Saturday, May 27, 2017
By David Quammen
A Scribner 1996 publication
This brilliant, easy to read book is about the unravelling ecosystems, ecosystem decay and about evolution and extinction. David Quammen travels the earth visiting islands and reserves where science is being done on the environmental pressures, predominantly from humans, that is driving many species into extinction. While the ecosystem decay does dominate this book, running parallel is his investigation and documentation of how species evolved in the first place, with the main focus on the animal evolution on isolated islands – island biogeography. There is interesting discussion on the Wallace line that divides Indonesia into two separate evolutionary segments with Asian fauna on one side and the Australian fauna on the other. He follows Alfred Wallace’s adventures that led to this discovery in 1859 and the lead up to Darwin’s publication of the Origin of Species.
While the subject could be pretty heavy going to read, Quammen has scripted it is such a way that it flows well into a “hard to put down” book. All 625 pages of it. This book is brilliant. It’s so good it is the only book I have ever started to read a second time and still enormously enjoy reading.
David Quammen is a two-time National Magazine Award winner for his science essays and other work in Outside magazine. The author of three novels and several other books, he is the recipient of an Academy award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.