Doing Dewey’s Nonfiction Book Club – The Sixth Extinction


One of my favorite things about being part of this community is joining with other bloggers to participate in a challenge or read-along or some other sort of bookish project. I especially love read-alongs because they often expand my reading horizons and I get to answer discussion questions. I love discussion questions! This month over at Doing Dewey, we’re reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction.

Have you learned anything that’s really surprised you so far?

I didn’t realize all the science was so recent. The bit that surprised me the most was that something I’ve always known to be true (an impact caused the extinction of the dinosaurs) wasn’t even confirmed until the 80s/90s. I was having a conversation with my roommate the other day and she mentioned that dinosaurs are no longer in the curriculum for public schools here in Kentucky and that we were among the last group to have studied them in school. What this book made me realize is that we were also among the first. How sad is that?

Are the descriptions of how science is done matching your expectations?

So far, yes. I watch a lot of science and nature documentaries on Netflix (by no means does this make me an expert!), and I see a lot of the methods from the book used in these documentaries. I feel like I’ve always known that science is less mad scientist in laboratory and more routine collecting of samples or long-term studies of the vital signs of animals.

So far, do you have any ideas for things people could do to prevent causing more extinctions? How likely do you think it is that we’ll make the necessary changes?

Honestly, reading this book makes me feel bleak about the future of the planet. I think maybe our generation is more likely to try and turn things around, but I almost think that we’re past the tipping point. Humans have wreaked so much destruction and havoc on the planet that it seems irreparable. In the face of all the science, it seems pretty self-important to think that recycling a few bottles will save the world.

Have the many topics the author has covered made you want to learn about any specific topic in more detail?

I would love to learn more about ocean acidification. I never realized that it was an issue on top of everything else, and it’s fascinating that something that seems limitless has its own restrictions and tipping points.

What location the author visited would you most like to visit? (as a reminder, she’s been to El Valle de Anton, Panama in a volcanic crater, which used to have golden frogs; the Museum of Natural History in Paris; Reykjavik with the Icelandic Institute of National History and last island of the auks; Gola del Bottaccione, the ravine with the asteroid remains just North of Rome; Scotland with the Dob Linn stratified rock; Castello Aragonese, the castle on an island with acidic oceans; and One Tree Island, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef)

I’m not really an outdoorsy person (allergies, I promise!), but I would visit any of these locations. They’re all fascinating in their own right, and any opportunity to travel and learn would expand my mind and horizons!

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History



Filed under Doing Dewey's Nonfiction Book Club

12 responses to “Doing Dewey’s Nonfiction Book Club – The Sixth Extinction

  1. I feel equally bleak about the future. I don’t find, though, that the book is bleak – just matter of fact. And, I feel like the worst of it is still a long time away (at least I’m hoping so, for my kids’ sake). Overall, is does give me hope that if we wipe ourselves out, the earth will likely eventually regenerate like it has all those times in the past. It really gives us a good ‘big picture’ view of the history of the earth.


  2. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? | Jancee's Reading Journal

  3. This sounds really interesting. Does the author give us any suggestions for things the regular person can do or does she just leave us looking at a bleak future?


    • She hasn’t yet, although I’m hoping the later chapters have some info. Otherwise, I’m just going to feel pessimistic. Doesn’t seem like recycling bottles will have that much impact on the types of global problems we’re facing.


  4. The ocean acidification was interesting to me too, but definitely depressing! I also would love it if the author would give us some suggestions for what we can do, because right now things are looking pretty bleak. I actually think I remember learning about the impact crater in the gulf of mexico as a new thing in high school, so I knew that was relatively new science. I was still surprised at how long it took for the idea than an asteroid impact caused an extinction to catch on though!


  5. Pingback: Doing Dewey’s Nonfiction Book Club – The Sixth Extinction Part 2 | Jancee's Reading Journal

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