I'm a little over halfway through The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in the Age of Extinction by David Quammen, who is becoming one of my favorite science writers. Despite being almost 20 years old it holds up very well. Although it should be an obvious lesson to anyone familiar with story of Galapagos finches, studying island populations is basically a huge cheat sheet for learning the mechanisms that drive evolution. Quammen points out how people get the lesson of the Galapagos completely backwards: its scientific value does not come from it's uniqueness, but from the fact it is a typical representation of archipelago islands. I was also unaware how the finch story itself has slowly evolved into mythology. Darwin's work on honeycreepers was apparently a much greater influence on this theories. But enough about the Galapagos, as it's only one of dozens of islands discussed. There's species of lemur on Madagascar that can tolerate cyanide in bamboo, which ends up telling us a tremendous amount about both their migration history and their evolution. I was reminded of the fact that there were no mosquitoes on Hawaii until some jackass European dumped out a cask of old drinking water. The question of why some species become giants and some become pygmies is looked at closely. The titular extinction of dodos is briefly mentioned, although the more interesting aspect is how it's extinction did/did not influence other species' distributions on Mauritius. There's some stuff about Aborigine tribes is Tasmania that was heartbreaking.
Quammen travels to virtually every location he writes about, in some cases multiple times. He's almost mauled by a komodo dragon, gets roped into the grunt work for some field ecologists, and puts cryptozooligists to shame by making honest attempts to locate some extinct species. I think National Geographic and Outside magazine are funding most of his trips, and I get a sinking feeling when I wonder if journalists will still be able to afford these excursions in 20 years. I'm sure the only way to really appreciate the beauty and scientific lessons of remote islands is to go there yourself, but getting information from a competent writer that has been there is the next best thing.
9/10 for now, maybe higher if there are some profound insights later in the book.