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The co-authors of The Book of General Ignorance are back with this tightly-written, riveting account of the most amazing facts about 100 kinds of animals, ranging from your backyard (or even inside your home) to the farthest reaches of the world. Decorated by Ted Dewan’s quirky but effective illustrations, the book draws laughs and blushes while it informs.
And boy, does it inform! It explodes a thousand myths. It throws light on secrets of the natural world you would never have dreamed of. Some of them will make you shudder. Some will make you gasp in amazement. You will shake your head at some. And don’t forget those laughs and blushes! I would say Sex Ed. was a prerequisite for reading this book, but really, it’s like a full-credit course on the Birds & the Bees, with side helpings of komodo dragon, naked mole rat, termite, toad, and penguin, just to name a few.
I do have a few bones to pick with this book. Most of them have to do with typos and layout errors, which I hope were fixed between the Uncorrected Proof I read and the final published edition. My main concern would be the prominence of evolutionary theory in practically every point under discussion.
Evolution isn’t just taken as a given; it is touted with evangelical zeal, and sometimes with arguments that do not follow logically, if viewed from an objective, one-step-back perspective. At one point the book even takes a pot-shot at people viewing the mind-blowing “survival adaptations” described in it as a sign of intelligent design. Frankly, after reading 100 chapters filled with examples of such “adaptations,” it’s hard not to question the likelihood of all these fortuitous features coming together by random chance. Is this an illusion or emotion-driven fallacy? Or is it a sign that evolutionary theory has more to account for before it can be asserted without fanatical bias?
Well, that’s my take on it, anyway. I still enjoyed the book, and I am delighted with many of the facts I learned from it. There are facts and then there are facts. Here’s one: you can actually learn and be entertained at the same time. As an added bonus, you can also be stimulated to care and to work for the survival of endangered species. Here is a book that does all three things. If you’re as ignorant about animals as I am, look it over!