The Rarest of the Rare paperback






The Rarest of the Rare hardcover

THE RAREST OF THE RARE: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds


Ackerman journeys in search of monarch butterflies and short-tailed albatrosses, monk seals and golden lion tamarin monkeys: the world's rarest creatures and their vanishing habitats. She delivers a rapturous celebration of other species that is also a warning to our own. 

Traveling from the Amazon rain forest to a forbidding island off the coast of Japan, enduring everything from broken ribs to a beating by an irate seal, Ackerman reveals her subjects in all their splendid particularity. She shows us how they feed, mate, and migrate. She eavesdrops on their class and courtship dances. She pays tribute to the men and women who have devoted their lives to saving them. And on every page of The Rarest of the Rare, Ackerman conveys her passion to her readers, turning scientific reportage into an act of seduction.



"This reader was left wondering which was more impressive, Ms. Ackerman's meticulous prose or her intrepid spirit." — The New York Times Book Review

"A work to savor... Ackerman brings to her work a poetic sensitivity that enchants while it informs... entrancing." — Philadelphia Inquirer

"A writer whose back yard... is quite literally the entire planet... She is dedicated to her subjects in a serious, formal way, even as her inspiration reveals the whimsical, impulsive fascination of scientists." — Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Diane Ackerman has spun a treatise that is as accessible as a travel guide, weaving gossamer words that transfix the unwary armchair explorer... The experience is a sensuous bondage." — Baltimore Sun

Intimate, savory portraits of imperiled animals and environments, by the author of A Natural History of Love (1994), etc. Extinction is a natural part of evolution, often "unmalicious, intentionless, random." We humans too are part of the natural matrix and may wish to explain our agency in the extinction process as such--natural, evolutionary. But it is well to remember, advises Ackerman, that mass extinctions--like what is happening right this minute--tend to wipe out the culprits as well, and that means you and me. Ackerman finds our role in the destruction of creatures and places reprehensible; she states, "As a member of the species responsible for their downfall, I feel an urgent need to witness and celebrate them before they vanish." And celebrate them she does, beautifully, in six finely crafted evocations: monk seals and golden lion tamarins, the Florida scrublands and the Amazon, the migration of monarch butterflies. Ackerman drinks in the whole picture; she went to the remote, storm-tossed island of Torishima, off Japan, to observe the short-tailed albatross ("vibrant white, with radiant yellow heads and coral-pink bills tipped in blue"), but she is just as attentive to the landscape, "a glacier of crushed lava . . . ground singed with bright yellow sulphur salts and hot black scabs." As always, she likes her nature raw, "dizzyingly sensuous and deeply spiritual," reveling in the promiscuity of it all, and as for her oft-mentioned anthropomorphism, she has a neat response to the chiding she takes at the tamarin camp: "As a higher primate female, I'm hard-wired to respond to the young of all mammalian species as cute. . . . Think of it as part of my evolutionary program." Smart and polished and totally entertaining, Ackerman is a pure pleasure. — Kirkus Review



©  2022 Diane Ackerman