"David Quammen is simply the best natural essayist working today."--Tim Cahill, author of Lost in My Own Backyard
"Lively writing about science and nature depends less on the offering of good answers, I think, than on the offering of good questions," said David Quammen in the original introduction to Natural Acts. For more than two decades, he has stuck to that credo. In this updated version of curiosity leads him from New Mexico to Romania, from the Congo to the Amazon, asking questions about mosquitoes (what are their redeeming merits?), dinosaurs (how did they change the life of a dyslexic Vietnam vet?), and cloning (can it save endangered species?).
This revised and expanded edition best-loved "Natural Acts" columns, which first appeared in Outside magazine in the early 1980s, and includes recent pieces such as "Planet of Weeds," an influential new Natural Acts is an eye-opening journey that will please both Quammen fans and newcomers to his work.
Song lyrics have been redacted from this ebook owing to permissions issues.
Quammen's writing style is so delightful that his content could almost be secondary. Happily, the author (most recently of The Reluctant Mr. Darwin) and his subjects are equally engaging: from a light-hearted trope on crows, whom he surmises are "too intelligent for their station in life"; to the dead-serious issue of human cloning, which he labels "perniciously stupid"; to a harrowing 453-day adventure in a remote Congolese forest Quammen shared with explorer J. Michael Fay. A revised and expanded version of the out-of-print 1985 original, this volume reprints a number of Quammen's columns from Outside magazine along with more lengthy articles culled from sources like Audubon, National Geographic and Smithsonian, including a solid selection of his post-1985 work. In his introduction he describes the new version as "a chimerical creature, like a griffin, bird-shaped in front with a mammalian caboose," but his topics-and his tone-aren't always so whimsical; in "Planet of Weeds," a 1998 piece published in Harper's, he predicts man-made ecological catastrophe: "Homo sapiens itself is the consummate weed." A book to ponder and enjoy.
This is one of the few books I keep on the nightstand. Amazingly well written and fluid as the rivers he snorkels down. He consistently makes topics I previously thought boring absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend this, as well a Boiler Plate Rhino.