Lost animals: The story of extinct, endangered and rediscovered species

Welbeck/Smithsonian, 2020

An illustrated history of animal life in 101 species, from the Precambrian to the Anthropocene, via the Cambrian explosion, the colonisation of the land, the dinosaurs and the diversity of prehistoric humans, arriving in today’s world of animals driven to extinction, threatened with extinction, and the ‘Lazarus species’ rediscovered after being missing, presumed extinct.

“When life on Earth seems caught in turmoil and uncertainty, a look to the past can help gain perspective…This incredibly interesting scientific journey takes a critical look at
the effects of human behavior and what must be done now to change course.” – Booklist

People Will Talk: The hidden power of reputation

Wiley/Duckworth, 2011

Reputation is not what we use to judge one another; it’s what we use to control one another.

That’s because your reputation does not belong to you. It’s a hostage that lives in the minds and mouths of others. Our efforts to protect our own reputations and make use of others’ has a huge influence on human (and animal) behaviour and societies.

People Will Talk looks at how reputation runs the world. Along the way, it takes in everything from cheating fish to Ebay feedback, Adam Smith to honour violence, the financial crisis to the uses of gossip, and the whites of our eyes to the fates of our souls.

“Pulls off a remarkable feat of balancing nature and nurture, animal biology and human behaviour, to explore the universal goal of creating—and maintaining—an admirable reputation. The result is a book both wonderfully readable and pragmatically useful, an artful illumination of the ways that we can manage both our public and private personas to best effect.” – Deborah Blum

“Merges the science and art of this increasingly complex and critical field. John Whitfield provides a clear prescription for building trust, credibility and integrity.” – Jeffrey Stibel

“Draws on philosophy, sociology, economics and animal-behaviour experiments to punch through the surface of this powerful and perplexing phenomenon.” – Nature

Also available as an audiobook

In the Beat of a Heart: Life, energy and the unity of nature

Joseph Henry Press/National Academies, 2006
PDF (all rights reserved)   notes and references

For centuries, scientists have dreamt of discovering an underlying unity to nature. Life is complicated. But scientists are now discovering that energy is the unifying force that joins all life on Earth. A new theory seeks to explain how the natural world—from the tiniest amoeba to the greatest rain forest—is constructed. 

This theory helps us understand why a shrew eats its bodyweight in food each day, why a mammal’s heart beats about 1 billion times in its lifetime, why there are no trees as tall as the Eiffel Tower, and why more species live at the Earth’s equator than at its poles. In the Beat of a Heart combines biography, history, science and nature writing to capture exciting advances and the people who are making them.

“This is a book that addresses fabulous and life-enhancing themes. It is written beautifully enough to take your breath away, even as its author writes about trying not to hyperventilate. A book through which ideas, energy and food for thought cycle across every page.”
– Tim Radford, Guardian

“Engaging…his first hand experience at the subject’s coal face are vividly readable. Whitfield’s lively account focuses on the power of a beguilingly simple idea about how the living world might work, and on the remarkable men who conceived it.” – Nature

“A fascinating insight into how science is done. When Whitfield travels to Costa Rica, the prose becomes Brysonesque.” – Times Higher Education 

“If different species—whether tree, bear, or bacterium—are subject to the same physical laws, is there a general unified theory of biology? Writing in an engaging style, Whitfield describes the work and lives of key scientists whose often controversial ideas also help contribute answers.” – Library Journal, Best sci-tech books, 2006