Scientifically inclined dog lovers will find this a trove of information and provocation.



How did wolves evolve into dogs? Sykes (Genetics/Oxford Univ.; The Nature of the Beast, 2015, etc.) reviews the state of the art on matters canine and lupine.

Past studies of canine evolution have relied on osteological and archaeological evidence, but since 2005, the fully sequenced dog genome has been available, allowing, among other things, for “re-drawing the evolutionary tree of dog breeds constructed with mitochondrial DNA over twenty years previously.” Five years later, writes the author, a new family tree was published, with all 64 breeds—even the Chihuahua—pointing back to the wolf. Some of those breeds are “ancient,” such as the Basenji and Samoyed; others are quite recent. Making those breeds required domestication, for which Sykes finds no evidence before about 50,000 years ago—still far earlier than previous studies have projected. Like other scholars, the author locates that origin in shared hunting, a process that may have altered humans as much as dogs in “the unstoppable current of natural selection.” Scholarly argument persists over whether the original raw materials of the dog were really wolves and not coyotes, jackals, hyenas, and other canids. Sykes charts the development of the Carnivora before settling, persuasively, on the scenario of Paleolithic hunters working in concert with wolves to bring down large game such as bison. The author goes on to examine some of the mutations that subsequently allowed human breeders to select for certain characteristics, whether the ridge of the ridgeback or the pigmentation of the bull terrier (with a passing nod to the heterochromia exhibited by David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust). Melanism, hyperuremia, progressive rod-cone retinal degeneration: The author’s discussion can be densely technical at times but never enough to render the text inaccessible to those without a background in genetics and population dynamics. Moreover, he closes by looking outside of nature to find the nurture connected to our love of dogs, that “amazing psychic symbiosis."

Scientifically inclined dog lovers will find this a trove of information and provocation.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-379-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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