NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “thrilling” (The New York Times), “dazzling” (The Wall Street Journal) tour of the radically different ways that animals perceive the world that will fill you with wonder and forever alter your perspective, by Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist Ed Yong
“One of this year’s finest works of narrative nonfiction.”—Oprah Daily
ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time, People, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Slate, Reader’s Digest, Chicago Public Library, Outside, Publishers Weekly, BookPage
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Oprah Daily, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Economist, Smithsonian Magazine, Prospect (UK), Globe & Mail, Esquire, Mental Floss, Marginalian, She Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal
The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every kind of animal, including humans, is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of our immense world.
In An Immense World, Ed Yong coaxes us beyond the confines of our own senses, allowing us to perceive the skeins of scent, waves of electromagnetism, and pulses of pressure that surround us. We encounter beetles that are drawn to fires, turtles that can track the Earth’s magnetic fields, fish that fill rivers with electrical messages, and even humans who wield sonar like bats. We discover that a crocodile’s scaly face is as sensitive as a lover’s fingertips, that the eyes of a giant squid evolved to see sparkling whales, that plants thrum with the inaudible songs of courting bugs, and that even simple scallops have complex vision. We learn what bees see in flowers, what songbirds hear in their tunes, and what dogs smell on the street. We listen to stories of pivotal discoveries in the field, while looking ahead at the many mysteries that remain unsolved.
Funny, rigorous, and suffused with the joy of discovery, An Immense World takes us on what Marcel Proust called “the only true voyage . . . not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes.”
WINNER OF THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL • FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/E.O. WILSON AWARD
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In this breathtaking book, Pulitzer-winning science journalist Ed Yong explains how other species’ senses reveal things normally hidden to us humans. Did you know that dolphins can “hear” our skeletons through echolocation and that snakes can “see” heat by identifying infrared radiation? Also, how cool is it that birds know when it’s time to migrate by feeling the earth’s magnetic field? Each chapter of this amazing book is dedicated to a different sensory experience like light, color, pain, and heat, and the sheer delight Yong takes in these explorations comes through loud and clear in his writing, as does his sense of humor. With the vision of a philosopher and the heart of a poet, Yong shows us why we should be a lot humbler about our place in the planet and more appreciative of the details even the tiniest insects can perceive. An Immense World makes our everyday world look a lot more exciting than we’d ever imagined.
Pulitzer-winning journalist Yong (I Contain Multitudes) reveals in this eye-opening survey animals' world through their own perceptions. Every animal is "enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble," he writes, or its own "perceptual world." Yong's tour covers vision (mantis shrimp have "12 photoreceptor classes"), sound (birds, researchers suggest, hear in a similar range as humans but they hear faster), and nociception, the tactile sense that sends danger signals (which is so widespread that it exists among "creatures separated by around 800 million years of evolution"). There are a wealth of other senses outside the standard five: sea turtles have two magnetic senses, electric fish generate currents to "sense their surroundings" as well as to communicate with each other, and the platypus's sensitive bill gives it what scientists think may be "electrotouch." Yong ends with a warning against light and sound pollution, which can confuse and disturb animals' lives, and advocation that "natural sensescapes" ought to be preserved and restored. He's a strong writer and makes a convincing case against seeing the world as only humans do: "By giving in to our preconceptions, we miss what might be right in front of us. And sometimes what we miss is breathtaking." This is science writing at its best.
The World Unknown
Ed Yong delivers another Science and Nature entry off the heels of his previous masterpiece. Yong is perhaps the best contemporary scientific writer. He is unrivaled in his ability to distill down the most complex topics for the everyone without devaluing the actual scientific process. His narrative style layered on gives this one the read of an existentialist treatise paired with biology.
In this one the get introduced to my new favorite word Umwelten. A concept that we don’t just get introduced to but earn a micro-masters degree in by completing this tome. Umwelten, in a sense is the multiverse of sensory experiences across the spectrum of living creatures. Those sensory divergences underscore the gulf between species but how each experience the physical world.
Another interesting takeaway is how traces a thread between feedback loops between the senses and evolutionary outcomes. In one hand, we learn about how sensory traits impact selection and ultimately outward evolutionary patterns. On the other hand, he shows us how the pandemic shutdowns demonstrated how modern life impacts the sensory experiences of animals and humans alike.
All of the detail Yong shares emphasizes just how immense our world is and make for a massive read. One that I hope gets paired with a Discovery Channel style documentary that pulls in the video footage and visuals to illustrate in real time some of the beautifully descriptive paragraphs we get of sensory experiences. Such a pairing may help remove the anthropomorphism we place on our surrounding world and creatures when the Umwelten outside of our own resemble nothing of the sort.
My new favorite book
I think this is my favorite book ever. It’s fascinating start to finish and I enjoy the author’s writing style. Even though it is nonfiction it’s hard to put down. I recommend it to family and friends regularly and can’t help sharing interesting tidbits I’ve learned from my reading.
A great, fun read.
This is also a great, eye-opening, mind-blowing book.
TONS of top-notch research, yet easy and fun to read.