Beginning a Diane Ackerman book is like sinking into a hot bubble bath: warm, soothing, and sensuous. After having adored Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses, I’ve made a point to collect a copy of every Ackerman title I can find used: a rewarding task given how prolific a writer she is.
The Rarest of the Rare is a slim (by Ackerman’s standards) volume in which Ackerman lives up to her reputation of being “a hard-core adventuress” by traveling around the world to observe endangered monk seals, short-tailed albatrosses, and golden lion tamarinds as well as the threatened habitats of the Amazonian rainforest and the Florida scrublands. As with all of her books, The Rarest of the Rare is a descriptive delight, bombarding readers with sensory details of Ackerman’s adventures as she swims with monk seals and slogs up the Amazon. Although extinction has always been a natural part of the evolutionary process, the current rate of human-influenced environmental change threatens both biodiversity and the very sanctity of natural life. A rare bird herself, Ackerman captures the beauty of endangered creatures and ignites in her readers a desire to save them.