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Wild Thoughts from Wild Places

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  821 ratings  ·  45 reviews
A collection of thoughts, essays, stories, and profiles from nature provides a look at such different places as the central Amazon, the South Pacific, and Cincinnati, detailing such adventures as kayaking on a Class V river in Chile and tracing the spread of the Ebola virus.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 16th 1998 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1998)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  821 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Oct 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Passage From Book:

Personal ethics involves the drawing of lines: I will go as far as this boundary, here, but I will not go beyond. I will defend myself against physical menace but only pacifically. I will fight if attacked but I won't kill. I will kill if my family is threatened but I won't aggress. I will squash an earwig in the kitchen but not a beetle in the yard. I will eat plants but not animals. I will eat tuna but not dolphin. I will eat goat but not pig. Fruit but not vegetables. I'm a
Mar 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is the second book I've read by Quammen and I very much enjoy his essays, but I have to admit I enjoyed Flight of the Iguana a bit more. Wild Thoughts from Wild Places focuses a bit more on human beings, their activities like fishing and kayaking (and manning nuclear missile silos). It's enjoyable enough, but I found Flight of the Iguana's examination of different species more compelling than ruminations on my own species. I'm funny like that.

The highlight of the book for me was probably th
May 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
This was a very nice book for a summer read, making you float away to other places. But to be honest, I was disappointed by the lack of a real story from the beginning to the end. From the title I was expecting more "wild thoughts" and less "wild places"...
Nevertheless, it is a great book and I loved the writing style, just not what I was expecting.
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mike
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle
I had certain expectations going into this book that I feel I need to declare up front. First, I adored Quammen's Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind, and on the basis of this adoration added Quammen's entire naturalist oeuvre to my Amazon wishlist. Second, I didn't realize this was a collection of previously published essays - not that that would have prevented me from reading it, of course, but I probably would've started elsewhere.

That said, I adored
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-nature
Quammen is Just Great. The essay that opens this collection is called "Synecdoche and the Trout" so please imagine the delights that await after an intro like that. Although my loyalty to Quammen is unflinching, I liked these essays less than his recent stuff. Most of them were taken from magazine articles (he wrote for Outside for a long time)and, based on the demands of that I guess, his prose seems to be playing to an audience of adrenaline junkies and is a little extreme for my taste. A few ...more
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: true-tales
Quammen offers scientific essays on everything from the Super Doves of New York City to the joys and mysteries of monogamy.

Fairly dense chapters lightened by anecdotes; some more engaging than others. Interesting, just took me awhile to get through it. Maybe I would have liked it better if I had skipped around more!
"In Wild Thoughts from Wild Places, award-winning journalist David Quammen reminds us why he has become one of our most beloved science and nature writers.

This collection of twenty-three of Quammen's most intriguing, most exciting, most memorable pieces takes us to meet kayakers on the Futaleufu River of southern Chile, where Quammen describes how it feels to travel in fast company and flail for survival in the river's maw. We are introduced to the commerce in pearls (and black market parrots) i
Ronda Coleman
A perfectly lovely collection of random essays that varied so widely, I couldn't wait to get to the next chapter and find out what story the author would tell next. From trout, trees, Montana, Tasmania, rivers including my favorite Payette of Idaho, I just kept being surprised. How long is a barnacles penis? Or, the ponderings with the Black Currawong, or the whereabouts of swallows in the winter. I just never tired of the next story. Superdoves in New York City, coyotes, mountain lions, reactio ...more
Linda Puente
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, pop-sugar
What a delightful quixotic mix of essays Quammen puts before us. Those who are into extreme sports will find fascinating details of how some of these sports developed while those who enjoy natural history will learn new facts about common species to which we often don't give much thought. I reveled in the precise use of vocabulary, including a few words that were totally new to me, something I don't find much in modern writing. This is perfect bedtime reading, because each essay is of a length t ...more
Joshua Soileau
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Not the typical science writing of Quammen. Some of the essays are better defined as human-interest stories, which is at first misleading, given the title. However, they are still amusing and interesting reads. All in all, a good read that I am happy to add to my Quammen Collection.
Matt Mesa
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A series of previously published magazine pieces. Love Quammen. The essay on Ed Abbey is worth it alone. Will make me re-read Desert Solitaire.
Don  Kent
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This a marvelous collection of previously published essays by a talented author.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just one of my favorite reads on natural history and nature
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
That book was really wonderfull.
I skipped a few of these (notably, ones about rafting and ones about skiing) but there are many beautiful pieces in here.
Doug  L
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best contemporary nature writer. Strawberries under ice is my favorite essay, and there are other good ones too, like reaction wood and eat of this flesh.
Don Gubler
Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Always adds esoteric or hard won facts about his subjects. Clearly loves the natural world and often touches a nerve of longing to go there.
Ann Cooper
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interested compilation of essays on various topics. Some were fascinating, others less so (depended on my natural interest), but all were worth the time to think about.
Apr 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Quammen writes very short, often interesting essays in this book, but I found his all-American childhood, stories of his visits to the Cincinnati Zoo, the history of the old family house more captivating than the writing that directly concerns nature and wild things. Sure, I learned some interesting tidbits of information about the coyotes of Los Angeles, and mountains lion hunting, but it all seemed too superficial. Some of the points he makes about the bioethics of zoos, ethics of hunting, and ...more
Nov 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Not my favorite Quammen compilation, but there are a few gems in there. I thought that maybe I was just growing out of Quammen's writing since I have been reading his essays and books since high school, but in the end, David, I think it's you, not me.

I know more about telemark skiiing now than I ever cared to. For a long time Quammen walked a fine line between geeky-funny and geeky-creepy, and I'm afraid that he's now leapt bodily into the latter category. If I saw him walking down the street,
Frederick Bingham
This is a collection of essays from David Quammen, who writes for a variety of outdoor publications. The basic theme is nature. Most have been published in magazines. Some of the essays are interesting. "The White Tigers of Cincinnati" is about zoos and their role in the world. "To Live and Die in LA" is about coyotes and their spread and adaptability. "Superdove on 46th St." is a similar essay about pigeons. The one I liked most was "The Trees Cyr out on Currawong Moor". This is about the last ...more
Nov 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Quammen's writing style. Its intelligent & scientific but very personal as well as he attempts to blend science and personal narrative. I have to say that this collection does leave a bit to be desired. I think I didn't enjoy it as much as some of his other things because there is no overall structure. Its just a collection of pieces from different magazines and although his style is prevalent, the shortness of the pieces left me feeling incomplete. I think I would just stick to the books ...more
Jun 17, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was a series of 23 essays by science and nature writer David Quammen. I loved the variety of the pieces as subjects ranged from the lives of coyotes living in Los Angeles to a walk taken by the author on Currawong Moor in Australia to "reaction wood" produced by trees to yes, the sex life of barnacles. David Quammen has the gift of taking almost any subject and making it interesting. I'd recommend this book to anyone who would like to stop skimming the surface and pull back the veil to ...more
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fantastic book by a fantastic writer and thinker. This book makes me want to experience life more fully and not waste it. Quammen has a humility and sense of being that is wonderful. This comes across quickly in his stories and essays. I'm looking forward to reading more of his novels soon.

I don't have a strong knowledge of science, physics and math so it was nice to read his stories where he was able to connect nature and science in a beautiful and simple addition to each other.
Jan 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
I expect a very easy and engaging read because I would quite likely read the articles in a magazine.

I was disappointed. The book didn't hold my attention well, which is all I had hoped for it. Nothing exciting, nor fascinating. I skipped around, read about half of the entries.

Interesting to learn Darwin studied barnacles for so many years.
Feb 24, 2011 rated it liked it
I lived in Bozeman and part of the appeal of reading him was hearing the familiar names of rivers and ranges. He's style is a little forced for me. I feel sometimes he is pulling in words that yes may contextually fit, but are a stretch for the subject matter. On a book like this I'm usually underlining interesting information or ideas and I find I left very few in this book. ...more
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Quammen's "Wild Thoughts from Wild Places" turned me on to biogeography and the type of writing that combines natural history, autobiography and science writing using a plot-driven device and other popular elements of fiction. ...more
Nathan Rose
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Outdoors-type people
Thoughtful essays about nature and the environment. This book was a little heavier than Flight of the Iguana, but the insights were no less pointed. My favorite essay was the comparison between tent catepillar plagues and human population growth. ...more
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quammen is fabulous at writing about all things nature in an entertaining, highly readable way while educating you at the same time. I love all of his books, my only complaint is that there aren't more of them. ...more
Apr 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
David Quammen is such a good writer that he makes almost any topic enjoyable. This collection ranges over a lot of territory, but all of it contains his thoughtful take on the wilderness--or what's left of it, since it's harder to find the truly wild places that inspire a writer. ...more
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David Quammen (born February 1948) is an award-winning science, nature and travel writer whose work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Outside, Harper's, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times Book Review; he has also written fiction. He wrote a column called "Natural Acts" for Outside magazine for fifteen years. Quammen lives in Bozeman, Montana. ...more

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