Paperbacks: Coral - A Pessimist in Paradise, by Steve Jones

This fascinating book about man's relationship to the planet, as exemplified by coral, was inspired by Jones's holiday home, near "a coral island in a tropical sea". At least it was once.

The island is now in the heart of France. Composed of living creatures, some equipped with a potent sting (its mechanism is "the most complex structure made by any cell"), coral reefs have been raided for millennia. Most recently, they have suffered irreversible damage from fishing and pollution. "The world of coral gives more reason for despondency than hope," muses this enviably articulate scientist. "Our extinction is as certain as theirs."