cover image An Explorer’s Notebook: Essays on Life, History, and Climate

An Explorer’s Notebook: Essays on Life, History, and Climate

Tim Flannery. Atlantic Monthly, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2231-5

With 33 essays spanning 27 years, the collection from Australian scientist, explorer, and conservationist Flannery covers a lot of ground, both geographically and philosophically. This range is both an asset and a drawback. Given the breadth of coverage, there’s likely something for everyone, but the short essays do not fully satisfy. Many of the early pieces were published in Australian Natural History and detail some of Flannery’s expeditions to wild places like the Star Mountains of Papua New Guinea and the Gold Ridge of Guadalcanal. While the adventures are interesting, the writing feels lackluster. The book’s largest section consists of book reviews, most of which were originally published in the New York Review of Books. Even though many of the titles covered are now over a decade old, the reviews are a joy to read, as Flannery embeds his analysis in a larger scientific and political context. The final section includes essays on climate change, and while Flannery’s passion is evident, the short pieces are superficial. They are also dated; the optimism of his final essay in which he asserts that meaningful global understanding and change is finally occurring has certainly not panned out as he assumed. (Feb.)