Is three stars unfair? The book certainly achieved its goal of conveying vastness of the trees and forests themselves, the timescales they operate on,Is three stars unfair? The book certainly achieved its goal of conveying vastness of the trees and forests themselves, the timescales they operate on, and the interconnected lives and forces that define and sustain them. Generally, structuring the book around time worked to that effect. There were some very eloquent passages, and a great deal of new-to-me information about Douglas-fir trees and forests.
But, there were also times when casual word choices and strained metaphors undermined the depth of preceding passages. Some new bits of information were anchored in the [life-cycle/one-tree-bio/history-of-botany] framework, but many others dissolved into trivia as we jumped between topics that seemed to emerge on a whim or from a checklist.
Overall, it's a quick and engaging read, likely to enhance appreciation and understanding of this ecosystem, and ecology as a whole, for those who do. I only wish the book more closely reflected its subject in form, that the authors has taken a bit more time to pull all the elements together so that they could nourish and transform each other, as they do in the forest. ...more
I'm confused by a review that describes this book as concise, because I found it to be anything but. It seemed like the entire manuscript had been choI'm confused by a review that describes this book as concise, because I found it to be anything but. It seemed like the entire manuscript had been chopped up into paragraphs and rearranged, then never reworked for logical flow. It jumps from topic to topic in a not-at-all-charming way. It introduces terms 20 pages after the main discussion they were relevant to, if at all. It triggered far too many eye-rolls and sighs of exasperation in me, particularly at the awkwardly syrupy, sweeping, citation-needed passages that end many "chapters."
I also don't feel like I actually learned much new about evolution. "Hey, guess what? Organelles used to live outside! Wacky, right?" Yes, I've heard. That's why I'm here.
The science itself is scant and buried in answers to relevant, but less exciting questions: Historically, who has come to similar conclusions and been rejected by the larger scientific community? Which aspects of their ideas are wrong and right? Who disagrees with the author, and why are they wrong? What happened when she went through the halls that one time?
Oh, the anecdotes and autobiographical information! Yes, these are pivotal events in the journey to her eventual area of study, but I was not prepared for this! I wanted to read about symbiogenesis! RAAR!
Aside from those memoir bits, perhaps the book is an accurate reflection of how science is done. Occasionally you look through a microscope or something, but mostly you're wading through academic papers, dissecting their ideas, and responding to criticism.
That may excuse much of the content, but not the form. Not all scientists can write books for a general audience by themselves. That's fine! They shouldn't! The problem is she did.
P.S. You can't object to the personification of Gaia and then call her "a tough b*tch" on the next page where it suits you....more
This book is full of supercool information, pun intended. Though an introduction, it covers many sub-topics in surprising depth. Without Marchand's elThis book is full of supercool information, pun intended. Though an introduction, it covers many sub-topics in surprising depth. Without Marchand's eloquence, the presentation of hundreds of studies could easily have been twice as long and half as intelligible.
That said, this is more of a textbook than a pop-sci read, so the language can be a bit dry, and is best suited to shorter reading sessions. But again, it's quite accessible; unless extremely put off by charts or the occasional simple (and well explained) formula, anyone with interest will be rewarded with some fascinating insights into the interconnected lives of winter-active organisms.
Life in the Cold satisfies the curiosity of anyone who's shoveled a walkway and exposed a tiny tunnel system, or examined the density layers in a cross-section of the snowpack. It shows you what's actually happening inside the deciduous trees going dormant, and how the evergreens are affected by and affect their surroundings. And, have you ever watched deer wade through snow at 30 below and wondered why their legs don't fall off? Even if you haven't, the answer is pretty awesome.
Finally, going beyond the image of the polar bear on a shrinking iceberg, a chapter on climate change addresses the disappearance of the very patterns and conditons that shaped cold-climate adaptations, and a few of the the ways life is coping (or not) with their now-foreign landscape. That part's a bit upsetting.
Fish, insects, humans... it's all covered. An eager novice deserves an overview that retains complexity, and Marchand delivers. As the second proper snow of the season approaches, I look forward to winter walks with this read under my belt....more