“The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt & Co., 2014)

Sixth Exinction

Anyone who is in their right mind with a decent amount of common sense knows we’re doing a great job of messing up this planet, to the point where it may already be too far gone to turn things back to the way they were. One area we know we’ve made perhaps the most devastating impact, with overpopulation and pollution to name a couple causes, is with species extinction. This is the crux of The Sixth Extinction from Elizabeth Kolbert, bestselling author of Field Notes From a Catastrophe.

There have been a number of mass extinctions during the five billion year history of this planet The extinction of the dinosaurs is perhaps the most well known; another mass extinction before the dinosaurs almost ended all life on the planet. The reasons for these five previous mass extinctions run the full expected range from extreme conditions to natural disasters to meteors hitting the planet. But now Kolbert suggests, and has been corroborated by a number of scientists, that we are in the age of the sixth extinction where many unique species are being lost every year and it’s all our fault.

The Sixth Extinction is divided up into strong chapters that feel like entire books in themselves, each providing insight into a specific previous mass extinction, as well as some well known species that went extinct, such as the great auk and the American mastodon, and how. Kolbert also travels the world, meeting with scientists and discussing the current climate and where things lie with threats against coral along the Great Barrier Reef, bat populations in the United States that have recently been devastated due to a merciless fungus, as well as the declining honeybee populations to name a few..

The book never has a chance to slow down or get boring, because Kolbert keeps giving the reader facts and stories and perspectives that are both illuminating and shocking. It is a book that can be greedily read cover to cover in one night, or each chapter savored over a longer period of time. The one failing is perhaps there is little lesson or hope necessarily at the end for what can be done. Could this be because it is already a foregone conclusion that what happened to the dodo will happen to many more species if we don’t change our ways? Or perhaps simply learning and knowing what is discussed in the book and spreading the word about them will help change the mindset, for it is not until we as a planet work together to make a change that we will start making any great strides.

Originally written on June 27, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Sixth Extinction from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Field Notes From a Catastrophe  Welcome to the Greenhouse



[This is the seventh installment in a series. The whole series can be found here.]

In the sixth chapter of S. we learn that our characters reading Ship of Theseus are named Jennifer and Eric. (This may have been revealed earlier in the book but it was in this chapter that I picked up on it.) Naturally, the use of the names by the characters gives more credence to their developing relationship.

 It is in this chapter we have one of the most impressive pieces of media in the book, with multiple pages of yellow-lined legal pad paper with carefully detailed writing on both sides from Eric as he recounts his moving personal story from childhood of how he first got into Straka with a family tragedy he was blamed for. It continues to shock the reader how far the people who worked on this book went for authenticity and realism, how these pages even feature stains from water and/or coffee, as well as smudging and other stains that would be normal for a document like this. It is also interesting that Eric uses some unusual contractions even though he has as much room as he wants to write what he wants. It is part of his character; indicatory of the way he thinks.


We also discover that the crew of the ship Theseus are definitely a few sandwiches short of a full picnic as we witness one crew member getting his lips and mouth sewn together to silence him without any anesthetic while the rest of the crew watches.

Eric and Jennifer finally meet in real life, details of which are not readily revealed, but they have a good enough time to want to meet again. It also seems that Jennifer’s scholastic career is still on very shaky ground and she is unlikely to graduate now due to failing a class.


It is explained that the confusing postcards in the previous chapter of birds from Brazil were actually written by Straka, which wasn’t completely clear until now. But then S. is the sort of book you have to work at.

Meanwhile Jen is becoming more and more convinced that she is being watched and followed, which comes across as being overly paranoid, but with what has happened so far and the weird stuff going on in Ship of Theseus, even though she’s an unreliable narrator and Eric only seems to vaguely believe, it seems there must be something to it. The question is who is watching and following her?


The idea is put forth that has been discussed between Jen and Eric: Straka and the translator were secretly communicating with each other through edits of the book and through the footnotes, a coded message that remains in the printed version of the book.

This is a big reveal chapter in many ways for the character of S in knowing that he is important to everyone around in some way and he gets handed special materials to complete his apparent destiny, but still not knowing who he actually is. While for the secondary characters – Jen and Eric – they meet on multiple occasions in real life and is clear to the reader that they are falling in love with each other and their lives are becoming more important related to Ship of Theseus.


Have another cliffhanger ending to the chapter with a scary fire at the motel where Jen is staying, though it’s unknown who is behind the arson, but is definitely tied in with the story and what they’re working on.

What makes the story wonderfully eerie at times is that so many events in the story of Ship of Theseus end up being mirrored in the lives of Jen and Eric in some way, most notable with the terrible fires.

Book Report: Drunk Reading, Best American Novels, Best Canadian Books & More!


Amazon is has an available position for a liaison to work with independent bookstores to . . . see how they can steal their business? It’s not exactly clear.
How much do you really know about that big old building in Washington DC? Here’s a complete history of how the great Smithsonian came to be.
After receiving a generous donation from Penguin Random House, California Bookstore Day will be returning for its second year on May 2, 2015.

“The History of the Renaissance World” by Susan Wise Bauer (Norton, 2013)

The History of the Renaissance World

To many the renaissance was a time of rebirth and growth that began sometime around the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, ushering in a whole new era of scientific development and the advancement of knowledge. But after completing her History of the Medieval World, Susan Wise Bauer begins her History of the Renaissance correctly in the early twelfth century beginning with the rediscovery of Aristotle and ending in the mid fifteenth century with the conquest of Constantinople.

The detailed book is divided into five sections: “Renaissances,” “Invasions, Heresies, and Uprisings,” “Catastrophes,” “Regroupings,” “Endings.” Just as she did with The History o f the Ancient World and The History of the Medieval World, Bauer takes the reader on a fantastic whirlwind tour of the world, presenting a detailed history from specific periods of these various cultures, how they were interacting and engaging with each other, and what developments occurred and when and how they influenced the nations of the world. Where she can, Bauer uses timelines, photos, pictures and any other sources that will help the reader along.

Just as with her previous books in this series, The History of the Renaissance World is an ideal historical reference that can be enjoyed as a normal book, read from beginning to ending, taking the reader across the globe over three centuries of complex history, or used as a quick reference guide thanks to the concise contents listing and lengthy index, allowing readers to get to a specific historical event in time in seconds. This is a worthy volume to add to one’s collection and is perfect for the student or scholar wanting a handy reference manual for the period, or for the history aficionado who simply wishes to learn more about the renaissance and when it truly began.

Originally written on March 24, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The History of the Renaissance World from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

The History of the Ancient World  The History of the Medieval World

“Britain Begins” by Barry Cunliffe (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Britain Begins

The settling of the islands that would one day come to be known as Great Britain is one of the most fascinating times of history, as so much of what would become Western Europe was shaped and formed by these early periods and yet it is also one of the lesser known periods of history. But thanks to numerous advancements and discoveries made in the fields of archaeology and genetics, Barry Cunliffe brings readers the new definitive text on the founding of a nation, people and culture.

Cunliffe is a renowned British professor who has specialized in archaeology and is known for his excellent history books on early Britain and Europe, including The Ancient Celts, Facing the Ocean and Between the Oceans. In Britain Begins, he takes readers far back, starting with the myths and ancestors of Britain and then leading into shortly after the end of the last ice age, when the freezing waters retreated and Britain became an island once again. He then takes the reader down a detailed and fascinating history road addressing who the ancient Britons were, the settling of the Celts, on through the Roman invasion and ruling period, up to the Anglo-Saxon and then Norman invasions.

It is rare to see a book that ends with the battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror, but this is not just any history book. Scholars and fans of the history will both delight in owning Britain Begins with its detailed text, numerous photos and illustrations lending visual proof and answers to a period that up until now has remained relatively unknown.

Originally written on March 24, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Britain Begins from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book Report: Sweet Valley High Confidential, It’s Good To Be The (Stephen) King, Peter Griffin Gives Geordi La Forge $1 Million and More


It’s the last week of the World Cup, with the final coming up on Sunday, so here are some recommended sports reads from Book Riot.
For any Stephen King aficionado, here’s a complete list of every movie and TV show in development related to the master of horror.
A ghost writer for the Sweet Valley High speaks up about her strange life as a ghost writer.

“The Harlem Hellfighters” by Max Brooks and Canaan White (Broadway Books, 2014)

Harlem Hellfighters

Not much has been heard from Max Brooks since he changed the world of zombies forever with his runaway international bestseller, World War Z, but it was going to have to be something pretty impressive to equal or top his debut novel. And now the graphic novel The Harlem Hellfighters is here, and it’s pretty darn awesome.

Brooks first learned about the African American infantry regiment known as the “Harlem Hellfighters” when he was eleven years old and the interest and fascination grew within him the older he got, while it seemed that less and less people knew of such a regiment ever existing. At one point he had plans to do a movie, after receiving support and advice from the well known actor Levar Burton. But things didn’t work out and it wasn’t until sometime later when Brooks collaborated with Avatar Press for the Zombie Survival Guide, his first book, that an opportunity showed itself. And now the finished, published graphic novel exists, skillfully illustrated by Canaan White.

This is the story of the 369th infantry regiment composed of African American infantry in the year 1919. With plenty of research, Brooks tells the moving story of how the infantry first came to be, with rigorous training in preparation for going to war. From the very beginning they were a shunned and mocked infantry, who had to keep to themselves and not get involved in any fights or altercations with other regiments or infantry. Brooks shows this harsh reality through short powerful scenes that reveal while these soldiers were working hard and willingly looking to sacrifice themselves for their country, they met ire and animosity at ever corner.

Brooks eventually moves the story to fighting on the front lines in World War I. They spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never had one of their men captured, and never gave any ground to the enemy. These are the facts that are known about these incredible people. Brooks tells a complete picture, while White paints it, revealing their lives and wants and emotions. The artwork is harsh and stark, matching the subject matter, in clear black and white. The Harlem Hellfighters is a powerful, moving story about a regiment that few know ever existed, and Brooks and White do a tremendous job in bringing this great story to light through the incredible medium of the graphic novel.

Originally written on June 20, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Harlem Hellfighters from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.