Beyond the VOyage of the Beagle
May 6, 2017 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I've been reading a copy of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle, and wondering what else might be similar in tone and style.

Darwin's book is obviously a product of its times, but I still find the wonder and delight in the natural world, and particularly the descriptions of animal behavior and geography, fascinating. Can anyone recommend books with a similar aesthetic? I haven't been reading the whole book through, but have been skimming from chapter to chapter as the mood strikes me. I love the detailed descriptions of birds and animal life in general, even if I can't pinpoint what species he's talking about most of the time.
I'm definitely open to more modern books with a similar sense of wonder, and keen eye for detail.
posted by Alensin to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The Song of the Dodo is my favorite book about natural history - all about ecology, extinction, conservation, biogeography, and very, very readable. David Quammen is great in general.

Adrian Forsyth has a wonderful book Amazon called Tropical Nature, essays on the flora and fauna of the Amazon.

Field Notes on Science and Nature is a selection of field notes and accompanying essays from field ecologists across a bunch of topics.

A Sand County Almanac is a classic set of essays and observations on nature by Aldo Leopold, and includes some of my favorite ecology writing.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:33 AM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Origin of Species is also a very enjoyable read. Darwin was one the great science writers.
posted by monotreme at 12:06 PM on May 6, 2017

Alexander von Humboldt's "Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of America",
Alfred Russell Wallace's The Malay archipelago
The Mapmaker's Wife by Robert Whittaker
The Great Arc:The Dramatic Tale of How India was Mapped and Everest was Named, by John Keay
posted by dhruva at 12:25 PM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could try something by Jean-Henri Fabre, the French entomologist.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:35 PM on May 6, 2017

Gerald Durrell is a classic wildlife writer. The wikipedia page lists his wildlife travel books in the "Autobiography" section. The trilogy that begins with My Family and Other Animals is more about his family and growing up in Corfu studying the local fauna, but it's still a great read even if the locale is less exotic.
posted by sukeban at 1:22 PM on May 6, 2017

I really liked Oliver Sacks' Oaxaca Journal about a botanical trip to Mexico, also written as a travel diary.
posted by rustcellar at 2:42 PM on May 6, 2017

Hmm. Maybe Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Dana.
posted by Alaska Jack at 10:44 PM on May 6, 2017

I've never read either (and now, this one sounds like something involving Snoopy) but you might look into The Voyage of the Space Beagle, by A.E. van Vogt, from 1950.
posted by Rash at 8:45 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! :) The ecology recommendations look like they'll be wonderful, but for now I've decided to visit the Malay Archipelago. It's fascinating to watch scientific thought develop, since I've an unfortunate habit of taking things for granted, as a mostly secular person.

A side note: I read Two Years Before the Mast already, thanks to my liking for the historical fiction of Patrick O'Brian. It's a delight, and highly recommended.
posted by Alensin at 10:48 AM on May 7, 2017

Alensin, you may also enjoy The Reluctant Mister Darwin and Darwin's Armada, both of which focus on "voyages of discovery" and the development of the theory of evolution. I use bits of both of them in my introduction to human evolution course.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:34 PM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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