Urgent, absolutely necessary reading as a portrait of our devastated planet.



More top-notch environmental reportage from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sixth Extinction.

In the manner of fellow New Yorker contributor John McPhee, every paragraph of Kolbert’s books has a mountain of reading and reporting behind it. In her latest, the author opens with a consideration of America’s most important waterways, the Mississippi and the Great Lakes, which meet near Chicago but “are—or were—distinct aquatic worlds.” We learn the reason for the past tense via Kolbert’s sharp account of the overweening engineering project that reversed the flow of Chicago’s wastewaters to send them not into the lakes but into the river. This created an artificial channel that has allowed invasive species from the south, such as Asian carp, into the lakes and creatures such as the zebra mussel from the lakes into the river. Things are no better down south in New Orleans, where the author finds a Mississippi Delta inundated by rising seas. “If Delaware or Rhode Island had lost that much territory,” she writes, “America would have only forty-nine states. Every hour and a half, Louisiana sheds another football field’s worth of land.” All of these processes feed neatly into Kolbert’s overarching theme of human-caused disasters. Her travels are wide and often challenging, as when she visited remote waterholes in the Mojave Desert to examine isolated populations of pupfish or when she interviewed ornithologists and entomologists to better understand the staggering decline in avian and insect species. “Even among insects, a class long thought to be extinction-resistant, numbers are plunging,” she writes, a process that extends across ecosystems everywhere. Especially vulnerable are coral reefs, which Kolbert examines in meticulous, exquisite detail. Can we and the world be saved from ourselves? That’s an up-in-the-air question, but the author holds out hope in a program that makes use of geoengineering, which, though highly speculative, is something that must be considered.

Urgent, absolutely necessary reading as a portrait of our devastated planet.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13627-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.


The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?