Mean and Lowly Things and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy Used
$3.88
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Used: Very Good | Details
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Used book in very good condition. Has pristine, unmarked pages. This item qualifies for PRIME and FREE SHIPPING!
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science, and Survival in the Congo Hardcover – April 30, 2008


See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$7.02 $0.01
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (April 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674029747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674029743
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,614,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Herpetologist Jackson is candid, funny, and precise as she chronicles her demanding and illuminating experiences collecting snakes, frogs, and toads in the flooded forests of the Congo. A Canadian in love with snakes practically since birth, Jackson wanted to do her part in extending our knowledge of the planet’s precious and endangered biodiversity and had no idea of just how grueling fieldwork would be in the Republic of Congo. Sharply observant, disciplined, considerate, and tough, Jackson is immensely entertaining in her exuberantly detailed descriptions of swarms of termites, ants, and mosquitoes; unpalatable food; and painfully rugged campsites. Add to that nearly surreal negotiations with officials, confounding and emotional relationships with guides and assistants, medical misadventures, and moments ludicrous and dramatic as she chases down poisonous snakes, handles motley animal remains, and struggles to preserve and identify priceless specimens and forge cross-cultural scientific partnerships. Jackson is a dynamo, and her riveting, amusing, and revealing tales from the biodiversity front line awaken fresh appreciation for hands-on scientific inquiry and the wonders of nature. --Donna Seaman

Review

Indiana Jones, step aside! Kate Jackson is an intrepid adventurer and explorer, and her passion for research, discovery, and snakes resonates from every page of this gripping account of a woman in science.
--Meg Lowman, author of Life in the Treetops and It's a Jungle Up There

This is the sort of book that makes hardcore field biologists cry out, "take me to the rainforest." For the rest of you, enjoying the sanity and comforts of the armchair adventurer, I suggest you hang on and enjoy the ride.
--Mark W. Moffett, Research Scientist, Smithsonian Institution and recipient of the Lowell Thomas Medal of the Explorer's Club

Kate Jackson's field memoir detailing her experiences in the Republic of Congo is a delight that thrills and informs the reader. In relating her adventures conducting a herpetological survey and collecting venomous snakes, she brings to vivid life the harsh realities of fieldwork with its frustrations and disappointments. We're with her as she battles loneliness, parasites, and uncertainties and adapts to a foreign culture. And we share her personal highs and the swamp forest's allure. Bravo to this intrepid herpetologist!
--Marty Crump, author of Headless Males Make Great Lovers and Other Unusual Natural Histories

This is what exploratory natural history in a remote place, embedded in a very different culture, is really like--frustrating, confusing, scary, and fraught with prospects for failure. Jackson tells the truth even when it doesn't necessarily reflect well on her, and did I mention she's a small woman working in places where, I'm not kidding, most male herpetologists wouldn't dare to go? Mean and Lowly Things is genuine adventure, without the swashbuckling!
--Harry W. Greene, Cornell University Professor and author of Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature

It is always exciting to read about remote, natural places in the world and even more so when the story is told by a field researcher. In the tradition of Jane Goodall...Jackson has written a fascinating, adventure-filled memoir, describing how her love of snakes led her to become a herpetologist. She was eventually able to raise money for a survey of reptiles and amphibians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, specifically in the flooded forest habitat around Lac Télé. Drawing from her journal entries, Jackson takes us through the planning, permits, and travel, as well as her actual time in the field catching animals. Jackson learns to work with her native field staff during her two collecting trips and shows appreciation for all the local people she meets and employs.
--Margaret Henderson (Library Journal 2008-03-15)

Herpetologist Jackson is candid, funny, and precise as she chronicles her demanding and illuminating experiences collecting snakes, frogs, and toads in the flooded forests of the Congo... Sharply observant, considerate, and rough, Jackson is immensely entertaining in her exuberantly detailed descriptions of swarms of termites, ants, and mosquitoes; unpalatable food; and painfully rugged campsites. Add to that nearly surreal negotiations with officials, confounding relationships with guides and assistants, medical misadventures, and moments ludicrous and dramatic as she chases down poisonous snakes, handles animal remains, and snuggles to preserve and identify priceless specimens and forge cross-cultural scientific partnerships. Jackson is a dynamo, and her riveting, amusing, and revealing tales from the biodiversity front line awaken fresh appreciation for hands-on scientific inquiry and the wonders of nature.
--Donna Seaman (Booklist 2008-04-15)

In our age of Google Maps, it's comforting to learn that a few places remain relatively impenetrable to the outside world. Nowhere is this more true than the Congo, which has long held a fascination for explorers and scientists and continues to guard its secrets...Descriptions of ant invasions, maggots under the skin, sleepless nights, bad food and even the odd venomous snake bite all keep the pages turning. Against the odds, Jackson's efforts in the Congo eventually pay off--not only does she discover a new species, she also finds romance. This intriguing blend of science and human interest, related in a matter-of-fact style, brings to life a little-known part of the world.
--Dan Eatherley (BBC Wildlife 2008-07-01)

This book will serve as an inspiration to future field biologists. It is also an exciting adventure story for those who would rather avoid the ants, termites, wasps, and the fly maggots that burrow into the biologists' skin and grow larger there.
--M. P. Gustafson (Choice 2008-09-01)

Fieldwork is very important but unsung. Jackson deserves respect for her drive, ability to organize and manage her fieldwork alone, train local students, and to learn the local language without losing sight of the scientific aims...She is refreshingly honest about the failures, mistakes and difficulties of her fieldwork as well as the successes...Mean and Lowly Things is full of incident and cultural as well as scientific insight that should carry non-scientific readers right to the end.
--David J. Gower (Times Literary Supplement 2008-12-12)

As a travel book, Kate Jackson's account of snake collecting in the tropics is both humorous and dramatic...As an account of biological fieldwork under trying conditions, however, Jackson's book is both elegant and appealing...There are probably only a few specialists who can fully appreciate the professional journal articles on the biodiversity of the Congo forest that resulted from Jackson's expeditions. And only a few adventurous readers may share her "irrational longing to return" to the Lac Télé forest, which, judging from her online blog, she did in the summer of 2008. But we can all hope that she will continue writing, and that we won't have to wait too long for the next installment of Kate Jackson's Excellent Adventures, wherever they may lead.
--Laurence A. Marschall (Natural History 2008-11-01)

More About the Author

Canadian herpetologist, Kate Jackson has been passionate about amphibians and reptiles since before kindergarten. Since then she has traveled the world and worked in labs and museums puzzling over such questions as how venomous snakes evolved. In addition to many publications in specialized scientific journals, Kate has published "Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science and Survival in the Congo", a memoir about collecting snakes in the swamp forests of the Republic of Congo, and "Katie of the Sonoran Desert, a children's book about radio-tracking rattlesnakes. Currently she is working with Jean-Philippe Chippaux on a specialized and in-depth book about Central and Western African snakes, intended primarily for herpetologists. A sequel to "Mean and Lowly" is in the works. Kate Jackson holds a Hon.B.Sc and M.Sc. from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard University. She is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Whitman College.

Customer Reviews

Kate Jackson is an incredibly gifted writer.
H. Davidson
The difficulties of working in a tropical environment, yet still producing good scientific results, are presented in straightforward prose.
Amy Nicolai
This is a book that if you have any bit of "science geek" in your soul, will make you want to make everyone around you read it.
SZ

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Murdock on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mean and Lowly Things is a gripping firsthand account of Kate Jackson's adventures as a herpetological fieldworker in the Congo. While the book provides the reader with scientific detail it's written in a style which brings the experience of conducting field research vividly to life, and as such it mirrors the best travel literature. Keen observations of culture and life are balanced by frank description of the frustrations, fears and feelings of inadequacy which all travelers undergo when venturing to the fringes of the map.

It becomes obvious within the first few pages that Jackson passionately believes in the epigram from Aristotle that opens the book: "To understand the world, we must understand mean and lowly things." Every page of the book breathes the excitement of discovery and the wonders of the forest, and she returns again and again to the message that there is indeed great value in studying toads and snakes.

The opening chapters deal with Jackson's early years of study and work in museum collections, which provides a fascinating insight into the world of hard science with a personal angle. But we really get into the meat when she finally organizes her own expedition to a remote field camp deep in the African Congo. The skills needed on such a venture weren't taught in graduate school. They were simply things that had to be figured out for oneself through a process of trial and error. And when dealing with venomous snakes, errors can be costly. We travel with her as she learns the ropes on a trip marred by civil war, cultural barriers, and a medical evacuation due to raging infection caused by a scraped leg that came into contact with contaminated swamp water. Despite this experience, she comes away with "an altogether irrational longing to return.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By H. Davidson on April 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kate Jackson is an incredibly gifted writer. "Mean and Lowly Things" blends the best of science, travel, and memoir writing with charm and humor. The story of her three expeditions to the Congo -- and of her lifelong passion for snakes and other "lowly" creatures -- is compelling reading. My first copy of this book has already been stolen by a relative who couldn't put it down after reading a few pages, so I've just ordered another!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alex Krohn on April 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Mean and Lowly Things" is a phenomenal account of the trials and tribulations of herpetological field work in one of the most remote places of the world. Jackson tells her story of collecting amphibians and reptiles in the swamp forests of the Northern Congo without bias and in a way that highlights and accentuates the reasons why someone would long to camp in a secluded swamp forest to catch these creatures. "Mean and Lowly" gives down-to-Earth and easily accessible insight into the little-known area of herpetological field work. Jackson shows exactly how mundane things such as drinking water and dry clothes can be hard to come by in the field, yet how tenacity, passion and curiosity can overcome just about any seemingly insurmountable odd. From impossible government bureaucracies and maggots that grow in your skin, to traditional village customs and published scientific data, "Mean and Lowly" truly covers everything one has to deal with as a scientist in the field in an easy and enjoyable read meant for anyone. It is a wonderful and tantalizing book filled with stories that will make you want to leave for the rain forest tomorrow.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jack Gardner on June 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"To understand the world, we must understand mean and lowly things." - Aristotle

Kate Jackson recounts her expeditions with the flare of the best natural field scientists from Jane Goodall to Frank Buck - every bit as fascinating and courageous. Scientific exploration - hardships, danger, daring, mysteries, accomplishment, exotic cultural surprises. Including a glimpse into modern scientific camaraderie around the world and government bureaucratic malfeasance. Highly recommended glimpse of an intrepid person enjoying herself physically and intellectually.

"No person who is enthusiastic about his work has anything to fear from life." -Samuel Goldwyn
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kyle Cassidy on May 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The reason that scientists don't know much about the reptiles and amphibians of the Congo, we learn in Kate Jackson's gripping Mean and Lowly Things is because it's a very difficult place to live and most scientists would rather work in places less remote. As a new Ph.D., Kate Jackson doesn't have much of a choice; she can go to the Congo and find snakes on her own, or she can play second, third, or fourth fiddle to some other researcher in a place with running water. Choosing the road less traveled seems to have made all the difference because Jackson turns out to be made of exactly the mettle needed for surviving in climates of perpetual damp, heat, bureaucracy, poverty, and, oh yeah, maggots, biting ants, malaria, sleeping sickness, foot long millipedes and of, course, cobras.

Reminiscent of Raymond Ditmar's very out of print Snake Hunter's Holiday Jackson plunges into the submerged and remote forests of the Congo with a resolve and story telling ability that keep readers on the edge of their seats. Whether cheering along as she captures venomous snakes, or cringing as she describes discovering that maggots are growing under her skin, either way, it's a gripping and enjoyable book that makes you appreciate those people for who intentionally choose the difficult path, try harder when things seem hopeless, and persevere.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

Most Recent Customer Reviews