Tag: science

Review – The Garden Jungle

Posted July 11, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Review – The Garden Jungle

The Garden Jungle

by Dave Goulson

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 288
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

The Garden Jungle is about the wildlife that lives right under our noses, in our gardens and parks, between the gaps in the pavement, and in the soil beneath our feet. Wherever you are right now, the chances are that there are worms, woodlice, centipedes, flies, silverfish, wasps, beetles, mice, shrews and much, much more, quietly living within just a few paces of you.

Dave Goulson gives us an insight into the fascinating and sometimes weird lives of these creatures, taking us burrowing into the compost heap, digging under the lawn and diving into the garden pond. He explains how our lives and ultimately the fate of humankind are inextricably intertwined with that of earwigs, bees, lacewings and hoverflies, unappreciated heroes of the natural world.

The Garden Jungle is at times an immensely serious book, exploring the environmental harm inadvertently done by gardeners who buy intensively reared plants in disposable plastic pots, sprayed with pesticides and grown in peat cut from the ground. Goulson argues that gardens could become places where we can reconnect with nature and rediscover where food comes from.

For anyone who has a garden, and cares about our planet, this book is essential reading.

The Garden Jungle is Dave Goulson’s paean to the richness and diversity we can create within our own gardens. Some of what he describes feels beyond out of touch — I have no idea if he realises how unlikely it is for other people to own enough land for a whole orchard, but you couldn’t tell from reading it — but his enthusiasm is genuine. He’s mostly interested in the insects, to be honest, with only brief mentions of other wildlife (like hedgehogs) that can thrive in our “garden jungles”. I’m pretty certain one thing our own tiny wildflower meadow is doing is providing shelter to the local hedgehogs as they forage, and that’s great.

It’s a fun read, and some of his footnotes made me smile. I was a bit less enraptured than I was by his book about bees, to be honest; I couldn’t say what would’ve made it better, but perhaps a little more attention to continuity between chapters. It’s a bit funny to read him in one chapter telling you that garden centres are selling plants laden with pesticides that will kill the insects in your garden, and in the next suggesting that you can go to buy plants at a garden centre and just look at the ones the insects land on… I’m certain that both are good suggestions in their way, but, hmmm.

I was interested by his stance on non-native plants. I personally feel that in some cases we’d be merely closing the barn door, and also that if we want anything to grow and thrive at all, we may need to bend with the conditions. The way humans ferry seeds about has been a part of how nature works for a very long time — it’s hard to draw a line now and say “this plant is a native, even though it was brought to the UK by the Romans” and “this plant is non-native, because Victorians brought it”. In the end, we need to focus on what thrives, and nurture as much biodiversity as we can — wherever it will grow. Goulson is rightly cautious about that, but not as preachy as some can be, accepting that some non-natives fill a valuable niche here.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The History of the World in 100 Animals

Posted July 5, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The History of the World in 100 Animals

The History of the World in 100 Animals

by Simon Barnes

Genres: History, Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 416
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

We are not alone. We are not alone on the planet. We are not alone in the countryside. We are not alone in cities. We are not alone in our homes. We are humans and we love the idea of our uniqueness. But the fact is that we humans are as much members of the animal kingdom as the cats and dogs we surround ourselves with, the cows and the fish we eat, and the bees who pollinate so many of our food-plants.

In The History of the World in 100 Animals, award-winning author Simon Barnes selects the 100 animals who have had the greatest impact on humanity and on whom humanity has had the greatest effect. He shows how we have domesticated animals for food and for transport, and how animals powered agriculture, making civilisation possible. A species of flea came close to destroying human civilisation in Europe, while the slaughter of a species of bovines was used to create one civilisation and destroy another. He explains how pigeons made possible the biggest single breakthrough in the history of human thought. In short, he charts the close relationship between humans and animals, finding examples from around the planet that bring the story of life on earth vividly to life, with great insight and understanding.

The heresy of human uniqueness has led us across the millennia along the path of destruction. This book, beautifully illustrated throughout, helps us to understand our place in the world better, so that we might do a better job of looking after it. That might save the polar bears, the modern emblem of impending loss and destruction. It might even save ourselves.

I really enjoy books that try to tell a history through a number of objects or people or, in this case, animals. Simon Barnes’ A History of the World in 100 Animals is more or less that, but it was marred for me by the fact that I couldn’t actually determine any governing organisation here, not even alphabetical. The stories did all pick up on the theme of how humans have interacted with animals, of course, but they didn’t lead into each other — animals which shared a similar theme could be separated by most of the book. They weren’t organised by type of animal, or location, or type of interaction… any organising principle that I could think of.

As such, it felt like a bit of a weird read, whipping from one topic to another. There are certainly ways to organise this kind of book (chronologically, for instance), which would’ve made it flow better.

That said, there are certainly some fascinating stories of human interaction with animals (and it is pretty much all about human interaction with animals in one way or another). Where I know my stuff, it’s accurate, though the utter lack of footnotes or bibliography is worrisome.

It’s beautifully presented, with matte colour images accompanying many (if not all) of the stories).

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Vinyl Frontier

Posted June 12, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Vinyl Frontier

The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record

by Jonathan Scott

Genres: History, Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 288
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

The fascinating story behind the mission, music, and message of NASA's Voyager Golden Record -- humanity's message to the stars.

In 1977, a team led by the great Carl Sagan was assembled to create a record that would travel to the stars on NASA's Voyager probe. The Vinyl Frontier reveals the inside story of how the record was created, from the first phone call to the final launch, when Voyager 1 and 2 left Earth with a playlist that would represent humanity to any future alien races that come into contact with the probe. Each song, sound and picture that made the final cut has a story to tell.

The Golden Record is a 90-minute playlist of music from across the globe, a sound essay of life on Earth, spoken greetings in multiple languages, and more than 100 photographs, all painstakingly chosen by Sagan and his team to create an aliens' guide to Earthlings. The final playlist contains music written and performed by well-known names such as Bach, Beethoven, Chuck Berry and Blind Willie Johnson, as well as music from China, India and more remote cultures, such as a community in Small Malaita in the Solomon Islands.

Through interviews with all of the key players involved with the record, this book pieces together the whole story of the Golden Record. It addresses the myth that the Beatles were left off of the record because of copyright reasons and will include new information about US president Jimmy Carter's role in the record, as well as many other fascinating insights that have never been reported before. It also tells the love story between Carl Sagan and the project's creative director Ann Druyan that flourishes as the record is being created.

The Golden Record is more than just a time capsule. It is a unique combination of science and art, and a testament to the genius of its driving force, the great polymath Carl Sagan.

I don’t know how it took me so long to get round to starting Jonathan Scott’s The Vinyl Frontier, because the Golden Record (as included on Voyager 1 and 2) is a fascinating topic. I’m glad I finally got to it, because Scott writes a lovely biography of the Golden Record here (and a bit of a eulogy for Carl Sagan, too). He captures perfectly the naive hope of it, along with the genuine hard graft, and the difficult thinking to find ways to portray humanity that might mean something to an alien encountering it when we are gone.

He covers the human part of it as much as the technical side (or more so even), and his portrayal of the relationship between Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan is tender and sympathetic. I’ve no idea if it was as lovely and inevitable as he makes it sound, and I’m sure Carl Sagan was no saint, not even a pothead saint, but Scott’s clear admiration is actually enjoyable to read.

Thinking about the Golden Records does always make me imagine someone finding them. I often imagine, though, it’s more likely to be our own descendents. Regardless, what would they or those alien to us make of it all? I wonder.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Lapidarium

Posted June 6, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Lapidarium

Lapidarium: The Secret Lives of Stones

by Hettie Judah

Genres: History, Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 336
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

Inspired by the lapidaries of the ancient world, this book is a beautifully designed collection of true stories about sixty different stones that have influenced our shared history

The earliest scientists ground and processed minerals in a centuries-long quest for a mythic stone that would prolong human life. Michelangelo climbed mountains in Tuscany searching for the sugar-white marble that would yield his sculptures. Catherine the Great wore the wealth of Russia stitched in gemstones onto the front of her bodices.

Through the realms of art, myth, geology, philosophy and power, the story of humanity can be told through the minerals and materials that have allowed us to evolve and create. From the Taiwanese national treasure known as the Meat-Shaped Stone to Malta’s prehistoric “fat lady” temples carved in globigerina limestone to the amethyst crystals still believed to have healing powers, Lapidarium is a jewel box of sixty far-flung stones and the stories that accompany them. Together, they explore how human culture has formed stone, and the roles stone has played in forming human culture.

Hettie Judah’s Lapidarium is a really beautifully presented book. Not just the cover (though yes, that’s gorgeous), but with the coloured tabs on the sides of pages, the organisation of it, the colour images, etc. I feel like the only thing is lacking there is more realistic images of the various stones, rather than just one canonical image — and especially images of some of the sculptures and examples the stories refer to.

The text itself varies a bit: some stones are more interesting than others. It luckily doesn’t feel like she’s just shoehorning everything into the same space: some stones get a couple more pages than others, while some are short and sweet.

Overall, it’s lovely to look at and there were some interesting titbits, but I feel like it gets more points for presentation than content! Not that the content is bad, either, but it’s very bitty and disconnected, there’s no overarching narrative, and that makes it a book designed for dipping in and out of more than anything.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Sleeping Beauties

Posted June 5, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review – Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties: The Mystery of Dormant Innovations in Nature and Culture

by Andreas Wagner

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 352
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

Why do some of nature’s marvels have to wait millions of years for their time in the sun?

Life innovates constantly, producing perfectly adapted species – but there’s a catch.

Animals, plants and even human inventions can languish for eons, despite having everything going for them. Once you start to look, those ‘sleeping beauties’ crop up everywhere. But why?

Looking at the book of life, from apex predators to keystone crops, and through cutting-edge experiments, Andreas Wagner demonstrates that innovations come frequently and cheaply to nature, well before they are needed. Look at prehistoric bacteria with the remarkable ability to fight off 21st-century antibiotics. And human history fits the pattern too, with life-changing technologies invented, forgotten and rediscovered before they finally took off.

Andreas Wagner’s Sleeping Beauties is a book of two halves: the first half posits a modified idea of how evolution works, which is mostly common sense once it comes down to it. The point is that things which don’t currently help organisms survive but might in future already exist, and it is these which evolution often acts on. It’s easiest to understand in the microscopic world: a bacterium which has never encounted penicillin can nonetheless be completely immune to it. How? Because there are other adaptations which just happen to also allow it to evade the action of penicillin. This can be through “promiscuous” enzymes, which do one job but also have a sort of general function. Evolution can select for organisms which have that, and those organisms with the best match for penicillin survive and multiply. The enzyme gets better and better suited to handling penicillin, until it looks purpose-made for that — but originally it was handling something completely different.

Wagner also talks a bit about de novo new genes, and points out that of course (completely according to common sense if you understand genetics) those genes don’t appear from nowhere. Instead, they’re random transcripts in an open reading frame that happen to have a start codon and a stop codon. Those transcripts can do useful things, perhaps regulating other genes, or producing random peptides that boost a microbe’s resistance. That’s enough to create something that can be useful and can be selected for.

The second half of the book goes on to discuss this same concept of “sleeping beauties” in other fields, including technology and art. To me, this is the lest interesting half, and kind of just obvious (technology sometimes needs to wait for other circumstances in order to be useful; art sometimes doesn’t fit current tastes, but later takes off because tastes change); I’m amused to notice another StoryGraph review which finds the biology part irrelevant and boring, and finds the second part much more interesting. I think it depends on your existing interests.

From the blurb of a previous book by Wagner, I’d expected something a bit less evidence-based, and I think it’s because it did something dramatic like suggest it aimed to show that “Darwin was wrong about how evolution worked”. But Darwin’s theory was general: he didn’t know yet about genes or anything about how inheritance works. Modern knowledge expands and refines his theory, rather than (at least so far) outright contradicting it. Nothing I read here contradicts Darwin, it just illustrates how beautifully the theory fits what we observe: organisms adapt because the ones which can handle new challenges survive and the others don’t. Those that survive, breed. Those that survive best, breed most. And so the species change and change.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Doctor Who Fooled The World

Posted May 27, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Review – The Doctor Who Fooled The World

The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Andrew Wakefield's War on Vaccines

by Brian Deer

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 416
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

From San Francisco to Shanghai, from Vancouver to Venice, controversy over vaccines is erupting around the globe. Fear is spreading. Banished diseases have returned. And a militant “anti-vax” movement has surfaced to campaign against immunization. But why?

In The Doctor Who Fooled the World, award-winning investigative reporter Brian Deer exposes the truth behind the crisis. With the page-turning tension of a detective story, he unmasks the players and unearths the facts. Where it began. Who was responsible. How they pulled it off. Who paid.

At the heart of this dark narrative is the rise of the so-called “father of the anti-vaccine movement”: a British-born doctor, Andrew Wakefield. Banned from medicine, thanks to Deer’s discoveries, he fled to the United States to pursue his ambitions, and now claims to be winning a “war.”

In an epic investigation, spread across fifteen years, Deer battles medical secrecy and insider cover-ups, smear campaigns and gagging lawsuits, to uncover rigged research and moneymaking schemes, the heartbreaking plight of families struggling with disability, and the scientific scandal of our time.

I’ve always felt that Andrew Wakefield was a murderer — growing up with my mother, who is a doctor, I’m not sure any other opinion was possible. As someone who’s now studying for a degree in infectious diseases, I feel it even more. So my comment on picking up Brian Deer’s account of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud, The Doctor Who Fooled the World, was that it was surely going to raise my blood pressure.

It did, of course. The very beginnings of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud could have been, possibly even were, an honest attempt to look into a hypothesis. But then money got involved, big money, and he saw his name writ in lights — and he wanted it so badly. He still wants it, and he’ll do anything for it: that is apparent in all his actions.

It doesn’t help that I don’t think (from Deer’s account anyway) that Wakefield really understood the science that he was having others do for him. He latched onto theories suggested for him by non-scientists, and tried to make them true by force of will, altering the evidence until it suited his purposes. It also likely wasn’t helped by other people around him, convinced by his charisma, trying to get him the results he wanted.

This is why we start out with a null hypothesis. We go in assuming that we’re wrong, and it requires clear evidence that meets criteria that suggest it didn’t happen by chance in order to change our minds. Even then, even when we’re got a likelihood of P = 0.05, that’s still a chance that we got this result by chance (to be accurate, P = 0.05 means that there’s a 5/100 = 1/20 chance that the observed result arose by pure chance). Deer doesn’t go into the depths of whether Wakefield had a null hypothesis, or what his P-values looked like, but the rest of his descriptions inspire no confidence, along with the fact that he refused to conduct a proper, blinded trial when it was offered to him on a silver platter.

If you’re a scientist, you don’t say no to the chance to run a fully funded study that will prove or disprove your theory — not unless you think there’s a significant chance you’re wrong, and you want to make money out of the ambiguity that you might just be right.

Deer discusses all kinds of ways in which Wakefield created and perpetuated his fraud, and also some of the human impact thereof. It’s a journalist’s point of view, so sometimes the scientific detail I crave isn’t there, but it’s explained well and clearly for a layperson. It’s difficult to say I enjoyed this, but it was valuable.

I don’t think it would convince anyone who isn’t already willing to be convinced, unfortunately, but if someone’s on the fence, it might help.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Monarchs of the Sea

Posted May 21, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Review – Monarchs of the Sea

Monarchs of the Sea: The Extraordinary 500-Million-Year History of Cephalopods

by Danna Staaf

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 256
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

Before mammals, there were dinosaurs. And before dinosaurs, there were cephalopods.

Cephalopods, Earth's first truly substantial animals, are still among us: their fascinating family tree features squid, octopuses, nautiluses, and more. The inventors of swimming, cephs presided over the sea for millions of years. But when fish evolved jaws, cephs had to step up their game (or end up on the menu). Some evolved defensive spines. Others abandoned their shells entirely, opening the floodgates for a tidal wave of innovation: masterful camouflage, fin-supplemented jet propulsion, and intelligence we've yet to fully measure. In Monarchs of the Sea, marine biologist Danna Staaf unspools how these otherworldly creatures once ruled the deep—and why they still captivate us today.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Danna Staaf’s Monarchs of the Sea is a fascinating tour of the evolution of cephalopods. I am very very late to review it, and I’m sorry for that because it was fascinating. I’d never quite understood that ammonites were cephalopods before, somehow, so that was a surprise, and I was delighted to read more about them and the diversity of their shells. It’d be nice if some modern cephalopod was evolved from an ammonite, really, but Staaf does suggest it’s pretty unlikely.

This is the kind of non-fiction I really enjoy: a deep-dive on a particular subject, not afraid to get into the weeds, and glowing with the author’s fascination for the topic. I don’t know if I could stomach dissection, but she makes even that sound fascinating — I bet she’s great at teaching it.

I was especially fascinated by the discussion of the modern cephalopods and what’s become of their shells, the very last vestiges thereof. Fun!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Eve

Posted May 17, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Eve

Eve: How The Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution

by Cat Bohannon

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 621
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

How did wet nurses drive civilization? Are women always the weaker sex? Is sexism useful for evolution? And are our bodies at war with our babies?

In Eve, Cat Bohannon answers questions scientists should have been addressing for decades. With boundless curiosity and sharp wit, she covers the past 200 million years to explain the specific science behind the development of the female sex. Eve is not only a sweeping revision of human history, it's an urgent and necessary corrective for a world that has focused primarily on the male body for far too long. Bohannon's findings, including everything from the way C-sections in the industrialized world are rearranging women's pelvic shape to the surprising similarities between pus and breast milk, will completely change what you think you know about evolution and why Homo sapiens have become such a successful and dominant species, from tool use to city building to the development of language.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It would be easy for a book like Cat Bohannon’s Eve: How The Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution to get all gender essentialist about things, and I was completely braced for it. I also wouldn’t have been surprised if the book just ignored the existence of trans people, since how we currently understand and perceive gender variance is often quite divorced from stuff that might be obviously related to evolution.

So I’m going to say up front that it doesn’t go in that direction, and Bohannon mentions trans people and trans bodies where relevant, often with the caveat that (unfortunately) we don’t have the same volumes of data to go on, and in some cases studies just haven’t been done. The book does focus on sex rather than gender, mostly (there’s some stuff about stereotype threat that’s more gendery), but transness is mentioned where appropriate.

It’s a chonky book, and there are a lot of footnotes, sometimes multiple per page; at times, that makes it a bit too dense and overwhelming. Each aside takes you away from the main point of the narrative, and ultimately I found it rather distracting, even where the footnotes were useful or interesting. Sometimes it kind of had the effect of a student trying to show you they know a lot about a topic by inserting an only slightly relevant footnote on the topic (I’ve never done that, I swear); sometimes it just felt like a digression.

Regardless, I really enjoyed it, even if the organisation felt a little overwhelming at times. It focuses on the ways evolution had to work on female bodies: pregnancy and lactation, the implications of pair-bonding for offspring, behaviours that needed to go with the physical changes, etc. It isn’t my exact area of interest, so it’s hard to evaluate some of the claims: evolution must’ve acted on male bodies too, but sometimes it seems like there’s not much left that can be about the males of the species, based on this! But it’s interesting, and Bohannon writes very clearly about a whole range of topics.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Missing Lynx

Posted May 12, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Review – The Missing Lynx

The Missing Lynx: The Past and Future of Britain's Lost Mammals

by Ross Barnett

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 352
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

In The Missing Lynx, Ross Barnett uses case studies, new fossil discoveries, biomolecular evidence and more to paint pictures of these extinct species, and to explore the significance of the lynx's disappearance in ecological terms. He also discusses how the Britons that these animals shared their home with might have viewed them, and why some survived while others vanished.

Barnett also looks in detail and the realistic potential of reintroductions and even of resurrection--topics that capture public interest today. With Beaver now wild again in various parts of Britain and even Great Bustard on Salisbury Plain, what about the return of sabretooths, mammoths, and the aurochs to modern ecosystems? Will we ever be able to bring these animals back? And should we?

At a time where rewilding is moving from pie-in-the-sky to actual reality, this timely and important book looks from a scientific perspective at the magnificent megafauna we've lost, why we lost it and what happened as a result, and how we might realistically turn the ecological tide.

Once upon a time, megafauna were common all over the world, but after a certain point in time, they began to disappear. Mammoths. Mastodons. Cave lions. Cave bears. Aurochs. Irish elk. And what was the common factor? Well, as Ross Barnett says in The Missing Lynx, probably us. Probably humans.

The Missing Lynx digs into the lives of a few of these different creatures, trying to understand where they came from and where they went, focusing mostly on the lives of animals once found in the British Isles which are extinct now (in some cases worldwide, in others just in the UK). In some ways it’s a sad story — think of all we’ve lost. But Barnett is enthusiastic, fascinated, and that made the book pretty compulsive reading.

I did find it weird that beavers apparently count as megafauna: I always think way bigger, somehow! But apparently beavers count, and they are indeed pretty cool.

It’s easy to get pessimistic when you read books like this, showing how humans were a major driver in extinctions. Somehow Barnett’s enthusiasm wins out over that, with some optimism that if we can learn to look at ourselves, we can begin to fix this through reintroductions, rewilding, and perhaps (though he’s sceptical of this and rightly so) resurrection.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Mountains of Fire

Posted May 2, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Mountains of Fire

Mountains of Fire: The Secret Lives of Volcanoes

by Clive Oppenheimer

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 368
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

Volcanoes mean so much more than threat and calamity. Like our parents, they've led whole lives before we get to know them.

We are made of the same stuff as the breath and cinders of volcanoes. They have long shaped the path of humanity, provoked pioneering explorations and fired up our imaginations. They are fertile ground for agriculture, art and spirituality, as well as scientific advances, and they act as time capsules, capturing the footprints of those who came before us.

World-renowned volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer has worked at the crater's edge in the wildest places on Earth, from remote peaks in the Sahara to mystical mountains in North Korea. His work reveals just how entangled volcanic activity is with our climate, economy, politics, culture and beliefs. From Antarctica to Italy, he paints volcanoes as otherworldly, magical places where our history is laid bare and where nature speaks to something deep within us.Blending cultural history, science, myth and adventure, Mountains of Fire reminds us that, wherever we are on the planet, our stories are profoundly intertwined with volcanoes.

There’s no question about Clive Oppenheimer’s fascination with volcanoes — that shows in every page of Mountains of Fire, and in every recollection of the risky things he’s done for the science and love of volcanoes. Every time he mentions a risky climb or measuring gases above an active volcano, you can see that not only does he want to know about volcanoes, he wants to know volcanoes as individuals, and understand them. That extends not only to their physical properties, but the stories and superstitions around them as well.

That’s where the book was strongest for me. I want to be interested in volcanoes and how they work, but it’s one of those rare topics where it doesn’t really seem to catch my interest, even when digging into the nitty-gritty detail… and even when the writer is as enthusiastic as Oppenheimer proves to be. It doesn’t help, of course, that a lot of it describes the political and practical problems around the study of volcanoes (almost a whole chapter is dedicated to not managing to go to sample a specific area due to threats of kidnapping and violence).

I was interested enough to finish the book, but not interested enough to feel an itch to pick it up and keep reading. I can’t say that it’s dry or anything like that, it’s just not one of my pet topics, and thus it didn’t keep me turning the pages. I really think it’s a case of “it’s not the book, it’s me”.

Rating: 3/5

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