Notebooks from New Guinea: Field Notes of a Tropical Biologist

Notebooks from New Guinea: Field Notes of a Tropical Biologist

by Vojtech Novotny, David Short
     
 

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Hailed by Edward O. Wilson as "one of the most amazing books I have ever read," this exhilarating volume offers a rare combination of first-rank science and top-notch storytelling. Vojtech Novotny, a world-class researcher and a brilliant writer, works on location in one of the toughest regions of the world—a high-risk locale rife with tropical

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Overview

Hailed by Edward O. Wilson as "one of the most amazing books I have ever read," this exhilarating volume offers a rare combination of first-rank science and top-notch storytelling. Vojtech Novotny, a world-class researcher and a brilliant writer, works on location in one of the toughest regions of the world—a high-risk locale rife with tropical diseases and venomous wildlife. Moreover, Novotny works closely with the indigenous peoples—natives who still hunt food with spear and arrow—involving them in his research and profiting from their deep familiarity with this rugged landscape. As a result, he has many a fascinating tale to tell, and he is a marvelous storyteller. Indeed, this is an unusual and fascinating collection of almost one hundred brief vignettes, adventurous tales, and reflections that illuminate the native culture and what the West can learn from it. Ably translated by David Short, this delightfully engaging book brings to life—with warmth and wisdom—the place, the people, and the pursuit of knowledge deep in the jungles of New Guinea.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In contemplating a single word to use in describing this work, this reviewer had come up with "amazing," only to discover on the book's back cover that eminent biologist E. O. Wilson had used the same adjective. Highly recommended."—Choice

"When not busy with his researches (and these are recounted with a winningly light touch), Novotny has found time to explore this unique culture. The results are spectacular: an exercise in witty and whimsical amateur anthropology that puts the professionals to shame."—Geographical

"What is striking about Notebooks is how there is a perfect balance between the academic and the literary. This is a very intriguing book with thoughtful and intelligent analysis and conclusions, and yet one does not feel as though they are reading a stuffy academic publication. Czech author Vojtech Novotny (translated by David Short) has provided a very interesting tale of travels, broadening horizons and insight unto the human condition." — Sacramento Book Review

"Novotny's enthusiam for a country where he has worked for many years, his humor, and his ability to convey the fascination of scientific research make this book a perfect answer to anyone who thinks that everything has been catalogued and scanned, an unorthodox travel book that restores our faith in the weirdness of the world."—Benjamin Moser, Harper's Magazine

"Focusing on the people and their way of living, little escapes Novotny's attention; he examines the base-13 number system, myths about dwarfs, the price of brides (£5,000), and other idiosyncrasies..."—Publishers Weekly

"[Novotny's] wry remarks on the ease of his 'commute' to an outlying laboratory (featuring blocked bridges, a bandit attack, several flat tires, and attempts at climbing muddy hills) and tips for the field biologist (expect malaria; whatever happens, don't panic) will intrigue both armchair travelers and lovers of popular science."—Booklist

"I hugely enjoyed reading Notebooks from New Guinea, partly because I have visited PNG and experienced firsthand some of the issues discussed, but also for its exploration of many cultural issues that visiting scientists often overlook. Anyone planning to visit PNG should definitely read this book, and not just research biologists. It will also generate a deep respect for the scientists who manage to carry out top-quality groundbreaking research in this most challenging environment." — Alan J.A. Stewart, Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Publishers Weekly
Czech ecologist Novotny (Arthropods of Tropical Forests) recounts his decade living in New Guinea, "a most diverse and extraordinary land," home to six million people and 1,043 different languages. Focusing on the people and their way of living, little escapes Novotny's attention; he examines the base-13 number system, myths about dwarfs, the price of brides (£5,000), and other idiosyncrasies; their extended-family, communal living structure meant that New Guinea tourists in Australia were astounded to see homeless people sleeping on the streets. Occasional shockers can be in questionable taste-i.e., a flip description of cannibalism, practiced in many of New Guinea's cultures until 50 years ago: "one might argue... against ideologies that view neighbors as canned meat on two legs, but eating the deceased was actually a highly civilized custom." Fortunately, his excesses are balanced by genuine sympathy for people making the journey into a radically foreign, modern world, which in many ways (as Novotny illustrates) is equally improbable. 28 b&w illustrations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199561650
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
06/15/2009
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)

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