Book review: ‘The Flight of the Iguana: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature’ by David Quammen

Science, journalistic and autobiographical essays.

The Flight of the IguanaThis is an early collection of essays from David Quammen, the man who later brought us The Song of the Dodo, Monster of God and The Reluctant Mr Darwin. It doesn't really need any more recommendation than that.

Most of the essays were originally written as magazine articles, so they are short and very readable. The majority of them are natural history essays, but there is also some journalism and some personal reminiscences.

My favourite essay in the collection described how the paucity of genetic diversity in wild cheetahs might have been caused by their removal from the wild by humans, who used them for sport hunting. Another surprisingly moving essay, the final one in the book, describes how Quammen, a keen angler, returned to an old fishing haunt to try to recreate some of the magic of the past—and failed.

Oh yes, the eponymous iguana: it came from the Galápagos Islands, and its flight was assisted by a young scientist named Charles Darwin.

Many thanks to Michael Barton of The Dispersal of Darwin for spotting this book on my Amazon wish list and kindly posting me his spare copy.

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
Buy my book: On the Moor: Science, History and Nature on a Country Walk
…wonderful. Science and history and geography and evolution and culture all tangled up in musings while walking about the moors around Hebden Bridge.”—PZ Myers
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