Synopses & Reviews
Charles Darwin was a bumbling neophyte naturalist when he boarded the Beagle in 1831. Through the five years that followed, as the ship hugged the coastline of South America, Darwin found himself wading through waist-deep mud, climbing towerlike trees in the rain forest, and scaling craggy Patagonian cliffs as he closely observed the relationship between the wild creatures he stalked and the astonishing, utterly unfamiliar landscapes where he found them. At the end of these adventures, Darwin emerged a philosophical naturalist who could draw scientific truths from the simple stories contained in the creatures he encountered. What happened to Darwin?
That's the question Lyanda Lynn Haupt engagingly explores in a narrative that puts us inside the young Darwin's shoes, and brings us nose to nose with dung beetles, ostriches, and all forms of native wildlife. By focusing mostly on the birds Darwin observed, and by brilliantly mining his lesser-known writings (diaries, correspondence, ornithological journals, unruly little pocket notebooks) Haupt illuminates the process of discovery that shaped Darwin's vision. Her book not only chronicles Darwin's transformation from uncertain amateur to genius but reminds us how and why, in our own world as well as Darwin's, attention to small things can make a big difference.
Read exclusive essays by Lyanda Lynn Haupt: 2009 and 2013