Friday 16 June 2023

Taking Flight: The Evolutionary Story of Life on the Wing - Lev Parikian

This is the miracle of flight as you’ve never seen it before: the evolutionary story of life on the wing.

A bird flits overhead. It’s an everyday occurrence, repeated hundreds, thousands, millions of times daily by creatures across the world. It’s something so normal, so entirely taken for granted, that sometimes we forget how extraordinary it is. But take that in for a moment. This animal flies. It. Flies. The miracle of flight has evolved in hugely diverse ways, with countless variations of flapping and gliding, hovering and diving, murmurating and migrating.

Conjuring lost worlds, ancient species and ever-shifting ecologies, this exhilarating new book is a mesmerising encounter with fourteen flying species: from the first fluttering insect of 300 million years ago to the crested pterosaurs of the Mesozoic Era, from hummingbirds that co-evolved with rainforest flowers to the wonders of dragonfly, albatross, pipistrelle and monarch butterfly with which we share the planet today.

Taking Flight is a mind-expanding feat of the imagination, a close encounter with flight in its myriad forms, urging us to look up and drink in the spectacle of these gravity-defying marvels that continue to shape life on Earth.

What did I think?

Taking Flight is as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside; the cover actually shimmers with the image of a mayfly spread over the front and back cover.  I think it is one of the most accessible and enjoyable non-fiction books I have ever read.  Lev Parikian could be a comedian; I don't think I have ever laughed so much when reading and I'm including humorous books in that statement.

There is a lot of information covered in the 14 chapters and it's a book you could dip in and out of, but it is so entertaining to read (especially the hilarious footnotes) that I couldn't help but read 'just one more chapter'.  I learned so much about flight and I have never felt more insignificant as a human being when reading about these fascinating species.

The chapters cover: mayfly, dragonfly, beetle, fly, bee, butterfly, pterosaur, archaeopteryx, penguin, goose, hummingbird, albatross, pigeon and bat.  Every single chapter is fascinating and I learned something new in each one from the amazing journey of the butterfly to the best way to catch a fly (it really works - thanks, Lev!).

Informative, entertaining and engrossing, Taking Flight is simply magnificent and I can't recommend it highly enough.  It's an easy five stars and it's a book that is going on my 'to be read again' shelf, which doesn't happen often with non-fiction.  

Many thanks to Elliott & Thompson for sending me a beautiful hardback that I chose to read; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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