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Writer's Reads: Laurence Smith, author of Rivers of Power

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Writer's Reads: Laurence Smith, author of Rivers of Power
23 Feb
Laurence C Smith is a professor of environmental studies and professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University. His latest book, Rivers of Power, is an expansive exploration of the role rivers play in shaping our world

The sixth extinction

The Sixth Extinction • Elizabeth Kolbert • 2014

Kolbert’s beautifully written Pulitzer Prize winner documents the extraordinary scale of species loss under humanity’s watch – ranking us right up there with just a small handful of massive extinction episodes in Earth’s history.

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The new wild

The New Wild • Fred Pearce • 2015

The perfect bookend to Kolbert’s Sixth Extinction, environmental journalist Fred Pearce turns conventional conservation wisdom on its head through convincing arguments.

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The third chimpanzee

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal • Jared Diamond • 1991

Readers of mine will discern Diamond’s influence on my work in his habit of spanning disciplines in search of broader patterns. This early gem is jam-packed with provocative ideas about the origins of human sexuality and behaviour. 

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The red queen

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature • Matt Ridley • 1993

A fascinating deep dive into the origins of gender (though it keeps that secret for a while). Why do nearly all species split into male and female halves? Why not one gender, or three, or 18? The answers will surprise and delight in this riveting read.

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song of the dodo

Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction • David Quammen • 1996

Unfortunately, this incredible book is now out of print but is still available via Kindle and Audible. It is a stirring, beautifully written ode to biodiversity.

the postman

The Postman • David Brin • 1985

One of my all-time favorite fictions is this post-apocalyptic story of a survivor who stumbles upon the skeletal remains of a US Postal Service mail carrier, picks up his bag, and proceeds to reunite a ravaged country with a modern day Pony Express.

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