Naming Nature caught my attention primarily because I have just recently started working on learning some of the scientific names for various creatures around the neighborhood, and I was curious about the "clash" mentioned in the title.
The book turned out to be a moderately interesting discussion of the history of scientific naming and categorization coupled with the argument that, at some point (pretty much with the combination of cladistics and computers), most people decided that "nature" was something best left to scientists and let themselves be distanced from experiencing themselves.
Yoon is earnest, almost painfully so. There were plenty of new things to learn from the book, but little sense of excitement or wonder; I am glad I read it because I personally wanted to know more about categorization, and I definitely wanted to know more about cladistics (not that it turns out to be anything I'll likely use myself; Yoon is right; that particular method of categorization is well outside the amateur's range), but I'm disinclined to recommend it to other people for casual reading.
I don't entirely buy her premise, either; I'd say that city life--which she does mention--and increasing busyness have more to do with the disconnect than whether or not science is currently recognizing fish.
One thing that really did bother me was the way endnotes were handled: There were endnotes, but in-text, there was no indication that they were there. That is, in the back, the first few words of whatever sentence would be listed, and then the note would follow--but in the chapter itself, absolutely nothing indicated that there might be a relevant comment in back. Not good.
All of which winds up with me giving it a lukewarm recommendation: Naming Nature is not a book I hated, but it's a book I might not have finished if I had had other books left in the library bag at the time.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
A sunflower. I do not think it is native, but I suspect the birds will enjoy the seeds all the same.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Thanks to the wide-ranging focus of his work, there are plenty of those "backyard biology" moments I've been looking for in addition to more exotic animals, and his writing is full of readable and memorable bits. There's the tale of the mole that dug its way out of the herring gull that had swallowed it, for example (both died), for example, and then there are bits like this from Every Creeping Thing:
Whether we like them or not, mice are a hit, an improbable success story, if only that they have distributed themselves more widely across the planet than any other mammal apart from Homo sapiens. They have done it with short legs and bad eyes, too, and with less help from us than we generally choose to think.I kept stopping to read pieces like this out loud to whoever happened to be around.
Conniff respects his subject and he respects his audience, he knows what he's talking about, and he has a sense of humor. This is a rare and wonderful combination, and I plan on keeping an eye out for future books.