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The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species
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The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  173 ratings  ·  24 reviews
"A thoughtful examination of the machinery of extinction . . . By turns harrowing and elegiac, thrilling and informative." --Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times"
Three or four times an hour, eighty or more times a day, a unique species of plant or animal vanishes forever. And yet, every so often one of these lost species resurfaces. "Having adventures most of us can only
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Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 11th 2003 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2002)
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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from ... by Aldo LeopoldThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanThe Lorax by Dr. SeussDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
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Gone Forever: Recently Extinct Animals
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Melody
A knockout book. Weidensaul is a very, very good writer. He's uproariously funny when he's relating hardships from the bush and heartbreakingly understated when he's discussing species teetering on the brink. I liked this book so well that before I'd finished it I was online ordering everything he's ever written from my library. Highly recommended for nature geeks.
Katrina
Terrific. I recommend reading this, as I did, with a tablet or computer nearby to look up the animals he mentions. Even when the author write about things I wouldn't have thought would interest me, I found myself easily swept up in the topic. I can't wait to read more of Weidensaul's books.
Scott
I have read several of Scott Weidensaul's other books, and I find his writing to be lush in detail, informative, and interesting. Although Weidensaul has often written books about birds, and in spite of the title here, this book illustrates the breadth of his naturalist credentials. Extinct birds (or birds on the shadowy fringe of existence due to extremely small populations and/or shrinking habitat) figure prominently, but there are also excursions to Tasmania to search the last known haunts of ...more
trishtrash
Intriguing and hopeful, Scott Weidensaul’s book – part travelogue, part natural history, part treatise on humankind’s tendency to compromise, annihilate and then, often, venerate a species – is somehow far less depressing reading than I expected. This is in large part due to his own variety of faith, one shared by most biologists with a personal ‘holy grail’ of brink-of-extinction creature… the belief in a beleaguered scrap of life being just out of reach and just out of sight, secretive and sta ...more
Stephen
If you follow the world of ornithology, you know the name ivory-billed woodpecker, the famous “Ghost Bird” of the South. Is it extinct or not? In 2004, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced they had rediscovered the bird in the Big Woods of Arkansas but the most revered lab has yet to get clear, indisputable photos of the bird. There have been “teasing glimpses and tantalizing sounds,” but no definitive visual documentation.

What does that mean? Is Cornell wrong? And is the "Ghost Bird" just
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Nik Perring
I read The Ghost With Trembling Wings for pleasure. And I was hooked. I was glued to it. It is a wonderful book.
It's written by author and naturalist, Scott Weidensaul, and it chiefly deals with extinction; the definition of which I found particularly interesting ie. a species is considered extinct if it hasn't been seen by a western scientist in x number of years. Not particularly watertight then. I'll not go into too much detail (I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone and there's a terrific rev
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Ryan
Ostensibly about the author's attempts, or accounts of those of others, to rediscover supposedly extinct animals (mostly birds), with some off tangent forays into cryptozoology, which I felt to be off topic. While the author seems to be an optimist who harbors hopes that many species remain even though labelled extinct, I could not share his enthusiasm given the sheer pervasiveness of humanity that has left its mark on every square inch of this planet. I even think it dangerous to encourage the ...more
Jennifer
(review originally written for Bookslut)

The Ghost with Trembling Wings is easily the most enjoyable science book I have read since The Botany of Desire. Tidbits from this book brought up in conversation have made me sound more intelligent and well-read at parties, and isn't that why we read non-fiction? The main topic of the book, the search for lost species, is something most of us have thought about. Although few people lose any sleep over the thought of an invertebrate species being lost to t
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Emily Crow
A fascinating look at the power that extinct species has on the human psyche. Some people long for a particular vanished animal, like the ivory-billed woodpecker or the thylacine, and continue to search for it. Alleged sightings continue decades after most biologists have agreed that the creature is extinct. Some people are not satisfied to simply look and hope, but have tried to recreate these missing creatures through breeding programs or cloning experiments. Finally, there is a chapter on the ...more
Raven
Weidensaul does a great job of writing about a subject in terms that the average person can understand. The biological and preservation field that the book covers can be laden with scientific terms and jargon (trust me I studied it briefly and sometimes my head would hurt). It covers a range of topics such as lack of evidence not necessarily being lack of specimens, sightings, new discoveries, cloning, and that pesky ivory-billed woodpecker. As an animal lover it opened my eyes to several aspect ...more
Maryanne
The Ghost with Trembling Wings:11092006 Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species Scott Weidensaul


Approximately 30,000 species of animals and plants go extinct every year.
Emily
Purchased on clearance because I was in Australia and out of reading material, I expected the Ghost with Trembling Wings to be dry or overly philosophical, but I was wrong. Each chapter focuses on a different species and a different aspect of species preservation, lost species, and even cryptozoology. Readable and fascinating, the book has a refreshing hopeful tone without ignoring the alarming rate at which species are disappearing.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that Weidensaul actually got o
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Elizabeth
Of course it has a fabulous hook, species which may or may no be extinct, and the mysteries which surround last sightings and mythical recordings etc. 'Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence' as a central edict. He writes with the grace of a mystery writer, pulling us along, interweaving species' risky survival, rumored demise, and leaves us hanging as to what really happened, making us read, turn those pages, until the next chapter, the next ideological/geographic link... This is a book ...more
Andrew Brady
big shout out to all the Cone-Billed Tanagers out there
Brenda
I enjoy all of Scott Weidensaul's books.
John
While not labeled as a book about conservation or environmentalism, this book covers both topics well. It the exploration of extinct species we learn about the impact that humans have had on the planet. it is inevitable that species will become extinct, even without human intervention. However, we have had some impact in the years that we've existed.

This book helped me see the impact that everyone has on the environment, whether intended or not.
Debbie
After reading Living on the Wind, I tried this one out. Instead of migration, he writes about extinction and the ways we think about it or deny it. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the "big" chapter, since it's been such an obsession recently, but the other extinct species get their due. The retelling of the last days of the last Passenger Pigeon made me a little weepy.
Katie
I read this book last semester for a paper on animal conservation. It was pleasantly written so that I really enjoyed the project. Through Weidensaul's research I really learned a lot about how destructive mankind has been in the past.
Amy
I enjoyed this book much than I expected, given the subject matter. It was well written and engaging, I just wish it were a little more recent.
Susan
Please read chapter 4. To paraphrase, "If ferrets were the size of dogs, no one would be able to leave their house." Grins
Linda
Learn more about how humans are f*#%ing up the planet!
Kathy
Excellent reading for any natural history buff.
Benni
Thoughtful, informative, and a great read.
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Born in 1959, Scott Weidensaul (pronounced "Why-densaul") has lived almost all of his life among the long ridges and endless valleys of eastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of the central Appalachians, a landscape that has defined much of his work.

His writing career began in 1978 with a weekly natural history column in the local newspaper, the Pottsville Republican in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
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More about Scott Weidensaul...
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent's Natural Soul Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians

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