All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Living Planet by David Attenborough

on January 19, 2022

Living Planet: The Web of Life on Earth
David Attenborough
William Collins (Harper Collins)
2021 (originally 1984), 302p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}: A new, fully updated narrative edition of David Attenborough’s seminal biography of our world, The Living Planet.

Nowhere on our planet is devoid of life. Plants and animals thrive or survive within every extreme of climate and habitat that it offers. Single species, and often whole communities adapt to make the most of ice cap and tundra, forest and plain, desert, ocean and volcano. These adaptations can be truly extraordinary: fish that walk or lay eggs on leaves in mid-air; snakes that fly; flightless birds that graze like deer; and bears that grow hair on the soles of their feet.

In The Living Planet, David Attenborough’s searching eye, unfailing curiosity and infectious enthusiasm explain and illuminate the intricate lives of the these colonies, from the lonely heights of the Himalayas to the wild creatures that have established themselves in the most recent of environments, the city. By the end of this book it is difficult to say which is the more astonishing – the ingenuity with which individual species contrive a living, or the complexity of their interdependence on each other and on the habitations provided by our planet.

In this new edition, the author, with the help of zoologist Matthew Cobb, has added all the most up-to-date discoveries of ecology and biology, as well as a full-colour 64-page photography section. He also addresses the urgent issues facing our living planet: climate change, pollution and mass extinction of species.

I bought this a little bit before Christmas – actually the first time I visited a bookstore in person in months after we exited our most recent lockdown. I love David Attenborough, I think he’s just the most amazing person and I love watching his documentaries and listening to his voice. Although I’ve listened to him narrate several of his books on audio, this is the first time I’ve actually bought and read one but it’s impossible not to hear his voice in my head as I was reading this.

This is a revised and updated edition of the book published in 1984 which was a companion piece to a documentary Attenborough did of the same name. Despite the fact that January is “Attenborough month” on Australia’s subscription cable/satellite TV and the fact that various other documentaries from Attenborough appear on various other platforms, I can’t find this one to watch which is a bit disappointing! I would’ve been really nice to watch it and absorb this information in a visual way, because there is a lot of information in this book.

Despite it only being 290 pages of actual story it took me 2 full days to read it. It’s very dense but I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just very thorough and contains so much information. It breaks the earth down into sections, basically, with different features and/or climates, so things like the polar world, the jungle, the sea, the grasslands, etc. And then talks about the sort of species that live and thrive in those environments and how in many cases, they have adapted over thousands of years in order to be able to do so.

It’s just so interesting. I really enjoy stuff like geography and the natural world so learning about stuff like this is fascinating to me. I really liked the way the sections were broken down as well, focusing on each “type” of environment as a whole – not even region specific, there are areas with the same or very similar environmental parameters and factors that stretch across the globe and many of those different locations have species that are very similar, sometimes the only real difference being the name they’re known by. In other places, plants and animals have evolved very specifically to suit their exact location, this seems especially true when that location is isolated, such as islands in the middle of the Indian or Pacific Oceans. An example is species of birds on some of these islands who, because of their remoteness, face no predators and so over the years, have lost their ability to fly simply because they do not need to anymore. The island provides everything they need to thrive and they have no need to leave it, nor any threats to fly away from.

The most disturbing things in this book I think were the times Attenborough talks about how humans have either systematically wiped out or almost wiped out entire species, particularly of animals. There are plenty of examples given of animals slaughtered almost to the point of extinction and in many cases, for no particular reason other than they were there or in the way of something humans wanted to do. In some cases, they did wipe them out (the dodo is probably the one that comes to mind for most people, named so because it was so trusting you could get close enough to hit it on the head). Even now with the understanding of how important biodiversity is, how crucial it is to maintain the balance in ecosystems, there are still so many different species under extreme threat. Many are declining at alarming rates and almost all of it is because of direct human action or as a consequence of human actions resulting in things like climate change. It’s honestly just incredibly sad to think about the loss of whole species and how it’s going to continue to happen.

I finished this and felt inspired for more Attenborough content and given it is Attenborough month, I picked Blue Planet to watch. I watched the first episode the same day I finished this and it actually included one or two examples of things that I’d read in this book, which was awesome, especially as one of them was footage of turtles laying eggs on a beach in Costa Rica. That was amazing to see after reading a detailed description.

Really enjoyed this but David Attenborough can do no wrong for me.


Book #11 of 2022

Going to count this one towards my 2022 NonFiction Reader Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out. To be honest, looking at the categories, this one could count towards quite a few but I’m going to use it for Popular Science. This is the first book read for the challenge.

1. Social History

2. Popular Science

3. Language

4. Medical Memoir

5. Climate/Weather

6. Celebrity

7. Reference

8. Geography

9. Linked to a podcast

10. Wild Animals

11. Economics

12. Published in 2022

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