Marc Hamer, How To Catch A Mole

If you wait long enough, eventually you'll find a book so niche that you can't really believe it exists, and certainly Marc Hamer's memoir-ish How to Catch a Mole is one of those.

Before you start thinking that the title's metaphoric somehow, no, I assure you that it's genuinely about catching moles. As with everything memoir-y, Hamer casts his net widely for story and incident that'll help piece things together, but also:

"The mole leaves his clues about his activity written on the ground in a language that tells a vague and untrustworthy story about where he is and how deep he is. He is rarely seen. Reading his story, decoding his secrets, finding him and sending him back to the earth before his time, to be recycled by the slugs, grubs, beetles and worms that he would have eaten, is my solitary and almost silent job" (p.72).

It's a lovely, strange, cryptic, knowledge-stuffed, unguarded book, How to Catch a Mole, and also each chapter ends with a poem, and I love it more than I should. If an irrelevant book can be at the same time essential, that's how I'd characterize this one.

However, I'm not the only person to feel this way, and not everyone else is the same flavour of nerd I am. In particular, I really appreciated Carin Makuz's reluctant paean:

"Please know there is nothing about this premise that appeals to me. And yet, it is one of the most charming books I’ve read in ages.... The chapter ‘The History of Molecatching’ might be my favourite except that all the others are my favourite too."

A book of single-species nature-writing is exactly up my alley, so of course one would expect me to enjoy a meditative book about a life spent learning about moles.

But how many readers are like me, really? If you don't share my reading tastes, that's fine, and maybe they're more like Carin Makuz's. About this book, we agree: it's a wonderful place to spend some time, and you should spend some time there as well.


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