Posted by The Nature Conservancy
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
We put that question to a cadre of scientists and staff at The Nature Conservancy. Their responses ranged from young adult literature to classic environmental reading and covered topics from climate change to scientific exploration to food systems.
Here are 5 suggested reads and our staffers’ reviews. Ring in the New Year with a good book!
The Species Seekers. Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth (non-fiction) By Richard Conniff
Richard Conniff’s latest work of natural history presents a cast of scientific explorers who spend years away from home and family, and who freeze, overheat, starve, endure violence and ridicule and sometimes die in their passion for biological exploration.
The Species Seekers recounts tales from the “golden age” of biological collecting and study, largely in the early to mid-1800s. It was a time when natural history was not just science but a genuine craze, with middleclass Europeans collecting taxidermy, eggs and other specimens.
Some of the stories here will be very familiar to readers of science history, particularly the chapters dealing with Darwin and Wallace. However, Conniff succeeds in making this more than a random collection of stories. Rather, he shows how biological collecting spurred the evolution of ideas—often in fits and starts—that led directly to the foundations of modern biology and ecology.
—Reviewed by Matt Miller, director of communications, The Nature Conservancy in Idaho
La Ciudad de Las Bestias [City of the Beasts] (young adult fiction) By Isabel Allende
This is the biodiversity expedition adventure for young adults I’ve always wanted to write, but would never be able to release myself from the shackles of empiricism and embrace magic realism enough to start.
This first of a trilogy is set in the Brazilian Amazon and races 15-year-old Alex Cold and 13-year-old Nadia Santos through a coming-of-age story fraught with the added perils of human-munching wildlife, viral epidemics, violent industrial conspiracies and, of course, the brought-to-life legendary bestias.
Charming, intriguing and surprising, the book brings Rachel Carson’s child’s sense of wonder up to the speed of Gen Y and beyond. For all the wild imagination, though, the personalities and logistics of field work and the on-the-ground issues of conservation for people and nature are right on the money. They brought me straight back to my days of doing biodiversity expeditions in similar tropical wilderness areas, but with an adolescent perspective that is a breath of fresh air.
—Reviewed by Jensen Reitz Montambault, applied conservation scientist, The Nature Conservancy
(Image: Reading outside. Source: Flickr user enlaciudadsubterranea via a Creative Commons license.)