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Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 17, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
Read this book as a primer, then read Quammen's "Song of the Dodo," to gain some true knowledge.
In the new introduction, Quammen offers three objectives for the book: putting what he considered the best of the original back in print, publishing some of his favorite more recent work in book format, and providing the opportunity to see how a writer has changed during the intervening quarter century. My opinion on that last one--he may well be a better, more knowledgeable writer now, but I do miss the sense of fun and brevity in the earlier shorter magazine columns.
Still, I consider the best and most important essay here to be one in the newer section. Planet of Weeds explores the sixth mass extinction now underway, humans rich and poor, invasive and "weed" species, and who is likely to still be around when planetary life hits its next low point--an excellent if depressing essay. Another recent winner concerns the life and death of a dog and a lesson learned about community.
I was curious to see what the author decided to eliminate so I checked out a library copy of the old edition. For the most part, I found the cut essays to be dated, either by changed numbers and facts or because they were in response to a then current issue or book. A couple others seemed a bit dull. I would have liked to see 3 of the deleted essays remain--a funny one about sea cucumbers probably cut for personal reasons, one about a wild tiger and the trip to see him, and especially one about bison which seemed completely solid to me.
I hope this will help you decide whether to read the new, the old, or both editions.
In another piece, Quammen discusses the long-term consequences of overpopulation and habitat loss on our natural inheritance. He begins this essay with a brief discussion of planet Earth's five major extinction events so far, and offers a thoughtful, richly detailed prognosis as we blithely sail toward the sixth.
Anyone with even a passing interest in science would enjoy reading Natural Acts. I highly recommend this book, both for its style and substance.
The fact some of the essays date back to 1981 and the most recent to 2005 does not make the information outdated either. Quammen has revised and updated to bring everything up to date with current scientific knowledge.
The first section of the book deals with some of nature's more unsavory beasties--mosquitoes, black widow spiders among them. From there he veers to character studies of a number of interesting personalities, including Jack Horner, the Montana paleontologist, and Eugene Marais, a fascinating multi-careered South African.
He even adds a few of his own adventures--kayaking down river through the Grand Canyon, joining in a jungle trek across the Congo--and a tribute to a dog that came into his life through marriage.
It's a rich and rewarding collection worthy of anyone's time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Collection of articles. Not worth the money. Just read a few of the articles on the web.Published 1 month ago by B. Allan
Fun and enlightening essays that made me laugh and feel smarter about the natural world.Published 4 months ago by Sam JW
Quammen is great author... does his homework and knows how to tell a tale.Published 14 months ago by Terry Ginsberg
As to be expected from the author, articulate and inspirational writing of topics less traveled. You won't be dissapointed. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Trevor
David Quammen is an unparalleled writer of natural history. This collection of essays is both informative and engaging and one savors each with the intent not to squander the... Read morePublished on June 8, 2013 by Mark Gibson
When this collection of pieces from Audubon, Outside, and other glossies came out in the mid 1980s, it seemed interestingly fresh if a little derivative of Stephen Jay Gould's... Read morePublished on May 16, 2013 by A Customer
We enjoyed Mr. Quammen's writings in Outside magazine and once again enjoy reading them. A very human view of our natural surroundings.Published on December 24, 2012 by William