Related Subjects: Author Index Reviews Page 1 2 3 4 5 6
Book reviews for "Gould,_Stephen_Jay" sorted by average review score:

The End Is Near!: Visions of Apocalypse, Millennium and Utopia
Published in Paperback by Dilettante Pr (January, 1999)
Authors: Roger Manley, Adam Parfrey, Dalai Lama, Stephen Jay Gould, Rebecca Hoffberger, and Howard Finster
Amazon base price: $24.47
List price: $34.95 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $10.00
Collectible price: $13.22
Buy one from zShops for: $25.00
Average review score:

The End Is Near brings together interesting essays and most unsual artists. The quality of the images and paintings displayed in this book make it a MUST for any art collector and connoisseur of fine books. Essayists in this book bring new meaning to the art depicted. Visionary art and Outsider Art come together in this book beautifully. WELL DONE...a "must have".

Excellent source for outsider art with a specific theme!
There are lots of books out there on outsider art-but this is great because it's a guide to art from all over the world with one theme in mind. It helps put the whole genre into a form that is more easily understandable and, best of all, fun. I really love this book!

Disturbing and thought-provoking
By showing the amazing collection of the American Museum of Visionary Art, this book provokes the reader to re-think the distinctions our society draws between genius and madness. I've actually been to the Museum in Baltimore and am thrilled that this artwork is now available on a large scale. This book may not be for everyone, but those willing to expose themselves to its often disturbing imagery will be rewarded.

Far Side Gallery 3 Paperback
Published in Paperback by Andrews McMeel Publishing (01 January, 1988)
Author: Unknown
Amazon base price: $10.47
List price: $14.95 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $0.91
Collectible price: $4.00
Buy one from zShops for: $9.47
Average review score:

Better masterpieces here than in that museum in Paris
With a cow Mona Lisa painting on the front cover how can you go wrong? The cartoons in here are from Hound of the Far Side, The Far Side Observer and Night of the Crash Test Dummies. It may be cheaper to buy these books individually instead of this gallery so compare prices before purchasing.

The advantage of owning the galleries is that some cartoons are full page size which is three times the size of the original books. Not all cartoons are full size though just some.

The classic cartoon set in an exam with the bonus question (50 points) "What's the name of that thing that hangs down the back of our throats?" The caption underneath states "Final Page of the Medical Boards," is in this edition.

Another has Noah saying "Now Listen Up. We're Going to do This Alphabetically," the Zebras are thinking "Damn!"

The Classic "Drive George! Drive! This One's Got a Coathanger!" with a lion trying to unlock the car door to eat the woman.

Should you buy it? Of course you should.

Humor and Biology--A Good Mix
Gary Larson has teamed up with Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist and taxonomist --Harvard University, to create a biologically funny book. Humor has a purpose in this book. It is used in an attempt to cause the reader to think biologically on a macrocosmic level. Social interaction of all animals on the smallest level effects the bigger picture. I enjoyed this book very much; however, a few cartoons were biologically "over my head." With some critical thinking, all readers may be able to get the message of all the cartoons.

He has a amazing mind to be able to think up such comedy!
I loved it!! It was soooooo funny! I hope he keeps writing these books

A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape
Published in Hardcover by Harvard Univ Pr (April, 2002)
Authors: Michael A. Mares and Stephen Jay Gould
Amazon base price: $20.97
List price: $29.95 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $15.88
Buy one from zShops for: $18.95
Average review score:

Desert adventures with biology
It is interesting that this book is being published for the first time since much of the material comes from Professor Mares's work with small desert mammals during the seventies. Mares, who is the Curator of Mammals and Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma is also the author of Encyclopedia of Deserts (1999). Perhaps he has been too busy to publish what is essentially a popular work. Since the book includes reports on his field work and that of his students into the nineties, maybe this book is a way of rounding out a career.

Regardless of the reason for the material finally finding publication, we are the better for it. Part memoir, part fieldwork journal, and part travelogue, A Desert Calling is that rare scientific tome that engages our adventurous spirit through a vivid and lively presentation while at the same time giving us a concrete sense of the animals and their habitats. As the late Stephen Jay Gould expresses it in the Foreword, Mares writes with "a verbal freshness (and a fine sense for a good yarn) that will delight even the most sophisticated urbanite...." (p. xi)

The book is also beautifully edited and presented with handsome page layouts. Chapter beginnings and major paragraph breaks feature photo icons of the small desert rodents that were the focus of much of Mares's work. The text is interspersed with black and white photos of animals and the forbidding desert climes that he and his fellow field biologists encountered on three continents. There are four maps to help us locate these places. Mares includes an appendix giving both the common and scientific names of species mentioned in the text organized geographically. There are 14 pages of suggestions for further reading ordered by chapter.

Mares's travels include the Sonoran and Mojave deserts in the American southwest, the Monte Desert and the Patagonia and Caatinga regions in South America, and the Dasht-i-Kavir in Iran and the Sahara in Egypt. He traveled to Argentina during the years of the Dirty War and was in Iran just before the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini. He lived through blinding sandstorms and heat so oppressive that he sought relief in pig water and mud laced with pig feces. He endured stings from hoards of vicious insects in landscapes nearly as barren as the moon with shaded Fahrenheit temperatures in the 130's. (p. 181) He encountered bureaucratic obstruction that would try the patience of a saint, poverty that would move even Scrooge to tears, and enough danger to satisfy a jaded CIA agent.

But above all he reports on the animals and how they live. He includes the discovery of a number of new species and genera of mammals, and three major ecological findings, all having to do with convergent evolution. Seeking the animal in the Monte Desert of Argentina that is the analogue of the kangaroo rat of the North American Sonoran Desert he inexplicably finds none. But then by happenstance he becomes aware of an extinct marsupial skeleton collected by famed biologist George Gaylord Simpson that fits the expected convergence to a tee. Indeed the animal had gone extinct only a million years previous which explained why none of the other rodents had yet evolved to fill that niche. (p. 126)

Mares also demonstrates that the jerboa of the Sahara, which is taxonomically nearly identical to the kangaroo rat, a fact well know for many decades, is not the whole story. It turns out that their diets and therefore some parts of their anatomy, including their teeth of course and presumably their digestive systems, are more different than was previously supposed. Mares realized this because he discovered that while kangaroo rats are seed specialists, the convergent jerboas have a more varied diet including plants and even crickets. After some further research, Mares understood that the bipedal adaption of the jerboas and kangaroo rats is an adaptation to allow them to run (hop!) away from predators.

To my mind the most interesting discovery was that the rock hyraxes of Africa have a nearly exact counterpart in the rock cavies of Caatinga in Argentina. As Mares expresses it (p. 202), they "are about as distantly related as mammals can be, [but they] not only look alike, but are similar in almost all aspects of their reproduction, ecology, and behavior." In a splendid example of natural selection at work, Mares points to their unique but similar rock pile environments as strongly shaping their morphology and behavior.

Perhaps what Mares does best that other scientists that work in distant places do not always do so well is to shed light on not only the climate and the species but on the local people, what they are like and how they live. His description of the isolation of some of the people in the Monte and the Chaco ("El Impenetrable" in Spanish, which Mares calls a "land of thorns") in Argentina is almost like reading about lost tribes from ancient times. His encounters with locals sometimes reminded me of something from a wild west movie of my childhood.

Also very interesting was his account of the discovery of a new species, the golden vizcacha rat on pages 257-259. I also liked his touching recollection of coming home for Halloween just in time to join his two boys for trick or treating on page 275.

Bottom line: this engaging and colorful book allows us to experience the hard work, pure drudgery, quiet contentment, and the sometimes thrilling exhalation of field work through the eyes of a working scientist with a gift for exposition.

Two books for the price of one
Michael Mares' book grew on me enormously as I read it. The combination of his series of wild experiences along with his enthusiasm for the research puzzles he confronts made this book read almost like a double thriller. This could be read as a travel book, very much like Eric Hansen's books, with a bonus of learning a lot about nature, evolution, ecology, etc. Or, it could be read as a book of ecology and evolution with the bonus of extraordinary adventures. At first, I kept on reading the book more for the adventures and then realized that my excitement about the science was growing. I have never had a book sneak up on me in this way.

The Beauties and Dangers of the Desert
We are quite used to hearing about the rainforest and the worries about its loss. We hear less about the loss of deserts. Let the military test there, let off-track entertainment vehicles bounce there, let toxic wastes accumulate there; they are not good for much else, goes the common view. They are uncomfortable places to visit, and they can't be turned to agriculture. Michael A. Mares, in _A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape_ (Harvard), has a completely different view. Mares has spent his professional life studying the deserts of the United States, Argentina, Iran, and Egypt. He undoubtedly knows plenty about plants, insects, birds, and snakes of these areas, but he is a specialist in the mammals that have evolved to live in such harsh conditions. Desert rats, mice, armadillos, and gerbils have been his study, and he has here (note the double meaning of the title) assembled a description of his life's work, as well as an attempted explanation of just why he has spent so much time in places the rest of us could not stand. His thoughtful and funny stories are a sort of autobiography, and he has much to tell us about the exotic animals that he wants better appreciated.

There are some peculiar beasts out there. The kangaroo rat has a nose exquisitely tuned to find buried seeds, and can filter sixty seeds from sand in a second. There are penguins in the desert in Patagonia. There are a few rodents on different continents who can live on the leaves of the saltbush, leaves that have a protective outer layer of cells full of salt. They have special teeth, or in one case, special dental hairs, that strip away the inedible layer to get to the green below. There are deadly assassin bugs. Mares describes staying in some of the most unpleasant regions of the world, and admits that when he is busy with academia and home, he longs to get to the desert, but it works vice versa, too. He is almost killed by fungus infesting his lungs after climbing through guano deposits in a New Mexico cave. He is nearly crushed by trees falling during a storm on a bat hunt in Costa Rica. Some of the most surprising specimens described here are humans, and Mares has plenty of funny stories.

_A Desert Calling_ is full of light moments, and near-disasters that are pleasant to recall because they are over. However, Mares has a good deal serious to say about the study of desert animals, and in the larger view, about taxonomy in general. "If you do not know the taxonomy and systematics of the organisms you study - if you cannot identify them correctly and understand how they are related - then you cannot study them in any meaningful manner." Research in "bigger" topics such as ecology is only possible when taxonomists have gone to the field beforehand and identified one creature from another and settled their ranges and evolutionary relationships. Mares has found and been responsible for the first scientific descriptions of many mammals, and knows that there are still plenty out there which have yet to be properly catalogued and studied. Over and over, he comes across specimens about which no one has basic answers: Are they diurnal or nocturnal? Do they live in colonies? Do they hibernate? What do they eat? There is an enormous amount of basic science brightly reported here, and an enormous amount that is yet to be done.

The Earth Around Us: Maintaining a Livable Planet
Published in Hardcover by W H Freeman & Co (April, 2000)
Author: Jill S. Schneiderman
Amazon base price: $27.95
Used price: $4.64
Buy one from zShops for: $9.99
Average review score:

Excellent science compilation!
This is an excellent example of science writing at its best. The essays are well-written and well-organized, and will appeal to a wide audience. As an earth scientist, I appreciate the detail that the authors provide, but the clarity of the book makes it accessible to readers of all levels and backgrounds. I highly recommend this book as a worthy addition to any book collection.

Highly Recommend
I absolutely loved this book. This book gives you the rare opportunity to hear a stunning array of scientists tell you about your surroundings in language that is accessible and informative to amateurs as well as experts in the geosciences. As a geologist I feel like this book was written just for me, but if you are at all curious about the environment around you and it's future, this is a great book to start with. The essays in this book cover a large breadth of pertinent global issues, and backs up fascinating narratives with sound scientific reasoning. It answered questions I had, and introduced me to new issues and environmental crises I hadn't considered until now. My family and friends can be certain that they will be receiving a copy for Christmas.

Science....In terms I could understand!
I really enjoyed reading The Earth Around Us. It answered so many questions I had regarding the earth processes that are relevant to environmental questions. As a person who lives on the shore of a large lake, I was especially interested to read about what types of erosion I might expect along my shoreline. All the essays in this book were short, fascinating, and very accessible. I loved 'hearing' scientists speak in language I could understand about practical environmental issues. I'm recommending this book to all my friends and plan to give it as gifts to people I know who are interested in science and environmental issues.

Published in Paperback by Princeton Univ Pr (28 October, 1996)
Authors: Niles Eldredge, Murray Alcosser, and Stephen Jay Gould
Amazon base price: $45.00
Used price: $9.50
Buy one from zShops for: $17.89
Average review score:

A Book for the Rest of Us
Scientists love to write books for other scientists, and overall deplore having to explain their science to the public. Universities work overtime to close their walls to the general public, even going as far as removing their funding from the general scrutiny of the public by catagorizing themselves as "non-constitutional" and in effect keeping themselves out of the public eye. While the general rule for professors is "publish or perish" they tend to attempt to publish in a university press, which is usually a black hole that sucks out lots of money from the university, and is usually funded by grants and endowments and hardly ever from sales - unless those sales are done by making those books "required reading" for University or College students, who can hardly afford another expensive item in their life.

In the introduction to this book Steven Jay Gould laments this problem by saying "In one particularly distressing example... scholars often look down their noses at large format books filled with attractive photographs "coffee table books" in the dismissive jargon." Mr. Gould goes on to say, however "I love this book because it embodies such a fine marriage of these tow m odes of our central vision - palpable photographs of matrials things with a distinctive text of life's history."

I couldn't say it better. Frankly, most books like this aren't very good, this one is perfect for someone with my background: a high school eduction, no chance of ever going back to college, and a overbearing curiosity for all things ancient.

Since starting to collect fossils in the Nebraska road side a year ago, my curiosity of fossils has grown tremendously. Thanks to an effort by a few scientists willling to speak of these things in lay terms, I am able to learn more about the collecting and the science of fossils every day. Books like this are useful to maintain the support scholars need to keep their science alive, and I for one am very happy to see this inexpensive effort from a scientist published and available to the general pubic.

A true "coffee table book"
The book indeed has some splendid photographs but the text moves from general to very very specific.A poor attempt to condense all fields of paleontology into a coffee table book.Buy it for the pictures not the text.

A new and exciting look at Earth's earliest hisory.
Fossils are a window into time, revealing unexpected insights into the evolution of the staggering variety of forms that life has taken on our planet. This fascinating exploration of fossils overturns the traditional view of evolution as a slow and inevitable process and shows that lifeforms gernerally do not evolve to any significant degree until massive extinction clears the way for new species. This rhythm of life--stability punctuated by burst of change--is revealed by the fossilized remains of Earth's ancient flora and fauna protrayed in 160 luminous cdolor plates and described in in a vivid style that puts the reader in touch with the most current thinking about the evolution of life and the forces that drive it.

Finders, Keepers: Eight Collectors
Published in Paperback by W.W. Norton & Company (January, 1994)
Authors: Rosamond Wolff Purcell and Stephen Jay Gould
Amazon base price: $24.95
Used price: $20.81
Average review score:

Eight Collectors Collecting
I have to start out by confessing that I bought this book for the pictures. I am fascinated by the photography of the grotesque, and Rosamond Purcell holds high rank in this rarified genre. She is noted both for her own original work and her recording (museum, collection, etc.) work. Her photography in "Finders, Keepers" is remarkable, strong carefully composed images with lush color. Just as notable is her reliance on natural light and the simplest of Nikon cameras and lenses.

The only part of the book I originally read was Purcell's Afterword. It is a delightful exposition on her romance with collectors and museums, revealing a thoughtful, philosophical professional with a strong creative sense. After that much reading I was satisfied, and the book took its place on my shelves with Purcell's other works, to be referred to when opportunities of my own appeared.

Having decided to review it, I discovered, to my embarrassment, that the book was actually about something. The text, far from being the filler that often appears in photographic volumes, turned out to be a series of gemlike studies of eight collectors of note, consisting of Peter the Great, Phillip Von Siebold, Willern Von Heurn, Eugen Dubois, Walter Rothschild, Agostino Scilla, Thomas Hawkins and Louis Agassiz . Some of these men are popularly famous and others are known only to other naturalists, but they are all interesting. Their collections, sometimes known only from fragments are breathtaking.

The author of these essays is Stephen Gould, paleontologist and occupant of the Alexander Agassiz Chair of Zoology and Curator at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. Despite these rather awe inspiring credentials his style is delightfully accessible as he reveals each collector's life and passion to the reader. If you like paleontology, or natural history, or glances into the strange mind of the collector you will find this a refreshingly pleasant volume, providing an equal share of education and delight.

Lush, fascinating view of collecting and natural history
One of the most beautiful books I own, combining Purcell's precise and beautiful photographs with Gould's intelligent and accessible writing. Finders, Keepers combines the diversity of living things, history, scholarship and art in an immaculately designed and printed whole. Absolutely stunning from start to finish.

Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology
Published in Hardcover by Verso Books (May, 2002)
Authors: Andrew Berry, Stephen Jay Gould, and Alfred Russel Wallace
Amazon base price: $18.90
List price: $27.00 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $18.76
Buy one from zShops for: $17.74
Average review score:

On the Origin of a Theory
This excellent collection of Wallace's writings, interspersed with commentary and vignettes by the editor, is very well done and a welcome addition to the literature about/by Wallace. The relationship, or 'delicate arrangement', between Wallace and Darwin, and the triggering of Darwin's book by the Ternate paper, is one of the strange and scandalous mysteries of the evolution of science, and a tale seldom told straight, in a tradition too many wish to fix with their own agendas and unable to quite handle the unconforming Wallace (cf. Brackman's A Delicate Arrangement). The Darwinians simply don't get it. The text contains a selection of Wallace's spiritualist views, and while these are caught up in the confusions of the first discredited 'new age' and theosophical movements of the nineteenth century and helped to discredit him, they do register Wallace's deeper insight finally than Darwin's into the problems in evolutionary theory, taken as a thesis about natural selection. Noone seems to grasp that Wallace not only co-discovered selectionist evolution, but was able to see the catch in the resulting account of the descent of man, which is the emergence of potential, not explicable in terms of adaptation. Someday the world will catch up with Wallace.
This fine book is slightly marred with Gould's tendentious remarks about Wallace in a short preface. If Wallace's reputation suffers it is partly because the Darwinian establishment keeps him in a box, witness this preface with its polite sideswiping. I hope it will increase sales with Gould's name and that readers will skip the preface for the book. Gould was quietly nervous about this aspect of his Darwin obsessiveness.
It is a mystery if ever there was one.
Stand back and consider the remarkable set of facts involved in the duo, starting with Darwin's early paper, Wallace coming from behind, the unnecessary sending of the paper to Darwin (he could have had the credit, the overall constellation of events and the resulting dialectical spread of views, something quite different from one man producing a theory. Does it not strike one as quite odd? To the Darwinian reinventors of Plato's Cave, it won't seem odd at all, they are too far gone.
I hope this is the beginning of a new proper account of biological theory, Wallace to the fore. Darwin's delay, and the missing letters, and the rigging of the Linean Society papers, do not bode well for the always-propped-up reputation of the Great Founder beside the real one, depicted here. Excellent book.

Wallace in a nutshell
Alfred Russel Wallace was one of the nineteenth century's most brilliant observers of man and nature. He is best known for his working out of the theory of natural selection, and the way his communication to Darwin on the subject propelled the latter into action resulting in his "On the Origin of Species." But Wallace was much more than this, and had interests a good deal more far-ranging than Darwin's. In addition to his natural selection connection, Wallace can reasonably be credited as the founder of the modern school of biogeographic thought, as history's foremost tropical naturalist and field biologist, and as one of the founders of the science of exobiology. So too, he was one of his period's most vocal supporters of spiritualism, a leader of the land nationalization movement, a prominent socialist, and an outspoken supporter of women's suffrage and opponent of mandatory vaccination.

With credentials like these, it is hardly credible that he is as little known today as he is. Certainly his "other man" status viz. Darwin hasn't helped, but neither did he during his own life attempt to draw attention to himself in all these connections. Add to this a perfectly clear and enquiring mind, a bit of naivety, and one of the most uncompromisingly pro-"little guy" understandings of the human condition, and you have a personality who is much overdue for re-examination.

Berry's anthology continues (but does not end) the recent Wallace renaissance. Berry has done a remarkable job of covering the range of Wallace's interests in just one volume, though to do so he has had to provide excerpts rather than whole works (with the exception of two or three of Wallace's most famous essays). He has also gotten the history right, and provided an editorial narrative that is mostly right on target, and pleasantly composed. If you are the kind of person who likes adventures in the realms of logical and sympathetic thinking, you'll love this collection!

Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms
Published in Hardcover by Vintage/Ebury (A Division of Random House Group) (05 November, 1998)
Author: Stephen Jay Gould
Amazon base price: $
Collectible price: $35.00
Buy one from zShops for: $9.98
Average review score:

As usual, a nice collection of essays by Gould
I have greatly admired Stephen J. Gould's essays over the years because I generally find them clear and humane. I tend to agree with most of his evolutionary views, although I think that he pushes too much the roles of contingency and natural selection in the history of life. Certainly, there are other biological mechanisms acting on evolutionary change, some of which have been brilliantly discussed by Stuart Kauffman in his book "At Home in the Universe." In any case, in "Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms," Gould again presents us with some food for thought. I found the essay on the separation of the scientific and religious realms of thought ("Non-Overlapping Magisteria") quite appropriate for people in the United States in particular, but my favorites were "A Lesson from the Old Masters," "Brotherhood by Inversion (or, As the Worm Turns)" and "Triumph of the Root-Heads," not only because Gould is at the top of his writing skills explaining difficult biological or paleontological ideas, but because the phenomena themselves are so incredible. Other essays were somewhat trivial (I really didn't see much in "Can We Truly Know Sloth and Rapacity?") and even forced (despite its undeniable humane message, "The Diet of Worms and the Defenestration of Prague" comes to my mind). I would imagine that, despite Gould's impressive intellectual talents, meeting a monthly schedule for "Natural History" magazine for such a long time in some instances must result in repetition and lack of interesting subjects to write about. If you are an avid Gould reader, however, this book will not dissapoint you.

Gould succeeds in making da Vinci human.
Can you imagine what it must be like to take an essay test in one of Stephen Jay Gould's classes? He's not only a better scholar, he's also a better writer. He demonstrates this admirably once again in Leonardo's Mountain of Clams. The title essay, which opens the collection, explores da Vinci's motivations in exploring fossil history. Gould stands in awe of da Vinci's genius, but he also shows how the scientist/artist was also clearly a figure of his own time -- and a bit of a celebrity to boot. The other essays are solid, but they lack some of the whimsy that made his earlier books so enjoyable. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is a solid narrator and doesn't intrude on the listening, the way some "name" celebrity readers have been known to do.

Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and The Diet of Worms
As Stephen Jay Gould's writes another book of thought provoking essays, here he toys with us with the title to this book.

The title is about two seperate essays and they are well written. Understanding nature itself is what Gould is doing here... making a point in his customary brillance. There are short biographies, puzzles and paradoxes, all the time Gould is leading us through his thought prossess and reasoning.

This is a very good collection of essays and well worth the time to read.

Read and enjoy.

Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History
Published in Hardcover by W.W. Norton & Company (January, 1993)
Authors: Stephen Jay Gould and Jay Gould
Amazon base price: $22.95
Used price: $0.80
Collectible price: $3.00
Buy one from zShops for: $8.99
Average review score:

Another superb collection
This is a mid-point Gould. As his essay style progressed, his essays lengthened, his topics widened and the books kept selling more and more. This is a collection of beautifully written essays, which even with the passage of time lose none of their freshness - the eight little piggies of the title are even more important now with all the recent research on early tetrapods. A good place to start for anyone who's not read Gould before

Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History
Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History by Stephan Jay Gould is pure Gold or is that Gould. This is the sixth in a series of books on Gould's essays found in "Natural History."

We find Gould in a more contemplative mood within these pages, being reflective and personal as he speaks about the importance within our lives of the connections to our past and ancestral generations. But as Gould would put it, " a theme of supreme importance to evolutionists who study a world in which extinction is the ultimate fate of all and prolonged persistence the only meaningful measure of success."

There are essays on extenction, fishtails and frog calls, the coloration of pigeons, the eyes of mole rats, and an in depth personal essay about his maternal grandfather. This last essay brought some fond memories back to me, as I was growing up... yet time waits for no man.

For variety, range, depth and a refinement in writing style, this tome is one of Gould's best, as you read, Gould hits his stride and leads you toward his conclusions, just like my grandfather taught me to be observent and not take things for granted. But to question, the way things are as they seem, just like Gould does to his readers, bringing information to them and through observation and a brilliant mind making things clear.

This is an eductional book, as well, as you read, Gould makes the reader learn painlessly... a good storyteller of thirty-one essays that are truly fascinating.

Read and enjoy this well thought out collection of essays.

Gould is good
I admit im not the most interested in some of Gould's subjects (evolution and biology) but he is a great storyteller. He sometimes attacks, sometimes defends some of histories greatest thinkers. I think i'll probably read most of his books (so far 3) in the next few years simply because I like his style and diverse content.

Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth
Published in Hardcover by W H Freeman & Co (January, 1998)
Authors: Lynn Margulis, Stephen Jay Gould, Karlene V. Schwartz, and Alexander R. Margulis
Amazon base price: $39.95
Average review score:

Life¿s vast pageant
This book is a stunning compendium of the range of life forms found on our planet. Margulis and Schwartz describe it as "a catalog of the world's living diversity." It is a vividly descriptive assortment of selected examples from the Five Kingdoms of life formulated by R.H. Whittiker. The authors stress how much new knowledge, particularly in the study of unicellular life forms, has been gained in recent years. They explain how classification identifies organisms and show how modern techniques have led to the expansion of life's kingdoms from two to five. A description of prokaryotes and eucaryotes is given, followed by the body of 92 phyla descriptions. The book is arranged to be either studied as a reference or browsed as an introduction to biological forms. Each entry is carefully organized with the type of information [environment, measurement scales, diagrams] in a consistent location.

However, this is more than simply a collection of illustrative examples of various organisms. The most fascinating chapter relates the authors' proposal to modify one of the standard classifications of life - the Protoctists, replacing Whittiker's Protists. "The Kingdom Protoctista is defined by exclusion," they state. "Its members are neither animals, plants, fungi nor procaryotes." Their common characteristics are nucleated cells, some kind of flagellum and live in an oxygenated atmosphere [unlike many unicellular forms which cannot tolerate oxygen. Their argument contends that many multicellular forms are more
directly related to these unicellular forms than they are to other multi-celled organisms. The new classification "also solves the problem of blurred boundaries that arises if the unicellular organisms are assigned to the multicellular kingdoms." They list 27 phyla [of 36 total]with diagrams exhibiting a range of bizarre structures and life cycles.

Another noteworthy entry is Trichoplax adhaerens. Remember the name of this creature - "it is the simplest of animals." Composed of but a few thousand cells, it is a dull gray body just visible to the unaided eye. In looking at the photo and diagram of this creature invokes a sense of wonder - this is, after all, a distance relative living in the nearest aquarium with the shad.

This book is a delight to browse following one of the authors' intents. Their second purpose, using this book as a reference, is even more admirably met. Clear photographs coupled with excellent diagrams, including typical environments of the selected specimens, add visual support to a readable text base. Any reader interested in the way life is structured and seeking insights into evolutionary development would do well to consider this book. It's not an academic text, but conveys a wealth of meaningful information.

Surprisingly Fun
Although this is primarily intended to be an illustrated reference guide, it's a surprisingly fun one to thumb through. Part of that is the delight of looking at pictures and illustrations of some truly strange organisms (science fiction writers should really buy this book to see what genuinely alien creatures are like), but also due to the plethora of interesting facts.

I know that when I was reading through the section detailing the Animal phylla, I was struck by how many creatures -- entire phyllums -- get along without even rudimentary brains (or digestive systems, respiratory systems, circulatory systems, or even organs, altogether, in some cases). Likewise I was surprised to learn that only two phylla (including our own) ever developed winged flight.

The sections comprising the non-Animal kingdoms were of particular interest to me mainly for the simple reason that they invariably get little attention from most texts. At best, you'll usally find a chapter dealing with micro-organisms as a whole, and a brief chapter on plants. To see how much sheer diverity there is in just the Fungus kingdom is eye-opening.

I will note that the book does assume a basic level of biological literacy and that it sometimes throws jargon at the reader with little warning or explaination but, as a whole, this is a very accessible work and well worth having on one's shelf.

WOW-- it's all linked.
At first, a person like myself might seem somewhat hard to convince that all the 100's of thousands of species on the planet can be divided up into just five kingdoms or "Groups." However, by the half way mark I could not only see how this is true--more importantly I could understand--and agree with the author. What this truly gifted scientists has done is to "break down" the walls of convention and show people (even myself) how it all really worls. Lynn Margullis is the worthy sucessor to Charles Darwin. Period.

Related Subjects: Author Index Reviews Page 1 2 3 4 5 6

Reviews are from readers at To add a review, follow the Amazon buy link above.