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The Essential Naturalist: Timeless Readings in Natural History [Kindle Edition]

Michael H. Graham , Joan Parker , Paul K. Dayton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Print List Price: $40.00
Kindle Price: $26.25
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Book Description

Like nearly every area of scholarly inquiry today, the biological sciences are broken into increasingly narrow fields and subfields, its practitioners divided into ecologists, evolutionary biologists, taxonomists, paleontologists, and much more. But all these splintered pieces have their origins in the larger field of natural history—and in this era where climate change and relentless population growth are irrevocably altering the world around us, perhaps it’s time to step back and take a new, fresh look at the larger picture.


The Essential Naturalist offers exactly that: a wide-ranging, eclectic collection of writings from more than eight centuries of observations of the natural world, from Leeuwenhoek to E. O. Wilson, from von Humboldt to Rachel Carson. Featuring commentaries by practicing scientists that offer personal accounts of the importance of the long tradition of natural history writing to their current research, the volume serves simultaneously as an overview of the field’s long history and as an inspirational starting point for new explorations, for trained scientists and amateur enthusiasts alike.

Editorial Reviews


“This book includes eight centuries of observations in essays, such as the history of bees, birds, tigers, the Galapagos Islands, and a fascinating section on the relationship between ants and acacia trees. This is a book for a winter’s evening when the snow is high and you need reassurance that warmth exists somewhere. Or take it on a trip to exotic locales. Some of the articles are personal accounts by scientists. Other papers include overviews of the natural history field. The variety of contributors to this volume is stunning, including papers by Rachel Carson, Edward O. Wilson and Prince Albert of Monaco, among others.”
(Adele Kleine Current Books on Gardening & Botany)

“[P]rovides an essential insight into the way keen observation helped to develop people’s vast knowledge of the living world. Highly recommended.”


(D. Bardack Choice)

About the Author

Michael H. Graham is associate professor at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories at San Jose State University. Joan Parker is the head librarian at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. Paul K. Dayton is professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

Product Details

  • File Size: 5350 KB
  • Print Length: 552 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (April 15, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005180PNS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #799,959 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rollicking Revelation December 11, 2011
This book reads like a rollicking revelation. To see so many fine biologists belying the modern misconception that science must be sterile to be accurate & bone-dry to be professional is uplifting and liberating. Some of these scientist/explorer/authors are world famous, others I'd never heard of, but all write with care, passion, and often wit, about the subjects of their attention and delight. The book ranges geographically, taxonomically, and temporally throughout the living world. Read it and rejoice to remember that insight and love are often intertwined.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great, carefully-curated collection of readings October 1, 2011
By drew
This is a wonderful contribution to any library! It is filled with great stories that not only engage my undergraduate and graduate science students, but even my young daughter enjoys this being read to her. Who would have thought that the first good description of Galapagos nature came from a pirate ... And that scientists can collect electric eels using stampeding horses. This book really is a must-have, particularly for the natural history enthusiast or student.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise for The Essential Naturalist January 14, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The cumulative effect of The Essential Naturalist is wide and deep. It's a powerful and majestic contribution to the literature of natural history. It's also a great read. Aside from its scholarly value and its potential for deepening the non-academic reader's knowledge of nature, these classic writings are simply great yarns. I was on the edge of my seat while reading most of them. Reading one or two of the articles a day, this book kept me in its thrall for more than a month. It draws the reader gradually and inevitably toward the deepest ramifications of the Darwinian process.

As the title suggests, the subspecies under the book's magnifying glass isn't a spider, an owl, a mussel or an electric eel, it's that odd duck the naturalist. Despite the range of epochs, locations, species and peculiarities of style reflected in the writings, there's an intriguing consistency in the people we never see directly: the authors behind the articles. The effort, risk, hardship and ingenuity invested by each author is largely unspoken, so there's a modesty and, in many cases, a wry humor that only comes out when you think about what lies behind each of these short pieces.

The book's introduction and the introductions to each section are elegantly written and they do more than simply prepare the reader for the next batch of writings. Together they put natural history in its larger historical and contemporary context.

The Essential Naturalist now has a revered place on my bookshelf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading October 9, 2014
A wonderful collection of environmental narratives...a bit like reading old sea stories. Authors who helped set the foundation of present day ecology. Should be required reading for every student of biology.
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