The Trout Pool Paradox

Black, George Black

Publication date:


In order to learn about tomorrow we often need to look to yesterday. The Trout Pool Paradox has little to do with food but everything to do with how humans impact the land. From the beginning of time, civilizations have sprung up on the banks of rivers across the world and have depended on those rivers to explore new lands, quench their thirst, nourish body and soul, irrigate their fields, and, following the industrial revolution (which, without rivers, may not have been possible), power their generators and absorb their waste. The Trout Pool Paradox examines the question as to why the Naugatuck River, occupying a valley of similar topography and geography as the neighboring Shepaug, totters on the brink of extinction while the Shepaug flows on “in a pristine state.
The Trout Pool Paradox throws brilliant light on our dynamic relationship with nature and on the conflicting demands we will make on our waterways in a post industrial age.” ( Book jacket, 2004 hardcover edition).

In addition to the valuable content, I like to think of this as one of my ‘boy
books.’ The Trout Pool Paradox was written by an avid fisherman, a man who spent most of his life fishing the Housatonic watershed just ninety minutes from the hustle and bustle of New York City. Far from being a trained scientist, he is an author of books on international affairs; there is an ‘everyman’ quality to his writing. It is difficult to engage boys and young men in a dialogue about flora and fauna, particularly at an age when the
birds and the bees are the first things on their minds, but this is a book that, if introduced and used properly, might do just that.


This book is considered to be at the 12th grade level based on the Flesh-Kincaid method, with a Flesch Reading Ease of 44.2 (Difficult).
According to, the Reading Ease (RE) value is
based on a mathematical formula that takes into account average sentence length in addition to average number of syllables per word. In general, the RE output is interpreted as follows:
90-100 : Very Easy
80-89 : Easy
70-79 : Fairly Easy
60-69 : Standard
50-59 : Fairly Difficult
30-49 : Difficult
0-29 : Very Confusing
The vocabulary, while difficult for someone who has been out of school and away from a science textbook for a long time, will be somewhat less foreign to high school science students; furthermore, the author does a good job of defining unfamiliar words as the reader encounters them. One gets the notion that the author, too, was learning as he went, which gives the reader a bit of a sense of camaraderie. Then again, his allusions to
history (Prometheus, for one) and the symphony (Guarneri Quartet playing Beethoven) give the reader strong cues as to his degree of education, which may distance him from some readers. Overall the book has a very engaging, ‘readable’ quality to it—if you are a strong reader. For struggling readers or those not quite at the 11/12th grade level, it will
be more difficult, which is why it should be used instructionally in the classroom as stated below.

Use in Class

This text is intended to motivate disinterested/disengaged students, activate knowledge, and encourage critical thinking about related issues. As such, this book would be used in the ‘preparation’ stage. The book is long (300+ pages) and, due to the diverse nature of its content, can be incorporated into a biology/ecology/environmental science curriculum at a variety of stages. For the most struggling readers, this book could be used in the classroom as a read-aloud by the teacher; for students reading at or slightly below grade level, The Trout Pool Paradox could be used instructionally in the classroom (with excerpts given to students) in order to illustrate or introduce relevant content. Finally, for the most advanced readers, this book could serve as a reference book for students doing research.

Unit Focus


Submitted by Alicia Turner Turner