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The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  310 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Ackerman journeys in search of monarch butterflies and short-tailed albatrosses, monk seals and golden lion tamarin monkeys: the world's rarest creatures and their vanishing habitats. She delivers a rapturous celebration of other species that is also a warning to our own. Traveling from the Amazon rain forest to a forbidding island off the coast of Japan, enduring everythi ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published January 14th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  310 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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Mar 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
This is the second Ackerman book I've tried, and the second I've put down after less than fifty pages. I only tried again because of my interest in the book's topic, endangered and extinct fauna. Fool me twice, shame on me.

On the plus side, this book did reaffirm why I dislik her writing style: overuse of metaphor. Instead of judiciously sprinkling metaphors where needed to better explain a concept or to draw a pleasing parallel, Ackerman seems to work towards a quota. Two or three per sentence,
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
So after reading The Zookeeper's Wife, I wanted to see what else Diane Ackerman had out there. Of course I was happy to learn that she loves animals and has written a few books about her adventures. I was able to find this at my library. Though it took me a while to get through (summer is always busy!) I finally finished and I really liked it. I do like Ackerman's writing - it can be so lyrical and thoughtful, though at times it was a bit too sappy for me. I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars but ...more
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Diane Ackerman's writing for the same reason I love Annie Dillard; both have excellent science backgrounds, and both write like philosopher/poets.

If you don't have time to read the whole book, the introduction itself is a small gem. I had to smile when she talks about pulling out The Home Planet by Kevin W. KelleyThe Home Planet, which is one of my favorite books of photographs of earth taken from space. As she looks through the book, she says, "the book contains visual mnemonics of how I feel about nature...From the de
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Rarest of the Rare.

Books are windows on the world. I rely on writers like Diane Ackerman to take me places that I perhaps will never get to go. Ackerman is a poet that likes to explore, as she writes in “Rarest of the Rare,” another collection of her adventures in faraway places.

“In the rain forest, no niche lies unused. No emptiness goes unfilled. No gasp of sunlight goes untrapped. In a million vest pockets, a million life-forms quietly tick. No other place on earth feels so lush. Sometimes w
Dec 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, nonfiction
This is my first encounter with Ackerman, a nature writer that I've heard much about. I think I bought this book in a library sale many, many years ago and finally read it for Book Riot's Read Harder challenge this year. Ackerman travels the world, visiting with endangered species - monk seals, golden lion tamarins, albatrosses (I can't remember which specific species) - and the people who are working to study and save these species. She really only provides glimpses into this, and this book is ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author gives us vignettes of excursions she took to observe endangered wildlife. She provides us with colorful word paintings of the sights, sounds, and scents of creatures and their environments. There are factoids to help us understand the ebb and flow of this web of life. There are other books that offer more concrete science; this book is more about inspiring interest in biodiversity.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ackerman has a lovely personal way of writing about the wonders of the world. She calls herself a nature ecstatic and that description is perfect! Not all essays in this collection are equally interesting but I enjoyed the language throughout.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Classic Ackerman. Beautifully rendered portraits of creatures and habitats you didn't know you cared about until you opened this book. Now you'll never forget them.
Carl Rollyson
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Diane Ackerman, working once again as a kind of poet of the
natural world, chronicles her interactions with and meditations
on a series of endangered species and habitats.Diane She has
a gift for describing natural phenomena
in a manner, at once direct and lyrical, that allows readers to
participate with her in her adventures in spheres both familiar
and strange. In THE RAREST OF THE RARE, her focus shifts from
the exotic short-tailed albatrosses, golden lion tamarinds
to the well-known monarch butter
Sep 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Purple prose. Purple, like when Jason Stackhouse took too much V and his you-know-what swelled up like an eggplant. Purple, like Barney. I needed to read no further than the introduction, where, excuse me if I'm on crack, but the author calls an airplane a "steel mastodon". Are airplanes extinct but resembled elephants? Do they have big wavy tusks? I don't get it.
Her over-written, flowery, and corny prose flat-out drowns, suffocates, and obliterates any insights or interesting facts that just mi
Bendick Ong
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Ackerman did it again! This is the second book I'd read written by her. My first, the moon by whale light, was the most heartening read, which caused me to want to read more of her fabulous stories - each being an adventure of its own.

The stories about amazon fishes and insects are not that impressive, the ones on monk seals and tamarins are more engaging, but I love the writings on short-tailed albatrosses and monarch butterflies most. Their migration across oceans and continents is the most in
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I have a theory that each writer has a place somewhere in the world that will make him bloom artistically if he can find that place. Just as 1930s Paris ignited Henry Miller, the Amazon fired up the imagination of Diane Ackerman (not that she wasn't an accomplished writer before traveling there). In "In the Amazon, Where the Sun Dines," one of the reportage pieces here, Ackerman's rich prose is well-matched by the fecundity she sees around her. She wrote, "There was so much life at every level t ...more
Geof Huth
Took me just under 8 months to read this book only while I was microwaving my lunch on those few times I'm at the office and eating lunch. (NB: reading occurred only during microwaving, not during the eating of the lunch, except for today, when I decided to finish reading the last page's worth of the book at the beginning of lunch.) Not sure if I'll try to do this with another book or not.

An interesting book on rare and extinct-leaning animals, but it loses much of its power as it goes on. The e
Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I almost put this one down after only 5 pages being read, and I don't regret my choice to have continued until the end. Ackerman is very inspiring to animal and nature lovers alike and she makes one want to go off on a wild goose chase trying to find and study some rare endangered animal so that you might tell their story to the ignorant masses. I'm well aware of many species disappearing from our planet but was surprised by her choices of animals to persue, having no idea how beautiful, importa ...more
Megan O'keefe
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-books
Diane Ackerman is absolutely a new favorite author of mine. I am currently reading two of her other books. The Rarest of the Rare was the first book of Ackerman's that I read after she was recommended to me by a friend. She doesn't simply write about her life experiences, she truly describes and uses language that makes you feel like you were there or like you want to be there. I found myself re-reading passages several times as well as reading them to other people. Fantastic book!
Maggie Jaicomo
Sep 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book. Diane Ackerman seems like such an interesting lady with lots of experiences to share. But the one thing I just couldn't get over was how hard it felt like she was trying to be poetic. Well I enjoy prose and I believe it adds to the reading experience, not every single object needs that much description and some of the analogies were just plain bad.
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
I have to admit that my favorite part of this book was the introduction. Based on that, I thought I was going to love the book. I became bored with the rest of the book, though, to the point that I actually started skipping pages, which is something I never do. There's something about Diane Ackerman's writing style that I just don't care for.
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
I admire Diane Ackerman's writing- both her subjects and her skill at creating word paintings. (Apparently people either love or hate her style.) In this 1995 book she examines vanishing species and fragile ecosystems. Fascinating.
Erica Ferencik
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Diane Ackerman, just by her writing, has done this planet a great favor. The more people read her work and identify with her passion for the wonders of the natural world, the better chance we all have of surviving our own self destruction.
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ackerman writes non-fiction in a way that's beautiful but still understood. This book was wonderful. It made me want to visit the Amazon and also visit with monk seals and tamarins. A quick, easy, engaging, fascinating read.
Hannah Thomas
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting little book that gave off some ways of nature that are among the rarest events and species that I didn't know about until now. If you're interested in nature itself and beauty, this something you would find fascinating
Patricia Joynton
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Read this some time ago, and came across it to add. I enjoy her writings, and recall enjoying the book, but don't recall all the details. Perhaps I should reread it.
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
A travelogue written by a poet-philosopher. Highly recommended!
Sep 07, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: animals, science, nature, own
Love Ackerman's work
Tim Sutton
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Another incredible collection of essays from the magnificent hand of Diane Ackerman.
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely transcendent. Possibly the most poetic science writing ever committed to the page. LOVED it.
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Stacy Schuttler
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Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the bestsellers The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses.

The Zookeeper’s Wife, a little known true story of WWII, became a New York Times bestseller, and received the Orion Book Award, which honored it as, "a groundbreaking work o
“At some point, one asks, "Toward what end is my life lived?" A great freedom comes from being able to answer that question. A sleeper can be decoyed out of bed by the sheer beauty of dawn on the open seas. Part of my job, as I see it, is to allow that to happen. Sleepers like me need at some point to rise and take their turn on morning watch for the sake of the planet, but also for their own sake, for the enrichment of their lives. From the deserts of Namibia to the razor-backed Himalayas, there are wonderful creatures that have roamed the Earth much longer than we, creatures that not only are worthy of our respect but could teach us about ourselves.” 26 likes
“In the rain forest, no niche lies unused. No emptiness goes unfilled. No gasp of sunlight goes untrapped. In a million vest pockets, a million life-forms quietly tick. No other place on earth feels so lush. Sometimes we picture it as an echo of the original Garden of Eden—a realm ancient, serene, and fertile, where pythons slither and jaguars lope. But it is mainly a world of cunning and savage trees. Truant plants will not survive. The meek inherit nothing. Light is a thick yellow vitamin they would kill for, and they do. One of the first truths one learns in the rain forest is that there is nothing fainthearted or wimpy about plants.” 9 likes
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