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Extended Audio Sample The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert Click for printable size audiobook cover
1.67 out of 51.67 out of 51.67 out of 51.67 out of 51.67 out of 5 1.67 (2 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Elizabeth Kolbert Narrator: Anne Twomey Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2014 ISBN: 9781442369467
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A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.

In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day.

The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Powerful…Kolbert expertly traces the ‘twisting’ intellectual history of how we’ve come to understand the concept of extinction and, more recently, how we’ve come to recognize our role in it…An invaluable contribution to our understanding of present circumstances.”

    Al Gore

  • “Elizabeth Kolbert writes with an aching beauty of the impact of our species on all the other forms of life known in this cold universe. The perspective is at once awe-inspiring, humbling, and deeply necessary.”

    T. C. Boyle, New York Times bestselling author

  • “An epic, riveting story of our species that reads like a scientific thriller—only more terrifying because it is real. Like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction is destined to become one of the most important and defining books of our time.”

    David Grann, New York Times bestselling author

  • “What’s exceptional about Kolbert’s writing is the combination of scientific rigor and wry humor that keeps you turning the pages.”

    National Geographic

  • “[In] her powerful new book…Kolbert, a staff writer at the New Yorker, reports from the front lines of the violent collision between civilization and our plant’s ecosystem: the Andes, the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef—and her backyard. In lucid prose, she examines the role of man-made climate change in causing what biologists call the sixth mass extinction—the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate twenty to fifty percent of all living species on earth within this century…[Kolbert]vividly presents the science and history of the current crisis. Her extensive travels in researching this book and her insightful treatment of both the history and the science all combine to make The Sixth Extinction an invaluable contribution to our understanding of present circumstances, just as the paradigm shift she calls for is sorely needed.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • "[Kolbert] grounds her stories in rigorous science and memorable characters past and present, building a case that a mass extinction is underway, whether we want to admit it or not.”

    Discover magazine

  • “A fascinating and frightening excursion into how humans are bringing about their own demise. The alterations on the planet initiated by humans build on one another, accelerating change in ways that make it all but impossible for most species to adapt quickly enough…Humans change the world more than other species do, and now the most urgent question is whether they can take responsibility for what they do. The Sixth Extinction is a bold and at times desperate attempt to awaken us to this responsibility.”

    Washington Post

  • “Surprisingly breezy, entirely engrossing, and frequently entertaining…Kolbert is a masterful, thought-provoking reporter.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Thorough and fascinating…Kolbert is an economical and deft explainer of the technical and about as intrepid a reporter as they come…Her reporting is meticulous.”


  • “Kolbert accomplishes an amazing feat in her latest book, which superbly blends the depressing facts associated with rampant species extinctions and impending ecosystem collapse with stellar writing to produce a text that is accessible, witty, scientifically accurate, and impossible to put down.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Rendered with rare, resolute, and resounding clarity, Kolbert’s compelling and enlightening report forthrightly addresses the most significant topic of our lives.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • New Yorker staff writer Kolbert returns with a deft examination of the startling losses of the sixth mass extinction occurring at this moment and the sobering, underlying cause: humans…A highly significant eye-opener.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, February 2014
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A Library Journal Best Book of 2014
  • A Washington Post Top 10 Book of 2014
  • A 2014 New York Times Notable Book
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
  • One of Audible’s Best Audiobooks of 2014: Science and Technology
  • One of the New York Magazine Top 10 Books of 2014
  • Longlisted for the 2015 PEN Literary Award
  • Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
  • Winner of the 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology
  • Finalist for the 2016 Kirkus Prize
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