Book of the Week: The Sixth Extinction

What is Book of the Week? See the first Book of the Week post.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History


by Elizabeth Kolbert. Published by Bloomsbury, 2014.

Shelfmark: BL/EX/004 (Biological Sciences–Extinction–4th book in this section)

We’ve missed a couple of weeks due to staff illness and Easter, but now we’re back with a new book of the week. This week it’s Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, published in 2014. This popular science book won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction and is equally suited to weekend reading or dipping into in search of a particular piece of information.

The Sixth Extinction
takes a different format to our previous Books of the Week. As a popular science title it is intended to be read cover to cover and is very much a narrative. This means that it is an ideal way to engage with a thought-provoking subject relevant to your work in a relaxed way. Personally, it’s the sort of book I’d be quite happy to take home and curl up in the armchair with on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon. The format also makes it accessible to those of us working in conservation, but not trained as conservation practitioners – those working in finance, HR, office management, administration etc.


Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions of life on earth.

Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Elizabeth Kolbert combines brilliant field reporting, the history of ideas and the work of geologists, botanists and marine biologists to tell the gripping stories of a dozen species – including the Panamanian golden frog and the Sumatran rhino – some already gone, others at the point of vanishing.

The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy and Elizabeth Kolbert’s book urgently compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.


I: The Sixth Extinction

II: The Mastodon’s Molars

III: The Original Penguin

IV: The Luck of the Ammonites

V: Welcome to the Anthropocene

VI: The Sea Around Us

VII: Dropping Acid

VIII: The Forest and the Trees

IX: Islands on Dry Land

X: The New Pangaea

XI: The Rhino Gets an Ultrasound

XII: The Madness Gene

XIII: The Thing with Feathers

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