The Sixth Extinction: A Book Review on the #MINI

There are good books, there are great books, and then there are great books that change the way you think. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, is a great book that can not only change the way you think but how you live as well. Simply put, The Sixth Extinction is a chronicle of the five major extinctions that have occured on earth and the sixth extinction that is occuring right now, the so-called Anthropocene Extinction. It is fascinating subject material, made even more fascinating by the personal way Kolbert tells the story and her fluid, often humorous prose.

It is so often the case with books like these that there is a moral to the story. The moral to this story: Although previous mass extinctions have been caused by forces beyond human control, such as asteroid collisions and volcanic eruptions, the relatively recent megafauna extinction and the current amphibian extinction are directly related to human activities. Having said that, Ms. Kolbert manages to make her case with fairness, equanimity and, often times, light-heartedness, which is a diffcult task given the subject matter and her implication that, unless we start doing things differently, the human race is going to be one of the victims of the next mass extinction.

Ms. Kolbert does a particularly good job in making real the abstract and the theoretical. As an example, we have all heard about the acidifying ocean and the consequent effects on the biodiversity of marine life; the author found a way to see what the acidified ocean of the (unfortuantely not that distant) future will look like by finding an ocean vent off the coast of Italy spewing acid into the ocean water. The barren waters in the neighborhood of the vents are an excellent example of Ms. Kolbert's point about the effect of the massive amounts of CO2 we are dumping into the atmosphere (1/3 of which is absorbed into the oceans, lowering the vital pH) as well as a fine example of the way she goes about making her point to the reader, using real people and real places.

I'll leave you with a sentence from the book, a good illustration of both Ms. Kolbert's lucid prose and her deft reasoning. Speaking about some sketches found in a cave in France attributed to early humans, Ms. Kolbert writes: 'With the capacity to represent the world in signs and symbols comes the capacity to change it, which, as it happens, is also the capacity to destroy it.'

As always with the #MINI, here are a few links to some other book reviews of The Sixth Extinction, from some of my (less well-known) and (not as deeply trusted) book reviewing competitors and the link to Amazon:

New York Times Book Review

Washington Post Book Review

Amazon: The Sixth Extinction

 Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at


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