Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Unnatural Selection by Katrina van Grouw

Princeton University Press
is putting out a new book by Katrina van Grouw that looks very promising. If they want to send me a copy, I would be more than happy to review it! This is one of those rare occasions when I am quite certain I will have something good to say (not many have written more on this topic than I have), but the price tag is a bit rich for my blood considering how many other books I now have on my nightstand begging for attention.  From the publisher:

Unnatural Selection is a stunningly illustrated book about selective breeding--the ongoing transformation of animals at the hand of man. More important, it's a book about selective breeding on a far, far grander scale—a scale that encompasses all life on Earth. We'd call it evolution.

A unique fusion of art, science, and history, this book celebrates the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's monumental work The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, and is intended as a tribute to what Darwin might have achieved had he possessed that elusive missing piece to the evolutionary puzzle—the knowledge of how individual traits are passed from one generation to the next. With the benefit of a century and a half of hindsight, Katrina van Grouw explains evolution by building on the analogy that Darwin himself used—comparing the selective breeding process with natural selection in the wild, and, like Darwin, featuring a multitude of fascinating examples.

This is more than just a book about pets and livestock, however. The revelation of Unnatural Selection is that identical traits can occur in all animals, wild and domesticated, and both are governed by the same evolutionary principles. As van Grouw shows, animals are plastic things, constantly changing. In wild animals the changes are usually too slow to see -- species appear to stay the same. When it comes to domesticated animals, however, change happens fast, making them the perfect model of evolution in action.

Suitable for the lay reader and student, as well as the more seasoned biologist, and featuring more than four hundred breathtaking illustrations of living animals, skeletons, and historical specimens, Unnatural Selection will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in natural history and the history of evolutionary thinking.

Katrina van Grouw, author of The Unfeathered Bird (Princeton), inhabits that no-man's-land midway between art and science. She holds degrees in fine art and natural history illustration and is a former curator of ornithological collections at a major national museum. She's a self-taught scientist with a passion for evolutionary biology and its history.

Ms. van Grouw sounds like someone to meet, and the book one to read.


LRM said...

Katrina van Grouw is amazingly talented, really wonderful. I hope you get your book.


Viatecio said...

A mere $45 for 300 pages of information on a fascinating topic is wonderful--I was expecting it to be along the lines of the $200 scholastic textbook that would interest only the people with degrees in evolutionary biology. It IS a little much for an everyday purchase, but considering the subject at hand, I would put a little extra away to have that on my bookshelf. I've paid far more for some of the books on my shelf (some of the USED, to boot!) that I required during my schooling.

Katrina van Grouw said...

Dear Terrierman,
Thanks so much for your kind words. I've just forwarded your post to the publishers to request a review copy. Let's see what they say.
Thanks also to Lisa (gosh, I'm blushing!) and to Viatecio who's absolutely right - it IS a lot of book for the price. Six years' full time work, in fact!
Hope you like it.
All the best,

Katrina van Grouw said...

Dear Terierman. My publisher has confirmed that a review copy was sent to you some time ago. Am looking forward to reading your review.

PBurns said...

Thanks for the goose (pun intended)! I wrote a review and then set it aside to read a few days later, but got rolled up in life: retiring, selling a house, buying a new house, packing up an old house, starting a book project long delayed. The good news is that the review was all written and I just hit “play” this morning. Apologies for the delay.

Going to come back a few more times for cool bits: webbed feet and dew claws in dogs, geese with toupees and holes in their heads, chicken phrenology and crests, pigs with extra ribs, etc. The more links to Amazon the better!