This is a fascinating book on the history of cartography, and written at exactly the right level for an interested layperson with a decent general edu...moreThis is a fascinating book on the history of cartography, and written at exactly the right level for an interested layperson with a decent general education. The information is dense without being impenetrable.
I learned a ton of interesting facts, was frequently surprised by the order in which things happened and how much technology had been developed at certain time periods, and it explains some concepts of cartography that I vaguely remembered from elementary school so that I finally understood them this time.
My only complaint isn't much of one: it's so thorough, and covers such a huge span of time, that I was only reading about ten pages at a time. Thus, it took forever to read, and by the end, even though I was still learning things, I was anxious to get through it. But that may be more a critique of my attention span than the book.(less)
This book is easy for the interested layperson to read, while not sacrificing accuracy or detail. It would make a great gift for newcomers to Florida,...moreThis book is easy for the interested layperson to read, while not sacrificing accuracy or detail. It would make a great gift for newcomers to Florida, young people who are interested in biology, outdoorspeople who'd like to understand the plants and animals they see while pursuing their sport, or even professionals who want to get up to speed on Florida quickly. It could even be used as a textbook for high school or introductory college classes.
The photos are gorgeous and plentiful, and the text is not jargon-heavy. Unfamiliar terms are used sparingly, and explained when they are. In spite of the textbook-like layout, each chapter devoted to a particular natural community, it's a quick and entertaining read, roughly on the same level as a National Geographic article. It might even inspire you to get out and explore the natural communities it describes.(less)
I read this book in one evening, having picked it up just to look at the first few pages and see if I wanted to read it next. Apparently the answer wa...moreI read this book in one evening, having picked it up just to look at the first few pages and see if I wanted to read it next. Apparently the answer was yes. The writing is very plain and straightforward, making this an extremely fast read.
There are, yes, a few headdesk-worthy incidents here. Jackson is clueless about the local culture (particularly on the first expedition) and has little patience with people who aren't as knowledgeable or enthusiastic as she is. A surprising amount of the text consists of her sometimes clumsy attempts to keep order among her guides, students, and others who drop by the camp. Frustrations and personality conflicts abound, and it frequently seems as if everyone's on the brink of throwing down their tools and going home.
This is, surprisingly, almost as gripping as the snake-catching parts, if only because it's the part where the author is most out of her element. It's as much a story about trying to manage a group of people with disparate personalities in stressful conditions as it is a story about collecting reptiles in the rainforest.
Most of all, and the reason I'm giving this book four stars, is that Jackson conveys both the frustrations and joys of the expeditions in rich and gritty detail. Even absurd situations, like the author being mobbed by termites (of which she's terrified), or trying to find a place to stay while hauling around a decaying cobra, are rendered real and immediate here.
Though I might be the ideal reader for this book (a young, female American biologist who dreams of studying in the tropics), you don't need to know a thing about snakes to appreciate this book. But you might find yourself wanting to learn more about them after you're through reading it.(less)