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5+ Works 625 Membros 12 Críticas

About the Author

Caspar Henderson is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times, the Independent, and New Scientist.

Obras por Caspar Henderson

Associated Works

Archipelago: Number Five (Spring 2011) (2011) — Contribuidor — 1 exemplar


Conhecimento Comum

Data de nascimento
20th Century
Locais de residência
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK
University of Cambridge (Corpus Christi College)



Caspar Henderson's modern bestiary is a masterful blending of the odd, the erudite and the philosophical. The book is an A-Z of unusual life forms that Henderson uses as a platform for fascinating digressions and musings on scientific discovery, evolution and the impact that humans have had on the world we live in. Some of his digressions are surprising - the minute winterbear gives rise to a discussion on space travel for example - but the book flows logically and never flags.

This is a sumptuous book full of line drawings, maps, photos and marginalia. Henderson's footnoting is very effective, using coloured text to guide the eye, rather than numbered superscripts. Books like this are the reason why ebooks will never entirely replace the physical form.… (mais)
gjky | 8 outras críticas | Apr 9, 2023 |
Science, history, philosophy, literature, poetry, art all kind of mooshed together in s book about wonder and wonderful things and ideas. As usual, I didn’t like the last couple chapters as much as the rest of it, but I’ve said that in so many of my reviews that I know it must be something about me, not the books. I guess authors sometimes save certain bits for last, and somehow those aren’t the bits I like. But I DID like the book overall.

Had weird formatting for the footnotes, they were in the margins instead of the bottom of the page. Kinda fun, kinda strange.… (mais)
steve02476 | 2 outras críticas | Jan 3, 2023 |
“This book is an attempt to better understand and imagine being and beings,” I do not think there is a better way to capture what the book is about than the one chosen by the author. Do not be fooled by the title, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary, by Caspar Henderson, is less of an encyclopedia about earth’s fauna and more of a collection of essays on history, humanity and the relation between humans and nature.

Prompted by some of the most exquisite beings known to humans, Henderson does an impressive job at correlating what makes them stand out - be that inherent characteristics or the way they are perceived by humankind - and a study of the human condition. Following the structure of a traditional bestiary, the author takes us on a journey from A to Z on how to appreciate the details of life.

Henderson’s storytelling is aided by Goulbanou Moghaddas beautiful illustrations, as well as some photographs, breaking the walls of texts and providing the reader not only with some rest between pages, but with a deeper insight of what is being said. While the book would still work without the visual aids, it would be, without a doubt, a much less pleasant experience.

Although the title could suggest otherwise, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary is not a book for those looking to know more about the animal kingdom, but for those looking to know more about humanity and how we perceive the world around us.
… (mais)
Brandac | 8 outras críticas | May 16, 2021 |
"… among the most important challenges facing you and me, surely, is the need to develop awareness worthy of the complexity and beauty of creation." (pg. 190)

A fascinating science book slightly diminished by some eccentricities and an occasional lack of focus. Caspar Henderson's book A New Map of Wonders begins by bursting forth like a horn of plenty, and I thought I had found a new favourite for my shelf. Henderson uses an anecdote of seeing his young daughter experience a gentle pool of sunlight in their house ("created by trillions of photons… flowing from a stupendous thermonuclear explosion tens of millions of miles away" (pg. 3)) to kick off "a journey in search of modern marvels", as the book's subtitle puts it.

This, as I said, is a horn of plenty; each page of the book, from beginning to end, contains a wealth of scientific and humanistic anecdotes that (I hope) I will remember and be thinking about for a long time. From the chimpanzees in Tanzania who were observed to routinely climb to the top of a ridge to watch the sunset, while holding hands (pg. 5), to the 2016 discovery that "plants may 'see' underground by channelling light from the surface all the way to the tips of their roots" (pg. 164), Henderson offers up an almost breathless array of awe-inspiring provocations to wonder.

It does, at times, become a bit too filling. The book can be slow-going, just because there is so much to unpick (that's an observation rather than a complaint), and there are so many interesting tangents that the broad chapter parameters – on 'light', 'life', 'the heart', 'the brain', and so on – often lack a polemical or journalistic force that they might have benefited from. Henderson's purpose for the book – "a better appreciation of both the things we wonder at and the nature of wonder itself" (pg. 3) – can often become lost to the reader, and the name-checking of 'wonder' after each long and intense ramble through the myriad discoveries of science often seem like attempts to wrestle back control of an expanding project. As a reading experience, the book is longer than its page count suggests.

This occasional lack of focus, and the sense that the book was bursting at its seams, prevented A New Map of Wonders from becoming a true favourite of mine, but in truth its genuine drawbacks are few. The environmental discussion towards the end, though worthy, was essentially a regurgitation of the new orthodoxy, at odds with the author's vivacity and originality elsewhere. Similarly, the bleak picture of the future painted in the final chapter – income inequality, climate change, automation, etc. – left me rather tired and depressed; an odd note on which to end a book about the wonders of life. Henderson also shows his political cards in this final chapter, trying to nudge the reader towards Islington-set luxury communism and denouncing Trump with the words of that well-known authority on politics, Zadie Smith (pp312-3). These objections are relative to personal taste, of course, but I for one don't like being nudged into political discussion in a science book, particularly when the author's casual dinner-party biases remain unexamined. I don't resent it, and sometimes I agree with it, but I'm just weary of every damn thing nowadays putting its two political cents into everything.

As for more objective flaws, Henderson occasionally delivers some eccentric word choices – 'kludge' and 'staggeringlier', for example. Apropos of nothing, we get the line "I reflect on a political and economic system that squcks our thrugs till all we can whupple is geep" (pg. 14), which I can only assume was included in order to win a bet. The plethora of quotations in the margins of the book derail as often as they illuminate, and have the further effect of shrinking the area for the main text. Between the small size and the frequently grey font, the book is – physically, for the eyes – taxing to read.

For the other flaws I mentioned above, such as the tangents and the rambles, the slow pace and density of the book, they are ones the reader comes to enjoy, such is the cornucopic charm of the book. Henderson's New Map might not be very useful for orienting yourself or for getting clear and accurate directions, but there is a joy in being lost, in finding new things by happenstance, new connections that you didn't expect, and this the book provides.

"… there is another dimension to what I would like to see as 'true' wonder, and that is strong cognitive engagement – an intensity of thought as well as feeling…" (pg. 216)
… (mais)
1 vote
MikeFutcher | 2 outras críticas | Apr 14, 2021 |



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