The baobab is an iconic symbol of Africa, featuring in the opening scene of “The Lion King” on Broadway. In England, David Attenborough commissioned a film about the world’s largest succulent for the BBC. In the USA, “Secrets of the African Baobab” by Alan and Joan Root was narrated by Orson Welles. Author Rupert Watson explores this fascinating tree, from its early Madagascan beginnings to its future in a changing Africa. Their fibre, seeds and fruit have hundreds of applications, both practical and medicinal. Many feel a spiritual connection to these trees and they draw tourists to Madagascar. Conservation of baobabs is vital to Kenya. Order the Kindle edition from Amazon https://amzn.to/3KrUr7U
Born Wild is the memoir of Tony Fitzjohn’s extraordinary life. It shows how a swashbuckling man driven by an impossibly restless spirit can do almost anything, from surviving a lion attack, to developing the remarkable rhino sanctuary Makomazi. Tragically Tony died in 2022 but wrote his memoirs in his prime.
To order the book https://amzn.to3wgcgBx
A riveting account of Teddy Roosevelt’s expedition down the Amazon, The River of Doubt by Candice Millard https://amzn.to/3RFSJnY
Peter Beard- Graham Boynton’s new book on Beard “Wild” is compelling, disturbing, and shows us the man’s warts yet likable qualities. The biography describes nubile muses such as the nude in “The Night Feeder.”
From Kenya’s Hog Ranch to Montauk, Beard was “surrounded by drugs, debts, and beautiful women,” wrote Leslie Bennetts for Vanity Fair. His images of Africa are often dappled with his own blood, and informed by diaries, the first one given to him by Jackie Onassis. Order Peter Beard Fifty Years of Portraits
Order his classic The End of the Game https://amzn.to/3uBZCwI
Eyelids of Morning about the crocodiles of Lake Turkana https://amzn.to/3RmR72t
David Attenborough said, “Alan Root almost single-handedly, in my opinion, made wildlife films grow up.” Root’s autobiography takes you along as he introduces Dian Fossey to her first mountain gorillas, inside the gondola of a hot air balloon floating over Kilimanjaro, and into Kenya’s Aberdare mountain range during the Mau Mau Crises. See the Serengeti with his thoughtful insights on animal behavior. Order Ivory, Apes & Peacocks by Alan Root
The story of Joan Root, environmentalist and wildlife filmmaker with an uncanny ability to connect with animals; her marriage with Alan Root, twenty years of nonstop adventure; the shattering disintegration of their partnership, and Joan’s struggle to reinvent herself as the protector of Lake Naivasha’a struggle led to her murder in 2006. Order Wildflower
Peter Matthiessen writes about the Sand Rivers of Tanzania’s Selous, with a profile of Richard Bonham. Order Sand Rivers https://amzn.to/3Pl9eEd
The Hominid Gang, Behind the Scenes in the Search for Human Origins
For six years Delta Willis interviewed leaders in the field, including Richard and Mary Leakey, Don Johanson, and geologist Frank Brown, who used volcanic strata “fingerprints” to accurately date fossil sites around Kenya’s Lake Turkana. Equally heroic and unknown were a team of African fossil finders led by Kamoya Kimeu who discovered The Turkana Boy, a remarkably complete skeleton of a young man. Willis’ profile of Richard Leakey, who died January 2, 2022, captures this outspoken leader in his prime: driven, inspired, ruthless yet magnanimous. He elevated the search for human origins to a new level. Consequently the era Willis covered was one of the most productive in terms of uncovering our past and the environment that shaped us.
- “Science journalism at its best. Willis traces the complex issues…with style, insight, and a sense of wonder.” Library Journal
- “The Hominid Gang lies firmly in the rarest genre of books by good writers who truly understand by dint of penetrating intelligence….” Stephen Jay Gould
- “Always engaging…a delightful piece of work.” Roger Lewin, The Washington Post
- “Without a doubt the best you-are-there look at human origins. Darwin himself would have enjoyed this one.” Kirkus Reviews?
- “Delta Willis has provided a most vivid account which brings out the excitement and tensions of a fascinating pursuit.” Richard Leakey
Richard Leakey examines fossil fragments that belong to a human ancestor’s skull, the one featured on the cover of The Hominid Gang. He found these fragments hidden beneath a cairn. How fossils are found, and interpreted, inspired six years of research by me, starting with this discovery near Koobi Fora in 1981. That’s how a magazine article grows into a book, featuring an introduction by evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.
From THE HOMINID GANG excerpt in The New York Times Book Review
“Ralph von Koenigswald, who found hominids in Java, said you must love fossils – ”If you love them, then they will come to you.” Martin Pickford and Alan Walker found Proconsul fossils in museum drawers. . . . Mary Leakey, stopping on the road to Olduvai, reached down to pick up a stone to wedge the wheel of her car and picked up a hominid jaw. . . . The fossilized footprints of Laetoli were found during a lighthearted exchange of elephant dung tossed between men in the field. Richard and Meave Leakey found the Zinj skull when his camel became thirsty, sending them on a different route back to camp. George Gaylord Simpson wrote his first monograph on fossils recovered from slate roof tiles in England. Scottish paleontologist Robert Broom often began his search for fossils in formal dress, complete with a top hat, but when the trail became hot, discarded his clothes and continued in the nude….”
Order The Hominid Gang: Behind the Scenes in the Search for Human Origins
The Sand Dollar and the Slide Rule
- “A good introduction to a new science in the making.” Kirkus Reviews
- “Charming and adroit. Dusty facts sparkle in their new juxtaposition.” The Washington Times
- “Willis navigates through dozens of connections with ease, as she cut her teeth as a science journalist and isn’t bashful about imparting an endearing sense of wonder.” Booklist
- “A fascinating and uncategorizable book that will delight readers.” Library Journal
Order The Sand Dollar and the Slide Rule