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The Flight of the Iguana: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature Paperback – February 16, 1998


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The Flight of the Iguana: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature + The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (February 16, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684836262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684836263
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Quammen's columns in Outdoor Magazine are famed as an entertaining source of offbeat information. In this collection, he casts sidelong glances at creationism and extinction, at giant earthworms and Canada geese. But he takes a direct view at the plight of Salvadoran refugees and at the Sanctuary Movement; he accompanied one group on a dramatic journey across the Sonoran desert. Quammen examines the special problems of species survival on islands (and tells us what is happening to the birds of Guam); he discusses the unusually small gene pool of cheetahs and how the Papago Indians survive in desert lands. There is a piece about visiting the Okefenokee Swamp, while the title essay is set in the Galapagos. Readers who enjoyed Natural Acts will find Quammen's new collection equally interesting.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Naturalist Quammen's essays, originally appearing as magazine columns, are here compiled into a lively book. His unusual way of seeing leads him into fascinating realms. How many of us have studied the face of a spider or spent an hour thinking about earthworms? Quammen has and shares his observations with us. His widely varied and thought-provoking essays range over humans and their interactions with ecology, including both desert and swamp. The only central focus of the book is Quammen's unified view of the world's natural life, which of course includes us. Recommended. Katharine Galloway Garstka, Intergraph Corp., Huntsville, Ala.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

David Quammen is the author of a dozen fiction and nonfiction books, including Blood Line and The Song of the Dodo. Spillover, his most recent book, was shortlisted for several major awards. A three-time National Magazine Award winner, he is a contributing writer for National Geographic and has written also for Harper's, Outside, Esquire, The Atlantic, Powder, and Rolling Stone. He travels widely on assignment, usually to jungles, mountains, remote islands, and swamps.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on February 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
David Quammen's Song of the Dodo led me in search of his other writings. The first reward of that quest was this book. A collection of essays from an illustrious writer with keen perception, Quammen casts his perceptive eye on a range of topics from arachnids to zoology. While an anthology lacks Song's comprehensive view, these articles are timeless. Quammen's writing evokes many levels of emotional and intellectual response.
The Introduction sets the tone: "A Mouse Is Miracle Enough". From this opening we tour the wonders of nature, with a couple of side trips to observe that strangest of animals, Homo sapiens. Quammen's gaze never ceases surveying the landscape in presenting us with things we didn't know or aspects of viewing we've not considered. While the very squeamish may balk at close examination of black widow spiders, spoon worms or scorpions, Quammen is adept at taking us gently to these confrontations. As he does, he asks us to reconsider our viewpoint of these and other creatures. We must learn to deal with "faces unlike ours" and shed prejudices even if shedding the fears is more difficult. Changing fear into respect is the first step in acknowledging our sharing this planet with other creatures and stepping back from the destructive role we've adopted.
Respect for life is the underlying theme of all Quammen's nature writings. His "sidelong view of nature" takes us along remote jungle and desert paths to watch and record life's activities. While we like to set ourselves apart from the rest of life, Quammen, with facile pressure, pulls us along with him to observe our cousins. And ourselves. Deserts, it seems, are a haven for more than scorpions and Beaded Lizards.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 19, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These personal essays are a delight to read. Quammen takes some serious scientific information and then filters it through his humorous perspective and draws some interesting conclusions. All the essays are short but they are provocative and well written. Gee, how come I never had a biology teacher like this!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1997
Format: Paperback
The Flight of the Iguana takes you from the absurdity of scorpions to the absurdity of creationism. One moment you are watching iguanas with Darwin and the next you are observing the austere history of the Mexican/American border in the heart of the Sonora Desert. Its a book that can be read several ways; from the standpoint of evolution or as human beings moving through history. It is not a weighty book, but it is marvelous and fascinating even to a veteran student of natural history like myself.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Technical, yet understandable to anyone; Informative, yet wild and entertaining. That is how I would describe Flight of The Igauna. A friend gave this book to me in Glacier National Park last summer and I never got the chance to thank her for it. Dave Quammen takes takes the reader to his journey through the Okefenokee Swamp to a description of the interesting mating rituals by African bedbugs. He has a cynical voice but a compassionate heart. Nature is so fragile, complex, beautiful. We humans must realize this. A great book. You'll love it, a I did! Promise!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "grandmixmasta" on April 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
i had to read this book for my ecology class in college. it was probably the first text outside of literature class that i actually enjoyed reading; it didn't seem like homework. it made me laugh too. i don't even like science that much, but i really enjoyed reading this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anah on March 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book at my university's library, checked it out, and read most of it that night. This collection of short essays is sure to raise questions in your own mind. This is my first exposure to ecojournalism, and now I'm seizing every Quammen book I can find!

"Flight of the Iguana" is a trove of odd and thought-provoking ideas about the natural world and our own place in it. When you read about the beginnings of cryptozoology, the cheetah's shrinking gene pool, and the life of a New York tree, you'll find yourself asking everyone, "Did you know...?"
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Quammen writes fabulous prose. The articles are humorous and fascinating, with exactly the right amount of scientific background provided for the average (non-biologist) reader. It's also a great book for taking on a trip because of its format. I highly recommend this book.
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