Souder, William 1949-
Souder, William 1949-
PERSONAL: Born 1949.
ADDRESSES: Home—Stillwater, MN. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003.
CAREER: Features writer and author of nonfiction.
A Plague of Frogs: The Horrifying True Story, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of the Birds of America, North Point Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including Washington Post.
SIDELIGHTS: Features writer William Souder first reported on the widespread discovery of deformed frogs in and surrounding his native Minnesota in the Washington Post, to which he has been a regular contributor. Three years of research led to the publication of his first book, A Plague of Frogs: The Horrifying True Story, in 2000. The book traces the story of the mutated frogs from their discovery by a group of middle-school students in 1995 through investigations that were frequently influenced by bureaucracy as scientists clamored to find the origin of the deformities.
In a review for the Journal of Environmental Education, Tony P. Murphy called A Plague of Frogs "noteworthy and comprehensive," adding that Souder shares "a wonderful story with exciting detail and exemplifying the depth of many environmental problems and issues…. This book is an excellent account of the politics that occurs within scientific research and the impact of policy on science, and vice versa." Cecilia Duran in Public Health Reports wrote that the book "serves as an account of both a frightening epidemic and a journalist's attempt to simultaneously comprehend the complex cause-and-effect world of biology and explain it to laypeople. The author colors the book with elaborate metaphors designed to relay dense topics and foreign material to his audience, metaphors that almost never miss their mark." Bill McKibben, a reviewer for the Washington Monthly, commented that A Plague of Frogs "is a revealing and important book…. By book's end, it remains largely unclear what causes the frog deformities and exactly how worried we should be about them—but we've instead been treated to a remarkable inside look at science trying to grapple with horribly complicated real-world problems." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the book as "shocking and important," adding that "Souder's intriguing scientific detective story, though inconclusive, deserves a wide readership, and his low-keyed, cautious approach adds to its impact."
Souder's second book, Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of the Birds of America, is an account of the career of Audubon, a nineteenth-century ornithologist. In a review for Booklist, Nancy Bent wrote that in his "highly readable biography," the author "takes the reader into the heart of this enigmatic, self-made artist and naturalist … with insight and an almost fictional narrative." John Gregory Brown remarked in the Chicago Tribune that "in graceful, unadorned prose, Souder recounts not merely the circumstances of Audubon's life but the scientific context in which Audubon labored to find recognition for his work." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented, "Sympathetic yet balanced, this account shows how much Audubon was shaped by the deep paradoxes of the time and place in which he lived."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2004, Nancy Bent, review of Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of the Birds of America, p. 1696.
Chicago Tribune, May 30, 2004, John Gregory Brown, "Bird Man of America: Two Engaging New Books Explore the Life and Character of Naturalist John James Audubon," p. 1.
Journal of Environmental Education, summer, 2001, Tony P. Murphy, review of A Plague of Frogs: The Horrifying True Story, pp. 55-56.
Public Health Reports, July, 2000, Cecilia Duran, review of A Plague of Frogs, p. 383.
Publishers Weekly, February 14, 2000, review of A Plague of Frogs, p. 189.
Washington Monthly, March, 2000, Bill McKibben, review of A Plague of Frogs, p. 50.