The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. First published 1994.
I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of The Beak of the Finch when I picked it up at the Unclaimed Baggage shop in Alabama. Arthur had pointed it out to me; he knew I was looking for bird-related natural history books, and judging from the cover, The Beak of the Finch looked like something I would like to read. As it sat on my bookshelf waiting for its turn to be read, I started to hear birding acquaintances recommend this book as a must-read. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I can agree completely. The Beak of the Finch is a must-read.
The Beak of the Finch was first published in 1994, and it won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. The book explains several concepts in the study of evolution, while following the landmark work done on Galapagos Island finches by Peter and Rosemary Grant. The Grants began their work on Daphne Major in the 1970’s and through their long-term study of the finches, as well as the research of others, natural selection is known to work at a pace never dreamed of by Charles Darwin himself. The beaks of the Galapagos finches tell just a part of the incredible tale of evolution as it is understood and as it is being studied today.
Theories in topics like hybridization, natural selection and speciation are explained by relating diverse studies on fruit flies, guppies, moths, and much more. Each study is fascinating and they all fit into the bigger picture of evolution.
The Beak of the Finch is an engaging book and a must-read for anyone interested in understanding evolution. I give The Beak of the Finch 5 Goldfinches out of 5.