Years ago I reviewed Richard Fortey's hilarious "Dry Store Room No. 1," in which he revealed that a colleague of his at London's Natural History Museum kept labeled samples of his girlfriends' pubic hair. It was the kind of book one could only write upon retiring, but I'll bet the museum eventually embraced it and started selling it in the gift shop. Fortey is back with "Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms," which has more in common with his earlier paleontology books "Life" and "Trilobite." I liked the more muscular U.K. title "Survivors," but in any event Fortey readers will love it. My review for WSJ here.
Had the pleasure of reviewing an extraordinary series of books, the collected travel journals of the students (or erstwhile students) of Carl Linnaeus in the latter half of the 18th century, for WSJ on Feb 4. These travelers become old friends after a while and some of their travels, particularly those to Africa and Asia, are exciting, chilling, frequently personal and sometimes weirdly prescient (such as the moment when one young man traveling in Yemen notices petroleum oozing out of the ground and thinks it might be useful for salves). The dangers were real; half of them died on or as an upshot of their travels. A reader noted in response to the piece that in 1732 as now Lapland was part of Sweden, something I hadn't realized.
... and I could not be in better company.
The Washington Post has included Stolen World among its reviewers' top 50 nonfiction picks for 2011. An honor!