This is a wonderful book, for three reasons. First, its 450+ pages are full of Simon Barnes’s wonderful writing and here he is on his very best form. Second, it is about the wonderful diversity of life on Earth and there is no richer subject about which to write. And third, the book is well designed, illustrated and produced so that it is a joy to look at even before you allow Simon’s prose to take you away.
It is about animals rather than all life on Earth and you might ask where are the plants, the fungi and the coronavirus but, hey!, what’s not to like about 100 animals? The animals chosen are strongly dominated by vertebrates with 40 mammals among the 67 vertebrates, leaving 23 molluscs, arachnids, insects and others to fight for the other places. But the chosen species are pretty much spot-on for a selection of species that illustrate our relationship with animals.
The selection of species is very good but if you ignored the index, started at the beginning and read through to the end, you would be taken on such a marvellous journey through the diversity of animal life by such an engaging and persuasive guide that you wouldn’t care if there were other places you could have stopped, you will simply relish the trip.
This is, in my view, Simon Barnes’s best book for some time; the format and space available give this master wordsmith the scope to entrance us with stories and insights into the natural world and our relationship with it. This is a book that I’m glad to have on my bookshelves and I will reach out for it many times in a the future.
The History of the World in 100 Animals by Simon Barnes is published by Simon and Schuster.