Monday, January 6, 2014

The Monkey Has Landed

January 7th is the official publication date for The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life, the popular science book that Alan has been working on since about 2007.  It's being published by Basic Books, and there are also an e-book and forthcoming audiobook. 

These are a few highlights from the pre-publication reviews: "a story full of intriguing discoveries that de Queiroz, a fluent and spellbinding popular-science writer, agglomerates into the narrative spine of a book brimming with fascination" (Ray Olson, Booklist); "Beyond the actual science, de Queiroz brings insight into the nature of scientific discourse itself." (Publisher's Weekly); "Authoritative and eloquent, The Monkey’s Voyage provides a revolutionary new look at the history of life on Earth." (Carol Kaesuk Yoon, author of Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science); "Alan de Queiroz begins The Monkey’s Voyage hoping his children will understand the nuances of biogeography. Then he writes precisely the kind of book that will explain it to them, and to the rest of us. A great read.” (Thor Hanson, author of Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle).
The Monkey's Voyage was included in Amazon's best nonfiction books of the month, and was reviewed at The Panda's Thumb, an evolution blog. The review starts this way: "Today, a book is coming out that is destined to become a classic of science writing." (I also like one of the comments posted below the review: "Sort of the hitchhiker’s guide to biogeography?")

Knowing Alan, I knew what the book would be. To me, his scientific papers have always seemed the apogee of the form. He is a scientist who has to be sure of his data and their meaning before publishing, and his writing has always been excellent. Over the past several years, he started writing for a popular audience, and as soon as I saw early chapter drafts, I was impressed by the strong and engaging voice he'd developed. It's an amazing book. Inside of the larger stories of how organisms have come to be distributed across the Earth, and how biogeography has taken a tortuous path to understanding these distributions, are numerous smaller stories about oddball scientists, far-flung excursions Alan has taken in search of snakes, insects, and plants, and the unlikely adventures of the organisms themselves, the current-surfing crocodiles and transoceanic-voyaging, bird-foot-adhering seeds. 

Here is an excerpt that was published in The Scientist magazine.  

I realize that tooting the horn for your spouse is only slightly less obnoxious than tooting your own horn, but I can't help myself. Alan's had a somewhat improbable journey himself from academic to popular science writer, and the thing that most impresses me is that he's not distracted by the worldly stuff. His internal compass always seems to be pointed toward truth. 

Alan, searching for truth.

And he can really hold an audience spellbound.


  1. Hello! I wandered over here via a link from the comments in that Panda's Thumb review. I was a lucky duck and got an ARC from Basic Books, and I finally posted my own recommendation today. But that's rather beside the point, as really I just wanted to confess that I've been puttering around your blog for at least a half hour now and I wanted to tell you how ADORABLE your family is, and how awesome it is that you share your science-y stuff with them. I hope this doesn't come across as weirdo-creepy, just wanted to express some enthusiasm for your decision to share the bits of your life you've posted here on your blog. ^__^

  2. Thanks for your kind words! I liked your review of The Monkey's Voyage (of course). I particularly agree with your discussion about the audience for the book. And thanks for your kind words about my blog. I've been enjoying looking at your blog too. Misanthropes and librarians are two of my favorite groups of people!