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David Quammen's book, The Song of the Dodo, is a
brilliant, stirring work, breathtaking in its scope,
far-reaching in its message -- a crucial book in
precarious times, which radically alters the way in
which we understand the natural world and our place
in that world. It's also a book full of entertainment
and wonders.

In The Song of the Dodo, we follow Quammen's keen
intellect through the ideas, theories, and experiments
of prominent naturalists of the last two centuries.
We trail after him as he travels the world,
tracking the subject of island biogeography, which
encompasses nothing less than the study of the origin
and extinction of all species. Why is this island
idea so important? Because islands are where
species most commonly go extinct -- and because, as
Quammen points out, we live in an age when all of
Earth's landscapes are being chopped into island-like
fragments by human activity.

Through his eyes, we glimpse the nature of evolution
and extinction, and in so doing come to understand
the monumental diversity of our planet, and
the importance of preserving its wild landscapes,
animals, and plants. We also meet some fascinating
human characters. By the book's end we are wiser,
and more deeply concerned, but Quammen
leaves us with a message of excitement and hope.
Published: Scribner on
ISBN: 9781439124963
List price: $16.99
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Best science book I ever read.more
A thoroughly engrossing read, and I can't better what the previous reviewers have written. Quammen's own sense of adventure imbues the entire work. One of the most abiding sections in my own mind (which haunts me in its implications) is his discussion of what I could term patchwork conservation, where bits and pieces of an ecosystem are preserved-laudable but misguided (although surely better than nothing). It is wonderful to have such brilliant writers about evolution who take the time to enlighten all of us about the wondrous discoveries made possible now through DNA decoding. I'm looking forward to the continuing study of human migrations as a tale being unraveled through study of genomes around the world. The science is far beyond me--but what fascination.Read [[Richard Dawkins]] [Ancestor's Tale] after you've read this. Two mighty tomes well worth the time!more
A remarkable book. It is long and discursive, illuminated by dialogues with scientists in the field and at work studying the data, with visits to islands of jungle among the deforested areas of Brazil and Madagascar, along with islands in the ocean. There are stories of the extinction of song birds on Guam, and Aboriginal people of Tasmania, along with the dodo. Quammen unfold the evolution of the theory of evolution from Darwin and Wallace into the study of speciation on islands, into the practical questions - how much undisturbed space does any species need to keep surviving and reproducing from generation to generation.more
I first read this book 10 years or so ago, and thought then it was one of the finest science books I ever read. It is still, with this reading, one of my favorites. Written in the form of an extended essay, it conveys not just the facts of science, but the emotion of it. Why do people do science, anyway? Quammen lets you see--and feel-- that for yourself. I wanted to read this book again as part of my exploration of evolutionary biology. Quammen's writing on Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-discovered of evolution with Charles Darwin, is extraordinary. But so is Quammen's gusto in throwing himself into situations where he can see first hand what our current state of knowledge is. Quammen's quirky essays in Outside magazine were what first attracted me to him. But this book is why I keep reading him. And, as a bonus, he was giving a lecture on campus and I got him to sign my copy. Now this book will be in my library forever.more
One of the great natural history/science books of our time.more
One of the best natural history books I've ever read. Brilliant.more
A lot of people would be scared off by the size of this book and the title, thinking it sounds to scientific and complicated. Don't be frightened. It's an engaging read with important ecological questions and answers. You'll be surprised how quickly you're through with it and how concerned you find yourself with the subject.more
This book was absolutely awesome. I read through it slowly, picking it up and putting it down inbetween other reads, and it was a great book for savoring. The book itself is structured into a few different parts, the first three or so being roughly 125 pages each or so, with another short three at the end. The first section of the book recounts the history of evolutionary theory as shaped by Islands. Quammen tells the tale of Darwin and Wallace as their island hopping voyages elucidated the problem of species. Next, Quammen goes on to explain the effects island have on the evolution of species before going on in the third section to explain the more modern developments of evolutionary theory as shaped by islands. For the remainder of the book Quammen shows the implications of the modern paradigm in evolutionary thinking (Island Biogeography) and increasing rate of extinction and loss of biodiversity. Quammen not only discusses the history of evolutionary biology but expounds on natural history as well, taking the reader on journeys into tropical islands to chase the Komodo dragon, the giant tortoises and more. In the end Quammen has left a harrowing picture of the damage humanity is doing to ecosystems and biodiversity, and how the fragmentation of biomes imposed by urban developments is only making matters worse.This is a must read for anyone interested in evolutionary biology and what its telling us about the world we live in.more
This is a terrific read on important biological questions which lie in the scientific stratum far above the world of molecular biology, which has come to dominate so much of the field, almost to the point of extinguishing the venerable methods of systematics, evolution, and field studies of actual organisms. Quammen transports us into a world where interactions of animals in real ecological systems are the object of study, charming us into seeing its importance, and introducing us to the people who are working to advance our understanding of the natural world.The central theme of the book is the importance that islands have played in this area of research, starting from the work of Darwin and Wallace, extending to the modern work of men such as E. O. Wilson, Macarthur, Simberloff, and Lovejoy. What is revealed is a science progressing from anecdotes and scattered observations of curiosities to something with its own generalizations and laws that can be have an increasing certainty, backed by sound statistical studies, and that produces graphs and tables, equations, useful computer models and testable hypotheses. The majesty of the process is astounding.Quammen writes clearly and spares no effort to involve the reader, mixing a historical treatment of the process, interviews of the modern players, and his own thrilling explorations of the remote islands--he splendidly communicates his excitement and involvement.more
A witty and well-crafted series of essays on extinctions and island geography.more
Excellent discussion of human impact on the extinction of other species. Also great background on Darwin's struggle to write "Origin of Species" and the competitive race by an almost-ran scientist who came up with the same ideas at the same time.more
Read all 13 reviews

Reviews

Best science book I ever read.more
A thoroughly engrossing read, and I can't better what the previous reviewers have written. Quammen's own sense of adventure imbues the entire work. One of the most abiding sections in my own mind (which haunts me in its implications) is his discussion of what I could term patchwork conservation, where bits and pieces of an ecosystem are preserved-laudable but misguided (although surely better than nothing). It is wonderful to have such brilliant writers about evolution who take the time to enlighten all of us about the wondrous discoveries made possible now through DNA decoding. I'm looking forward to the continuing study of human migrations as a tale being unraveled through study of genomes around the world. The science is far beyond me--but what fascination.Read [[Richard Dawkins]] [Ancestor's Tale] after you've read this. Two mighty tomes well worth the time!more
A remarkable book. It is long and discursive, illuminated by dialogues with scientists in the field and at work studying the data, with visits to islands of jungle among the deforested areas of Brazil and Madagascar, along with islands in the ocean. There are stories of the extinction of song birds on Guam, and Aboriginal people of Tasmania, along with the dodo. Quammen unfold the evolution of the theory of evolution from Darwin and Wallace into the study of speciation on islands, into the practical questions - how much undisturbed space does any species need to keep surviving and reproducing from generation to generation.more
I first read this book 10 years or so ago, and thought then it was one of the finest science books I ever read. It is still, with this reading, one of my favorites. Written in the form of an extended essay, it conveys not just the facts of science, but the emotion of it. Why do people do science, anyway? Quammen lets you see--and feel-- that for yourself. I wanted to read this book again as part of my exploration of evolutionary biology. Quammen's writing on Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-discovered of evolution with Charles Darwin, is extraordinary. But so is Quammen's gusto in throwing himself into situations where he can see first hand what our current state of knowledge is. Quammen's quirky essays in Outside magazine were what first attracted me to him. But this book is why I keep reading him. And, as a bonus, he was giving a lecture on campus and I got him to sign my copy. Now this book will be in my library forever.more
One of the great natural history/science books of our time.more
One of the best natural history books I've ever read. Brilliant.more
A lot of people would be scared off by the size of this book and the title, thinking it sounds to scientific and complicated. Don't be frightened. It's an engaging read with important ecological questions and answers. You'll be surprised how quickly you're through with it and how concerned you find yourself with the subject.more
This book was absolutely awesome. I read through it slowly, picking it up and putting it down inbetween other reads, and it was a great book for savoring. The book itself is structured into a few different parts, the first three or so being roughly 125 pages each or so, with another short three at the end. The first section of the book recounts the history of evolutionary theory as shaped by Islands. Quammen tells the tale of Darwin and Wallace as their island hopping voyages elucidated the problem of species. Next, Quammen goes on to explain the effects island have on the evolution of species before going on in the third section to explain the more modern developments of evolutionary theory as shaped by islands. For the remainder of the book Quammen shows the implications of the modern paradigm in evolutionary thinking (Island Biogeography) and increasing rate of extinction and loss of biodiversity. Quammen not only discusses the history of evolutionary biology but expounds on natural history as well, taking the reader on journeys into tropical islands to chase the Komodo dragon, the giant tortoises and more. In the end Quammen has left a harrowing picture of the damage humanity is doing to ecosystems and biodiversity, and how the fragmentation of biomes imposed by urban developments is only making matters worse.This is a must read for anyone interested in evolutionary biology and what its telling us about the world we live in.more
This is a terrific read on important biological questions which lie in the scientific stratum far above the world of molecular biology, which has come to dominate so much of the field, almost to the point of extinguishing the venerable methods of systematics, evolution, and field studies of actual organisms. Quammen transports us into a world where interactions of animals in real ecological systems are the object of study, charming us into seeing its importance, and introducing us to the people who are working to advance our understanding of the natural world.The central theme of the book is the importance that islands have played in this area of research, starting from the work of Darwin and Wallace, extending to the modern work of men such as E. O. Wilson, Macarthur, Simberloff, and Lovejoy. What is revealed is a science progressing from anecdotes and scattered observations of curiosities to something with its own generalizations and laws that can be have an increasing certainty, backed by sound statistical studies, and that produces graphs and tables, equations, useful computer models and testable hypotheses. The majesty of the process is astounding.Quammen writes clearly and spares no effort to involve the reader, mixing a historical treatment of the process, interviews of the modern players, and his own thrilling explorations of the remote islands--he splendidly communicates his excitement and involvement.more
A witty and well-crafted series of essays on extinctions and island geography.more
Excellent discussion of human impact on the extinction of other species. Also great background on Darwin's struggle to write "Origin of Species" and the competitive race by an almost-ran scientist who came up with the same ideas at the same time.more
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