.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Zac's book is very funny and informative.
Carolyn O'Hara
It was a gift to my parents who had been to Churchill to see the polar bears and it was a great revisit with this family.
Bella
This book made me laugh out loud quite a bit.
amyp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Never Look A Polar Bear in the Eye" is Zac Unger's follow-up to his 2005 book "Working Fire". That book served as a sort of counterpoint to Norman Maclain's masterful "Young Men and Fire", in which Unger explained why he became a fireman as well as his various adventures once he joined the ranks. "Working Fire" was Unger's effort to answer the question of what a man's responsibility is to others, especially a man from a fairly privileged background. It's a book about being a fireman, but more memorably, about the decision to become one.

This book begins as Unger approaches middle age. No longer a lone hero, he now leads an entourage that includes his Canadian wife (whom readers met in the first book), and three young children. He worries about his role and responsibilities, and this book revolves around environmental concerns in particular. Unger mulls over global warming, and decides to investigate the looming extinction of polar bears as the ice sheets recede. He reads scientific studies, watches documentaries, then interviews some of the researchers and rangers closest to the problem. Finally, and this forms the bulk of "Never Look A Polar Bear in The Eye," he travels to Canada with his family to see the problem first-hand.

This trip creates a stylistic oddity in "Never Look A Polar Bear in the Eye," in that we have basically two books under a single cover. The first is Unger's examination of his own life, his wacky travelogue with his family (to whom he is patently devoted), and a description of the Manitobans with whom they lived in 2008.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By thinktwice on March 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book was so funny. It's interesting that Mr. Unger started out as an environmentalist 'believer' until he actually went to Churchill, Manitoba (lots of bears congregate there - along with tourists and scientists)and found that we are being duped by some scientists ('cause that's how you get funding!) and the media is in on it ('cause it's the politically correct agenda). I read it in a few hours, very entertaining.

Warning: the first part about the male bears killing females and cubs is a bit tough to read.

Most interesting info: only 5,000 polar bears in 1973 (were hunted) and approx. 25,000 now. So, if 2/3rds died, you would still have more than 40 years ago!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Mastin on January 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Polar bears are unquestionably beautiful and awe-inspiring. We love to put them on Christmas decorations watch them drink Coke on TV. They are quite photogenic; movies like Arctic Tale (which Unger hilariously described as "a wretched pseudo-documentary about a polar bear family, narrated by the noted Arctic researcher Queen Latifah") and countless TV shows draw us in, sometimes even reminding us that they are deadly meat eaters. Most of us will never get closer to a polar bear than seeing one on the screen or maybe in a zoo. A lucky few of us will pay for a trip to Churchill, Manitoba, to spend time in Spartan conditions in this Canadian wilderness outpost for the chance to see these majestic animals up close. Zac Unger took his polar bear curiosity a step further, moving his whole family from California to Churchill for several months.

With his first-hand accounts of life in polar bear country, reflections on the state of polar bear research, and a good dose of his wit and cute family stories, Unger's Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic's Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows is an entertaining and informative read. As a committed environmentalist, Unger bought the story that the polar bears are dying and that unless we do something about global warming, they will be extinct, and soon. What he found is that the story is not so simple.

As a scientist named Rocky, who has lived and conducted research in polar bear country for decades, tells Unger, climate change does not necessarily lead to extinction. We can't predict what the effect of their environment changing will be. "It's the height of hubris to say with certainty that polar bears are an evolutionary dead end and that they can't adapt.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By amyp on October 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book made me laugh out loud quite a bit. Zac Unger's writing style is engaging and keeps the book moving quickly. While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I didn't learn too much about conservation or anything. This book was recommended to me by an environmental policy professor, so I was expecting that to be the focus.
That being said, if you want a funny, engaging book about the funnier side of ecotourism, read this! Highly, highly recommend for that reason.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Hendrix on October 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am ready to go to Churchill in a couple of weeks. This book was an excellent introduction to my trip. Zac Unger writes a really authentic book with humor.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LawClerk on August 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Engaging honest exciting book. A must read for anyone who cares about animals or the environment and the politics around them
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. Vomela on July 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great review of the controversy around polar bears as victims of global warning. Exposes hype and profiteering by groups and industries that profit from global warming alarmism.
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