But how to put one's thoughts on this book to the web? I'm not yet done with the book, so this is an entirely premature blog post. But as I read, I can't help thinking that I am in no way up to writing about this book. Even an academic, in his review, said: "This is an ambitious project, and no reviewer can comment on all of it with equal authority." So I will chicken out and leave it to the pros, but I will, however, offer you some interesting passages, such as these on killer almonds and why zebras can't be tamed:
And in an interesting section about Australia and New Guinea, something about languages and something else about dogs and blankets:
"Most wild almond seeds contain an intensely bitter chemical called amygdalin, which breaks down to yield the poison cyanide. A snack of wild almonds can kill a person foolish enough to ignore the warning of the bitter taste."
"zebras are also virtually impossible to lasso with a rope - even for cowboys who win rodeo championships by lassoing horses- because of their unfailing ability to watch the rope noose fly towards them and then to duck their head out of the way."
"New Guinea has by far the highest concentration of languages in the world: 1,000 out of the world's 6,000 languages, crammed into an area only slightly larger than that of Texas, and divided into dozens of language families and isolated languages as different from each other as English is from Chinese. Nearly half of all new Guinea languages have fewer than 500 speakers, and even the largest language groups (still with a mere 100,000 speakers) were politically fragmented into hundreds of villages, fighting as fiercely with each other as with speakers of other languages".That's right people, "living blankets". If that doesn't get you running off to the library to get hold of your own copy, I don't know what will.
"During the Ice Ages Australia had supported even more big marsupials than New Guinea, including diprotodonts (the marsupial equivalent of cows and rhinoceroses), giant kangaroos, and giant wombats. But all those marsupial candidates for animal husbandry disappeared in the waves of extinctions (or exterminations) that accompanied human colonization of Australia. That left Australia, like New Guinea, with no domesticable native mammals. The sole foreign domesticated mammal adopted in Australia was the dog, which arrived from Asia (presumably in Austronesian canoes) around 1500 BC, and established itself in the wild in Australia to become the dingo. Native Australians kept captive dingos as companions, watchdogs, and even as living blankets, giving rise to the expression 'five-dog night' to mean a very cold night."
Reviews from several different perspectives
The New York Times (professional)
Curled Up (more of a layperson's POV)
A historian from the University of Strathclyde reviews the book (obviously academic)