editor's choice


We’d love to meet Professor Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson. Apart from the fact she sounds like she’d be great fun, her book, Tapestries of Life: Uncovering Lifesaving Secrets of the Natural World, is just joyous. A wonderful evocation and celebration of our world, which also holds us to account.

In the opening pages, the author tells of what sounds like an idyllic childhood, summers spent in a cabin on a small island out on a lake in a forest, where her family enjoyed the outdoors, getting to grips with nature. Here, Sverdrup-Thygeson learnt all manner of things from her beloved grandfather and a family who allowed her to be curious. As a professor of conservation biology, at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, studying threats and responses to biological diversity, the author employs an avid curiosity and sense of wonderment about the world to engage her audience. This book is testament to both, an attempt, a very successful attempt to show us ‘all the things that the wonderful natural world does’ so that we can see what’s at stake through our behaviour and attitudes towards it. ‘We have made use of it,’ the author writes, ‘but our ability to exploit the benefits of nature also risks undermining the very foundation of our own existence.’

This could easily be a preachy book, lecturing us on things we’ve all heard before, but Sverdrup-Thygeson’s very joy in the world about us and her bountiful knowledge shine through her writing. It’s engaging, informative and fun. We’re given a lot of information, and yet it never feels like overload, it’s done so well. And it’s easy to conclude that Sverdrup-Thygeson is a fantastic teacher.

Tapestries of Life is a wonderful celebration of our world and a book that will become an Old Familiar, something to dip into again and again and come away with something new each time. More than that, it’s made us look at the world about us in a new light. Made us curious about things we probably, lamentably, have taken for granted. We’re lucky enough to live somewhere beautiful, just yards from the sea, arguably ‘the last healthy thing in a sick world’, and yet what Tapestries of Life has highlighted for us is there’s so much more going on, so much more to see, to learn, to respect and preserve. And our world does need and deserve to be preserved. And enjoyed. And loved.

This is the kind of book we adore and so can’t recommend it enough. It’s an invigorating read, an absolute joy for anyone with a curious mind and a love of our planet.

Tapestries of Life | Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson | Mudlark | April 2021 | £14.99 |

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Acknowledgements: All text quotes from the book © 2021 Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson/English translation © 2021 Lucy Moffatt. This review is published as part of the publisher virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater for arranging it and to the publisher for sending a book proof and the above jacket image. All views expressed are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other great reviewers on the tour.

See also:By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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