If you want to cure the many ills afflicting our species, take your cues from our ancestors in the Pleistocene. That's the counsel Shepard (Thinking Animals, 1978, etc.) offers in these provocative if esoteric essays. Shepard was long a stalwart in the field of human ecology; indeed, he pretty much defined that field and influenced its offspring, ecophilosophy and deep ecology. Here is a gallimaufry of his writings, ``iotas of debris,'' as Shepard humbly refers to them, from journals obscure and rarefied, concerning the corruption of the human animal. For Shepard, our society is no longer sane, due to our warped relationship with the natural world. We are, in our hearts and genes, hunters and gatherers, Ice Age primates hot-wired for the wild. As we have tried to slough off this life, pathetically domesticating ourselves, we have jettisoned what was subtle, complex, and unique in our ancestors. Shepard argues against every facet of our present existence, from the way in which we raise our children to our inability to bond with wild creatures, from our postured distaste for hunting to our lack of wonder. He bumps into all sorts of figures as he goes his garrulous way— Martin Heidegger, Edith Cobb, Ortega y Gasset—and can spin a delightful tale, as in his wonderful inventory of the iconography of the bear. And though one might rightly gibe Shepard for moments of abstruseness (it is hard to imagine our ancestors in the Pleistocene jawing about the ``adolescent cosmosizing process''), one of the highlights of this collection is its distillation of Shepard's often highly recondite books. He suffers no fools: If you can't get ontological, don't bother to apply. Radical, indelicate, opinionated, and dauntingly learned even at their most outlandish, Shepard's ideas on humanity's true place in the environment are well worth mulling over.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 1996

ISBN: 1-55963-431-6

Page Count: 307

Publisher: Shearwater/Island Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?