Melanie Challenger's first prose book ("On Extinictions") is a wonderful read. Let me begin by saying what it is not. It is not a strident siren song beckoning action on the issue of species extinctions, not an objective nor a coherently crafted argument for reevaluation of humans' interaction with nature. In comparison with, say, with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, it is only a soft brush of reality. The subtitle is not effectively described or argued at all. Yet, the author manages to make the point in a remarkably compelling manner, and the overall effect is soul chilling. She treats not just species extinctions, but extinctions of languages, of cultures, of industries, and of livelihoods. She does this by probing deeply into her own past experiences, beginning with her youthful forays in Cornwall, and continuing to her recent excursions to the polar regions. Along with that, she weaves seamlessly into her discourse the observations and thoughts of innumerable past authors, from the ancient Greeks to the writers of recent decades. Clearly the author is well read, and she easily draws on the contributions of others even though she seems to be able to see things with a thousand pairs of eyes herself. The early chapters are narrative, often in a seemingly florid prose which may not appeal to all -- consider, for example: "MIsts moved against the still hedges, slow exhalations of the failing day." But within this, slowly a thesis builds as the author leads us from the fallow pastures of Cornwall through the hulks of the whaling industry in the southern ocean and finally into the native people's lands of far northern Canada. Along the way, we are presented with the parallel between human's extinction of species and of culture and language, even our own in cases. Although our estrangement from nature is not directly argued or treated, it is adequately revealed by example. It is not clear from this book whether that is indeed a good or bad development. It seems that humans left a very poor record on species, and other, extinctions when they were well connected to nature. Perhaps our estrangement from nature will allow us a perspective by which effective action can be deployed and cultural changes made to arrest extinctions. This is a book which should draw the reader to think along with the author. In all the extinction narrative, the author continually points to the nostalgia that humans feel for things lost and destroyed. For this reviewer, a true nostalgia will be simply: the first reading of Challenger's book in the cold, gray days of December.