Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top 10 natural histories

Caspar Henderson is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times, the Independent, and New Scientist. His The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary is due out in the US in 2013 from the University of Chicago Press.

One of his top ten natural histories, as told to the Guardian:
The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas (1971)

From Loren Eiseley to EO Wilson, the scientist reflecting in essay form on the wonder, beauty and strangeness of nature and on human responsibility is a well-established tradition in the US. Few if any have matched Thomas, a physician who died in 1993 leaving six collections of essays. The Lives of a Cell, dating from around the time of the first photograph of the Earth from space and the discovery that whale song consists of complex organised patterns, is among the best. "We are not the masters of nature that we thought ourselves; we are as dependent on the rest of nature as are the leaves or midges or fish." And again, "We are alive against … stupendous odds … You'd think we'd never stop dancing."
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue