Paperback: The Variety of Life by Colin Tudge

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Borges once compiled a book of imaginary animals. That undertaking is knocked into a cocked hat by Tudge's prodigious, wonderful survey of all the creatures that have existed in reality. Don't come here for a celebration of the higher animals. Whales are given the same space as the sea cucumber. Building on Linnaeus, Tudge is concerned with taxonomy, the familial characteristics, so mind-boggling in their variety, that facilitate the classification of nature. This is much more than a beautifully illustrated, engagingly written catalogue. It is also a plea for maintaining our planet's diversity: "It is hard to think of anything more worthwhile."