Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science & Nature

David Quammen, Author
David Quammen, Author W. W. Norton & Company $24.95 (350p) ISBN 978-0-393-05805-5
Reviewed on: 03/03/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
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.