Review of The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural HistoryThe Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book’s central premise is that global warming, ocean acidification, and other man-made phenomena are causing the sixth mass extinction in the history of the world. Like any controversial assertion, this premise will be readily accepted by those already inclined that way (the environmentally aware or the tree-huggers, depending on one’s point of view) and rejected by those already inclined against it (skeptics, individualists, or ignorant flat-earthers, depending on one’s point of view).

The prose is well-written but highly repetitive, almost to the point of an academic paper trying to amass enough evidence to convince the publishers of a major journal on a radical new theory. It is well-documented. The author needn’t have bothered, since adding more and more evidence is unlikely to have any effect on a reader for the reasons stated above. You either believe it or you don’t.

I learned a lot of biology from this book. I like learning new things and that’s why I liked the book. I also found the numerous descriptions of various scientists or other interviewees and their back stories to be a needless digression. This is not a novel. I really don’t care where so-and-so the toad expert grew up. It seems endemic to the genre now that mass market non-fiction works, at least those on technical or scientific subjects, be filled to novel length with such padding when the basic facts and point of view could be stated in a long newspaper article, so this author is not alone, but my patience wore thin by the end.

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