Anyone with a love of horses will treasure this book, which provides scholarly yet accessible insight into a beautifully...

THE HORSE

THE EPIC HISTORY OF OUR NOBLE COMPANION

An enthusiastic history of and appreciation for all things horse.

In this “scientific travelogue…biography of the horse…and worldwide investigation into the bond that unites horses and humans,” one of the only elements Williams (Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid, 2011, etc.) doesn’t address is how to ride a horse. But there’s more than enough to teach readers how to approach a horse and how it will communicate its feelings. The author begins by asserting that horses had their beginnings in the New World rather than the long-held belief that Europeans introduced them to the Americas. When the land bridges were available, horses could travel through Asia to Europe, and Williams notes that horses are not only herd animals, but that they don’t stray far from their environments. As she traces their evolution, she makes it clear that horses tend to adapt to their surroundings rather than move away in search of comfort. The evolution of their hooves, from three to four toes, was caused by the change from marshy ground, where toes helped balance, to dry grass plains. In an equally thorough manner, Williams explains the changes to the animals’ eyes and teeth, which changed with their diet as grasslands formed and they required teeth that could grind effectively. Horses are also red-green colorblind because their eyes only have two types of cones, whereas humans have three. That, as well as the placement of their eyes, affects their acuity and depth perception. The author also explores how horses’ eyes moved back in their heads, allowing wider vision. This made room for larger teeth, which evolved to adapt to the grass that appeared due to changes in global temperatures caused by tectonic plate movement and changing ocean currents.

Anyone with a love of horses will treasure this book, which provides scholarly yet accessible insight into a beautifully constructed animal that has chosen to domesticate man, just as dogs have.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-22440-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Winner

LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more