The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
336 pages; Picador

The winner that deserves more attention

Most of us know that Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year. But on the nonfiction side of the prize, Elizabeth Kolbert's tightly reported The Sixth Extinction is a valuable reminder that the past is often prologue. Her scientific explorations take her from the Andes to the Great Barrier Reef to study how past cataclysms have played out, from dinosaurs to woolly mammoths, and what they might suggest about the future. Her ability to make complex science clear and inviting means you'll be more fascinated by auks and frogs than you thought possible. But thrumming in the background of this story is a sober message: While the past five "mass extinction events" were out of our hands, the sixth will be our doing. Read it to be engaged, a bit frightened and, ultimately, motivated.
— Mark Athitakis