"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review and quotes: THE SIXTH EXTINCTION

: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Book Beginnings quote: Prologue:

Beginnings, it's said, are apt to be shadowy. So it is with this story, which starts with the emergence of a new species maybe two hundred thousand years ago. The species does not have a name--nothing does--but it has the capacity to name things.

Friday56 quote:

Darwin's familiarity with human-caused extinction is clear from On the Origin of a Species. In one of the many passages where he heaped scorn on the catastrophists, he observed that animals become rare before they become extinct. 

Summary: Scientists believe there has been five mass extinctions during the history of the planet Earth. Currently the sixth extinction is under way and it will be as catastrophic the one caused by an asteroid that slammed into the planet causing the extinction of all the dinosaurs. The sixth extinction is happening faster than one can imagine and will likely be the most lasting legacy of the humans who have caused it.

Review: I've wanted to read this book since it won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 2015. When it showed up as a book club library kit for check out, I selected it for my club over a year ago. Little did I know at the time that we would be embroiled in a catastrophic pandemic when it finally came our way. Club members discussed whether or not we should read it now. Would it be too deep and depressing for us to tackle? We decided to give it a try and I think everyone was glad that we did, though only three of the nine gals actually read the whole book.

     The first five chapters or so are pretty dense, looking at evidence of extinctions going back millions of years and talking about creatures that we've never even heard of before. But as the author started talking about the evidence of this, the sixth extinction, the book became easier to read and almost un-put-downable. What is happening to amphibians, bats, rhinos, and to coral reefs is so frightening. If we don't get a handle on climate change, and fast, our ocean will become unlivable due to the acidification of it. It was a real call to action. Though very depressing at the core, it also has some points of hope, showing how many people are working on solutions to reverse the course we are on and how we can help.

     It is maybe not the book one should recommend for people to read right now in the midst of our pandemic lock-downs. Or maybe, and this is what I think, it is the perfect book to read when one has time to ponder ways they can change their own lives for the better, to help reduce their own carbon footprint. Either way, add it to your reading list. It is a must read for sometime in your life, the sooner, the better. After you read it,  watch the David Attenborough's 2020 documentary called "Life on this Planet" available right now on Netflix. It is a powerful video on the same topic by the famed naturalist who says the film is his witness statement and hope for the future.

Book Club discussion questions: (I didn't find any questions from the publisher. So I grabbed a copy of the questions assigned to tenth grade readers by their Biology teacher in some school. We all decided that questions directed at 10th graders was about the right level for us.)

The Sixth Extinction Discussion Questions 

  1. The hallmark of evolutionary biology is adaptability. Is the main challenge facing our era the speed with which we are forcing things to adapt? Explain. 
  2. Describe the causes and effects of ocean acidification. 
  3.  Which of Kolbert's examples seems most compelling/troubling to you, and why?  
  4. If humans have a place in the natural balance, should we expect the planet itself and other organisms to adapt and evolve in response to our impact? 
  5. How has "the new Pangea," as Kolbert calls it, accelerated certain threats to various species' future around the globe? 
  6.  "The Thing with Feathers" (chapter XIII) alludes to Emily Dickinson's poem "Hope is the thing with feathers" (Poem 314). After reading Kolbert's book, where do you see some hopeful possibilities? 
  7. Has reading this book changed your views about climate change in any way? How so? 
  8.  What specific steps might you take to counteract the trends that Kolbert describes in her book?

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.   


SOTH Book Club, October 2020


  1. It does sound like a heavy book for right now. But maybe this is the time to read something like that, like you say.

    Sorry the linky was acting up this week. I added your link.

    1. At first I couldn't make myself red it because it felt like I was living it and then I buckled down and read it and was so glad I did.

  2. Ooh...I totally want to read this one! Fingers crossed my library has a copy. :)

  3. Sounds fascinating!!! Happy weekend!

  4. Wow! Initially, my reaction was "oh, no, definitely not now!" But then, as I read on, your mention of ways we can change things seemed like a great reason to tackle it. Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

  5. Sounds like an interesting book.

  6. It seems especially important now, doesn't it.

  7. I'm not big on non-fiction and definitely not science. But gosh, this one will keep even my attention.

    Thanks for show-casing it.

  8. Sounds like a very interesting read. Hope you have a great weekend! :)

  9. Hi Anne,

    This sounds like my husband's cup of tea more so than mine, however if it is perhaps suitable to be dipped in and out of, rather than being read in a couple of marathon sittings, then I think it is perhaps one I should read!

    Perhaps the species we threaten so much are actually destined to become extinct now that we have experienced and enjoyed them, so that new species might rise from the ashes for future generations to study.

    Perhaps those new species will take one look at we humans and decide that our time here is over and we need to be eradicated and replaced.

    I guess I believe that we can all try to improve our climate and earth, both for ourselves and for those species we are so hell bent on destroying, however unless we are all pulling in the same direction, the results will never be those we are hoping to achieve.

    And many of those things are outside of our control, as they are politically motivated and influenced by corrupt governments and officials around the world, all in the name of individual profit and greed!

    Maybe reading this book will stress me out even more than I am right now! :)

    Thanks for sharing and I hope that you managed to get some good discussion going at your Book Club :)

    Yvonne xx

    1. If the acidification of the ocean continues to rise I don't think anything currently living on earth will be able to survive.

  10. This sounds like such an interesting read. Very relevant right now. I am glad it offers some hope that change is possible. We need every glimmer of hope we can get right now. I hope you have a great weekend!

  11. Interesting! I'm finishing up back-to-back non-fiction right now, but I'll have to remember this one after I catch my breath. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your week :)

  12. This book is one of those that I feel I SHOULD read, but I really don't want to. Maybe I'll watch the David Attenborough show instead. :-)


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