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Please note: not to be confused with the 2009 book by Carl Zimmer by the same title.
"It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us…”
– Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
Robert Michael Pyle’s Tangled Bank column appeared in 52 consecutive issues of Orion and Orion Afield magazines between 1997 and 2008. Each essay collected in The Tangled Bank explores Charles Darwin’s contention that the elements of such a bank, and by extension all the living world, are endlessly interesting and ever evolving.
Pyle’s thoughtful and concise narratives range in subject from hops and those who love them to independent bookstores to the monarchs of Mexico. In each piece, Pyle refutes “the idea that the world is a boring place,” sharing his meticulous observations of the endless and fascinating details of the living earth.
“These essays, each a multifaceted gem, convey an exuberant sense of what it feels like to encounter the greater-than-human world with senses alert and mind engaged. And what a mind! Equally at ease in science and art, in philosophy and fun, Robert Michael Pyle is curious and knowledgeable about all manner of living things, from butterflies to bats, from bioluminescent plankton to the yeast in beer. If you can’t go afield with him, go a-page. You will not find a livelier companion.”
- Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works and A Conservationist Manifesto
“The Tangled Bank was a deeply pleasurable read, a reminder of what’s important in my own life as an observer of the natural world. The book evoked a sense of hope that we can all live like this, engaged, responsive, awake to the beauty around us.”
- Sharman Apt Russell, author of Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist