‘The Sixth Extinction’ is a fairly recent book by Elizabeth Kolbert. She has previously written ‘Fieldnotes from a Catastrophe’ about climate change (which I have yet to read!), but this book is more about extinction, as the name implies.


I started reading this having minimal knowledge of previous extinctions except for the dinosaurs really. So a whole book on extinction was sure to teach me something new. It starts by introducing a current extinction, the death of amphibians, more specifically the Panamanian golden frog due to Chytrid fungus. Then theres a chapter each on the possible/ actual extinctions of mastodons, the great auk, ammonites, graptolites, Mediterranean limpets, coral, central American trees, army ants, the little brown bat, the Sumatran rhino, Neanderthals and us.

I will say, I didn’t read the back of the book, so I anticipated that the entire book was about the possible extinctions of so many Amphibians due to Chytrid fungus (as the cover shows), so I’m not sure whether I was happy or not on when I got to the 2nd chapter that was on Mastodons. But either way, I kept reading.

The book was great, each chapter is focussed around particular animals that are approaching extinction (like the brown bats) or are extinct (mastodons, great auks). But each chapter has a great story about the first discovery of extinct animal remains or discovering that some animals are becoming extinct. I learnt a lot, and that’s saying something considering I never paid attention to animal biology during my UG, mainly as I thought anything bigger than microbes were boring.

The book does really hit home about the effect we are having on the extinction of animals across the globe, through our direct actions or indirect. It really makes you think how many species of animals are suffering under our proliferation. The book isn’t all doom and gloom though, as it explains how we can help species facing extinction and there are a few jokes listed here and there, with my particular favourite:

Yes, yes that does say what you think it does. Something that I didn’t anticipate reading in a book about extinction!

Overall: 8/10