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Colin Tudge, a well-known British science writer, has training in whole animal biology and a self-proclaimed love for the natural-historical foray among our fellow creatures. The first part of this big book (all of 90 pages) deals with the thorny problems of what Tudge rightly calls the craft and science of classification. Since the 1950s, the word cladistics has terrorized many traditional naturalists and biologists. But it is here to stay, and Tudge provides a very welcome guide that will be invaluable to both lay people and students.
The bulk of the text, nearly 500 pages, forms part II and includes the descriptions of the main groups, from the most primitive (alpha proteobacteria) prokaryotes to Eupatorium, a large genus of 1,800 or so species of plant. In between these two groups, at either end of the biological spectrum, lie all the more familiar bugs and beasts, including ourselves. Inevitably, given so many millions of organisms, difficult choices have to be made. Some groups are only dealt with at phylum level (for example, brachiopods), while others are detailed down to family level (for example, primates). Some extinct groups (not surprisingly, the dinosaurs) get a look, but not many overall. The short epilogue concerns conservation and is followed by a useful reference list of sources and an index. Altogether, the 600-odd pages are enlivened with a large number of excellent black-and-white drawings of individual organisms and diagrams illustrating evolutionary relationships. For all natural historians and anyone interested in biology, the The Variety of Life is a must. --Douglas Palmer, Amazon.co.uk
As The Times says: "Fascinating, marvellous and extraordinary". Only one serious complaint. Chapter 20 (on human evolution) is very much biased & outdated. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Marc Verhaegen
Hands down my favorite book, and you can buy it used but in good condition for under ten dollars. THE VARIETY OF LIFE is just what it says. Read morePublished on November 27, 2012 by Laurence Chalem
This and "The Tree of Life: A Phylogenic Classification" (Lecointre/LeGuyader) are essential to the library of anyone who is curious about evolution and phylogenic relationships of... Read morePublished on December 30, 2011 by Wayne Mones
A monumental achievement is what I consider this volume by Colin Tudge. It has taken me a couple of years to wade through it all. Read morePublished on December 17, 2010 by Dr. John W. Rippon
Colin Tudge's The Variety of Life is a great overview of life on Earth. If you ever wondered where a particular type of animal or plant fit into the world ecosystem, this book... Read morePublished on October 24, 2008 by Elizabeth A. Mancz
It is hard to imagine why anyone could give Tudge's book less than 5 stars. With what must you compare the work, to justify less than 5? Read morePublished on June 22, 2006 by Invictus
An imposing book by a major science writer, Tudge rightly subtitles this work "a celebration." Although at first glance the book seems overwhelming, Tudge has broken... Read morePublished on February 18, 2003 by Stephen A. Haines
I think this book took an enormous amount of work from Colin Tudge. Although he has a Scientific background he is certainly not a toxonomist. Read morePublished on May 17, 2002 by Sergio A. Salazar Lozano