While casual readers may not be tempted to perform the experiments, the insights Costa provides into Darwin’s thinking and...

DARWIN'S BACKYARD

HOW SMALL EXPERIMENTS LED TO A BIG THEORY

An instructive and entertaining look at Darwin’s “experimentising” and how it can be readily duplicated using mostly simple household tools.

Costa (Biology/Western Carolina Univ.; Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species, 2014, etc.), the executive director of the Highlands Biological Station, presents not just a how-to, but also a profile of Darwin in his time and place as he connected with other scientists and relied on them and on friends and family for assistance in his fieldwork. Darwin’s enormous curiosity about how nature works and how adaptations arise from natural selection led him to constantly examine his surroundings with a careful eye. Costa shows him investigating the anatomy of barnacles, honeycombs of bees, dispersion of seeds, reproduction techniques of orchids, behavior of carnivorous plants, twisting of vines, and earth-moving capacity of worms. Occasionally, Darwin called on other naturalists for help in gathering specimens, and he relied on the labor of his own children, who apparently were enthusiastic assistants. In each chapter, Costa describes a specific area of Darwin’s work and includes a materials list and a step-by-step procedure that demonstrates how to set up a related experiment, what to look for, and how to record one’s observations—in other words, how to think like a scientist. What makes this more than a textbook is the full portrait of Darwin that emerges. We see him as an inquisitive youngster; a beetle-collecting college student; a hardworking naturalist who endured seasickness and other obstacles during his years on the Beagle; a husband and family man, enduring the illnesses and deaths of three of his children; and always as a man consumed with curiosity about the natural world and finding many of the answers in his own backyard.

While casual readers may not be tempted to perform the experiments, the insights Costa provides into Darwin’s thinking and his revelations about the great man’s working life make this a worthwhile read. A perfect resource for biology teachers.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-23989-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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