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The Galápagos: A Natural History

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  327 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Charles Darwin called it "a little world within itself." Sailors referred to it as "Las Encantadas"- the enchanted islands. Lying in the eastern Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator off the west coast of South America, the Galápagos is the most pristine archipelago to be found anywhere in the tropics. It is so remote, so untouched, that the act of wading ashore can make ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Basic Books (first published March 13th 2014)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Marie
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, nature
This is a fascinating book about the Galapagos Islands, covering their history, geology and amazingly diverse speciation. The Galapagos are an archipelago of volcanic islands that contain an enormous amount of endemic species. This book details early voyages that either incidentally or purposefully visited and began exploration of these islands, including Darwin’s visit. It discusses the plant and animal life on these islands through which it is easy to see the mechanisms of evolution at play ...more
Nikki
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This isn’t a very substantial book, really: each chapter is fairly brief, and focused on a fairly broad swathe of the creatures living on the famous islands, often focusing on one or two representative examples when it’s a large family of critters. This works quite well for the layperson, avoiding going too in depth on any one subject that might become boring, while still offering an introduction to the wealth of variety and beauty in the Galápagos islands. A lot of it, of course, is related to ...more
Jean
This is a most interesting book about the Galapagos Islands. Nicholls describes the history, geology, sea birds, plants, invertebrates, land birds, reptiles and ocean life. I particularly enjoyed the section about the famous giant tortoise including Lonesome George. He also describes the sea turtles.

The UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in 2006 warned the Island is at risk. The number of the visiting tourists having reached the tipping point for the conservation of the Islands. The area was
...more
Gillian
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Nichols touches on every aspect of the Galápagos Islands from the ground up in chapters such as "Rocks", "Ocean", "Plants", "Reptiles" and lastly "Humans". By the end of your first read, you will be equipped with a basic understanding of the islands' history, native species, and environmental conservation efforts. "The Galapagos" is an engrossing and easy read that I found informative and enjoyable.
Shannon
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wonderful survey of the history and environment of the Galapagos islands. Very interesting, if rather short. He didn't go into very much detail with all the elements, but it was interesting and informative. Recommended for anyone who is interested in the Galapagos, or looking into visiting the islands.
Kathy
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book describing in more depth than the usual travel books full of anecdotes about Darwin, bits of information on studies that were done supporting Darwin's theories and the development of the islands . Not too scientific, wonderfully interesting, especially of you have had the great fortune to visit the islands.
Vicky
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a decent read. It provided some nice information without being overly "Darwin". I have read the "Origin of Species" and find it so full of conjecture, holes, and racism that it is humorous how many have fallen for this theory hook line and sinker. Overall a good read to make before traveling.
Vicky Hunt
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Serious Misnomer: But Good Survey
These Brits seem intoxicated with their explorers, as is often the case. Aside from a bit of hero worship for dead Scientists, The Galapagos: A Natural History is a light survey of the geologic, animal, and plant life on the archipelago, which is part of Ecuador. Very light. The author adds quite a bit of history about the various explorers who collected and studied the life on the Galapagos, tortured and killed the animals in experiments, and the sailers who
...more
Niland Mortimer
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good overview of the natural history of the Galapagos Islands, with many fascinating historical references. Read in preparation for a trip.
spockcrig
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
An example of a quintessential read for the Natural History enthusiast. Though fairly succinct and relatively vague, Nicholls has captured through snapshot chapters the wonderful essence of the Galapagos and its history from firey conception to present political position. Furthermore, it unexpectedly (though delightfully) reveals some interesting flourishes and characteristics of its wildlife inhabitants including a particularly disturbing insight into the social interactions between Red-footed ...more
Bethany
May 20, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I loved the format of this book, it's broken up into big concepts like "Rocks," "Reptiles," "Seabirds," etc. The chapters are very short but well written and give a great broad view of the history and ecology of the islands.
I do have to say that the human chapters made me sad. I'm heading to Galapagos soon and hearing about the politics and frank corruption makes me feel uneasy about tourist $$$. I guess this tension between exploitation (or in a more positive view for a developing
...more
Eileen
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the recommended books to be read before going to the Galapagos. It was good in that it gave fairly current information about the laws that are in place now, and what the Ecuadorean government has done to protect the islands. They learned a lot in the earlier years, so that now there are many things being done to protect the treasures that they have there.

Nicholls has the books divided in a way that makes sense. He tells you what animals you will see on which islands and how some
...more
Sally
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read it because I want to travel to the Galapagos one of these days. The natural history gave me a lot of information about why the Galapagos is unique and how it came to be so. There is also an appendix on "how to travel to the Galapagos" which gave good insights into when and how to book your trip (land or water). It also talked about the impact humans are having on the island, and that it's probably fair to only visit once, as you should let someone else have a turn. Really good, and ...more
Julie
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well written, concise, and informative. I read this book while I was in the Galapagos and found that most of the information I got from tour guides was either repeated or contextualized in this book.
Janice
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting overview of Galapagos including history, geology, wildlife and human impact, as well as the challenges facing the islands and their inhabitants.
Elaine
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent information about the history of the islands and the evolution of the flora and fauna. Told in a very focused and engaging way, with fascinating detail. For example, learn about not only the discovery/exploration of but also the migration of Ecuadorians to the islands; how the fact that giant tortoises could survive without food or water for a year led to their massive slaughter (probably more than 200,000) in the mid-1800s... A captivating read, especially as I prepare for a trip to ...more
Lois
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. I got to read a lot of it lying on a beach in Northumberland, so I was hoping for seals, dolphins and puffins in real life, but instead got iguanas, tortoises and boobies in a book! I boggled at the water and air temperatures during a volcanic eruption, omg! So readable and easy to dip in and out of. I have to return it to the library tomorrow... so sad. I will come back to this book. ...more
Connor O'Brien
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short and punchy tour through the Galapagos

By adopting a slightly unconventional structure (with each chapter devoted to a single component of the Galapagos Islands' ecosystem), Nicholls is able to pack this work full of fascinating tidbits in only a couple of hundred pages. A good launch pad for further thinking and exploration on ecotourism and the history and future of conservation.
Susie
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I bought this book to acquaint myself with the Galapagos before heading there for my trip in May. A great start for those looking to read up on the natural history of the islands. The book is divided into chapters that target specific species of flora and fauna; thereby giving readers a very concise, rudimentary overview of everything they need to know.
Paul
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A thoroughly enjoyable romp through the natural history of the Galapagos Islands. With chapters focusing on separate features, such as the geology, sea birds, and reptiles it has historical tales, Darwinian postulations and fascinating facts. In the final chapters it discusses the human impact on the islands, with interesting tips about how to visit, and leave a lighter footprint.
Tara
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Great introduction to The Galapagos, each chapter is a summary of a different aspect of the Islands- rocks, ocean, land birds etc. The writing is really engaging, it's very clear the author has great enthusiasm for science and for the islands, very enjoyable read and introduction.
Mike Steinharter
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read in just a couple days. Nice little book with overview in advance of our trip. Covers geography and various plants and animals and a nice writing style that is an easy read. CAnt wait to visit.
Gary Lang
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great primer about the islands

We are going to go there in a couple of months. I can’t imagine a better introduction to the literature, science, and history of the Galapagos Islands.
Julia
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Informative and an easy read! This book is a great primer to the flora and fauna of the island. I would have preferred a bit more detail, but I understand why the author chose a broad brush strokes approach. Great for getting inspired for my upcoming trip to the islands!
Catherine
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a really interesting book about the Galapagos, especially if you have been there and seen it.
Jane
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Traveling to the Galápagos next winter. I will listen to this again before I go. The books starts slow but isn’t too bad for science info.
Jamie
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good, quick account of the diversity and history of the Galápagos Islands. Perfect primer for anyone visiting the island or who has watched Planet Earth enough times that they want to know more.
C.C. Thomas
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
This book is one of those that are so delightful to own and to read. It is a tactile pleasure for the true bibliophile, one of those rare breed who love the feel of a book as much as the words within. The cover illustrations immediately draw the reader to the pages and are reminiscent of John James Audubon's best work. The deckled edges, heavy paper, and cream tone make it feel like a gift book. If you're thinking of purchasing, definitely buy the print version because the physical components ...more
Pierke Bosschieter
Ably written, concise overview of the natural history of the Galapagos islands. Listening to the audio book version I sometimes thought I was listening to Simon Winchester. John Adams' voice is very reminiscent of the voice of Simon Winchester. The clear prose style also does resemble Winschester's prose. So I was lured in under false pretenses, but it was definitely worth the listen, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Rebecca
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, nonfiction
An effortless yet well-referenced read. The chapters took me on a breezy tour through Rocks, Ocean, Seabirds, Plants, Invertebrates, Land Birds, Reptiles, and Humans Parts I, II, and III. The science and conservation anecdotes would have hooked me, anyway, but the author's passion and sense of humor made the pages turn even more quickly. I'm now obsessed with visiting the Galapagos, but I may have to settle for rereading this book for now.
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Henry is a journalist, author and broadcaster, specialising in evolutionary biology, conservation and history of science. His first book Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon was about the Galapagos Archipelago and global conservation.
He is also the author of The Way of the Panda: The Curious History of China's Political Animal, which charts the intertwined fortunes of giant
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