Feathers by Thor Hanson

Subtitle: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle

Published: 2011

Genre: nonfiction science

Length: 272 pages of story, 336 if you include appendices and the index

Interest: I can’t remember why I put it on my reading list, but I’m sure it was because it sounded like an interesting science book.

Summary: The book goes through the different uses of feathers, both by birds and humans. He starts with the evolution of feathers and the evidence of feathers in dinosaurs. The first section is called “Fluff” and is about the insulating properties of feathers. Next is “Flight”, about the current hypotheses about the development of flight in birds and the specialization of feathers for flying. “Fancy” discusses how feathers have evolved to attract a mate. Because of the beauty of feathers, they were used in women’s fashion up to the early 1900s. Finally, the author discusses “Function”, including other ways humans use feathers (as down or pens, for example) and some specialized uses of feathers in birds.

Final thoughts: Another example of how fascinating a single science topic can be. I couldn’t imagine trying to pitch a whole book about feathers, but it was really interesting. I enjoyed his personal stories into research on feathers that liberally interspersed the scientific knowledge that he provided. The author also did a great job in presenting the scientific process. There are several points in bird and feather evolution that we really aren’t sure exactly how it happened, and Hanson discussed the competing hypotheses and how the scientists are trying to gather data to support their hypothesis and what happens when new data is uncovered from the fossil record. Anyone who “doesn’t believe in evolution” will hate this book, since it provides lots of evidence for the process of evolution occurring to create modern birds from dinosaurs. As a bonus, the book does have pictures, although I was reading on a Kindle which doesn’t support color so I’m sure I didn’t get the full experience.

Title comes from: The topic.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 37/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge, 9/14 in the Nerdy Nonfiction Challenge for science

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Feathers by Thor Hanson

  1. Pingback: Recommended Science books | Fill Your Bookshelf

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