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Forced to Choose

et al., Roald Hoffmann


Eclectic zoologist and author of, among others, The Thermal Warriors, Ravens in Winter, The Trees in My Forest and Bumblebee Economics

Naming the book that has been most influential to me is like trying to name the most important cell in the body or the best tree in the forest. However, being forced to make a choice, I suppose that the earliest exposure in one's embryonic development may ultimately have the largest effect. I never owned so-called children's books. The first book I owned (and still possess) and pored through eagerly and often was Hans Wagner's 1922 little Taschenbush der Käfer (Pocketbook of Beetle). It is primarily identification keys with color plates. I was nine years old and collecting carabid beetles at the time. The book connected what I'd found with science, and it opened my imagination to new wonders of other species that I had not yet found and that I could then dream about and search for, to make little discoveries on my own. The book influenced me to connect the contents of pages with concrete nature. It taught me that books have something real to offer, as opposed to describing figments of the imagination that most other kids were exposed to.

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