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The Boilerplate Rhino by David Quammen

The Boilerplate Rhino (edition 2012)

by David Quammen

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335732,882 (3.89)6
Title:The Boilerplate Rhino
Authors:David Quammen
Info:Scribner (2012), Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Boilerplate Rhino: Nature in the Eye of the Beholder by David Quammen



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I'm a science junkie myself and have always heard wonderful things about Quammen, especially from my father, whose opinion I value greatly. I admire authors who can make science coherent and comprehensible to the average reader but who do not simplify that science. It's a difficult task, one few writers handle successfully. And Quammen certainly is one of those writers. However, I was disappointed by this collection because it felt so haphazard, like an author trying to please an overeager acquiring editor by saying, 'Hey, lump some of my columns together and sell them as a book.' It was, therefore, a disappointing read to me, as it had no coherent narrative and, frankly, some of the essays were clunkers, at least for Quammen. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
I love David Quammen. One of our best nature writers. This is a collection of his essays from Outside magazine; it makes a good break between other books. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
Natural history/Nature
  Budzul | Jun 1, 2008 |
A selection of David Quammen's essays from Outside, The Boilerplate Rhino: Nature in the Eye of the Beholder is a nicely-written, often humorous compilation of popular natural history writing at its best. Quammen has a knack for interesting connections and off-the-beaten-path finds which, combined with his quick wit and thought-provoking style make for a great read all around.

I enjoyed each of the twenty-five pieces, from Quammen's musings on durian fruit to the conundrums of just why there are so many different sorts of beetle and just what the heck is a slime mold, exactly. He seems just as much at home discussing Albrecht Dürer's rhinoceros as Thoreau's Walden or Percival Lowell's mythical Martian canals or Guamanian cuisine (which, apparently, includes fruit bats).

Further reading ideas are given for each essay, which is always appreciated, and Quammen's bibliographic disclaimer made me laugh out loud (not for the first time in the book): "Since this bibliography is intended primarily as a guide to your further reading and a way of giving credit to other authors where credit is due, rather than as a manifest of my (amateurish and risible) scholarship, I have refrained from ferreting out and supplying all that first-edition information. Also, there's the fact that it would have made me crazy" (pg. 257). Personally, I (and, I suspect, others) actually prefer knowing which particular edition of a work a writer used.

Along with Quammen's other books, I recommend this one, whether for an occasional dip or a concerted full read.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2007/08/book-review-boilerplate-rhino.html ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 29, 2007 |
Quammen is one of my favorite science writers. Great essays on natural history. ( )
  FionaCat | Apr 16, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743200322, Paperback)

David Quammen, a highly regarded popular-science writer (Song of the Dodo) and novelist, brings a range of qualities to his work as an interpreter of nature: a journalist's talent for finding a good story and telling it well, a scholar's conviction that facts matter, and an amateur naturalist's passion for learning about the way things work. For 15 years, Quammen put these qualities to good use in his Outside magazine column "Natural Acts." The Boilerplate Rhino gathers 26 of those columns between book covers, and to good purpose: every one of them is a keeper. Quammen writes of such matters as the entirely reasonable human fear of spiders (which he shares) and snakes (which he does not); of the work of such groundbreaking theoreticians and thinkers as E.O. Wilson and Henry David Thoreau; of the history of American lawns; the life of the durian fruit; the commodification of nature by way of television documentaries; the strange scholarly fortunes of Tyrannosaurus rex; and the landing patterns of cats in free fall. (Really.) A single theme underpins these scattered pieces: namely, how humans "in all their variousness, regard and react to the natural world, in all its variousness." Quammen explores this theme with good cheer and hard-won knowledge, and his essays teach his readers much about the world. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:42 -0400)

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