Jerry Coyne, the author of Why Evolution is True, recently held a contest. The rules were simple:
Please recommend one nonfiction book that you think everyone should read, and explain in no more than three sentences why we should read it. The book need not be about science, though those entries are welcome too. The only books excluded from this contest are mine and Darwin's Origin, which has been done to death.
Well, the winner has been announced, and the book everyone should read is...
Last Chance to See By Douglas Adams.
I'm not surprised - I've been telling you all this for years. No really - here's a long post about it in 2008, here's another in 2009...
Hopefully, now that my favorite book has been endorsed by a bigger wig, y'all will go read it.
Here's a great video of Douglas Adams talking about evolution, to convince you even more that you have to read his book:
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It is, indeed, a great book. I first read it as a library book back when I was still at school, but have a copy of my own now.
The chapter on komodo dragons is more or less why that story Ed covered last year about them being venomous was so remarkable. Finding out that Last Chance To See was wrong was Big News, on a completely unscientific (but nevertheless important) subjective, emotional level. Sure, there are dozens of documentaries about komodo dragons that all say pretty much the same thing, but LTTS was, as it were, The Big One. That's why I picked that story as the 2009 event for my little science history quiz.
Regarding the chapters not covered by the talk, I've always been fond of that bit about the gorilla and the biro. A small thing, but emotionally powerful.
Great minds think alike eh? We did a mini update on some of the critters he's talking about. Sadly the news is not good:
"Since he gave this talk, the Yangtze River Dolphin has been declared extinct and only 123 Kakapo remain. Komodo dragons are now listed as vulnerable, and although their population appears quite large, it was recently discovered that Komodo dragons can reproduce via parthenogenesis (which produces only males) and that there may actually be only 350 breeding females."
Umm. . . "finally" gets it? How could that be the case since nobody suggested until now that I read this book!
(And I will.)
I just finished reading it myself...
the Kakapo numbers SFS quotes are accurate, but they were worse when Adams wrote the book, so there's definitely some hope there.