Feathers (Paperback)

The Evolution of a Natural Miracle

By Thor Hanson

Basic Books, 9780465028788, 352pp.

Publication Date: July 31, 2012

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (5/1/2011)
MP3 CD (10/6/2015)

List Price: 17.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


As seen on PBS's American Spring Live, one of America's great nature-writers explores the magic and science of feathers

Feathers are an evolutionary marvel: aerodynamic, insulating, beguiling. They date back more than 100 million years. Yet their story has never been fully told. In Feathers, biologist Thor Hanson details a sweeping natural history, as feathers have been used to fly, protect, attract, and adorn through time and place. Applying the research of paleontologists, ornithologists, biologists, engineers, and even art historians, Hanson asks: What are feathers? How did they evolve? What do they mean to us?

Engineers call feathers the most efficient insulating material ever discovered, and they are at the root of biology's most enduring debate. They silence the flight of owls and keep penguins dry below the ice. They have decorated queens, jesters, and priests. And they have inked documents from the Constitution to the novels of Jane Austen.

Feathers is a captivating and beautiful exploration of this most enchanting object.

About the Author

Thor Hanson is a conservation biologist, Guggenheim Fellow, and author of award-winning books including Buzz, Feathers, The Impenetrable Forest, and The Triumph of Seeds. He lives with his wife and son on an island in Washington State.


Praise For Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle

"Thor Hanson's Feathers is a
sparkling history...popular natural history at its best."—New Scientist

"An illuminating study of an
evolutionary marvel."—Economist

"A winning book about the extraordinary place of feathers in
animal and human history."—Wall Street Journal

"Feathers is an impressive
blend of beauty, form, and function."—Natural History

"Thor Hanson's storytelling is
enhanced by his infectious excitement.... Feathers is a compelling
introduction to one of nature's wonders."—Nature

"A readable introduction to
feathers and what they mean for birds and mankind."—Science

is gracious, funny, persuasive and wide ranging."—Amanda Katz, New York Times

"[D]elightful.... [A]
fascinating inquiry into one of those common things that are easy to overlook
until someone shows what a miracle it is."—Seattle Times

"[Hanson] gives
unexpected substance to his nearly weightless subject."—Discover

Beginning with the evolution of birds, Hanson...unfolds the human fascination
with feathers in terms of science, commerce, tools, folklore, art, and
aerodynamics with panache."—Audubon

"There are many
feathery gems to be discovered in this book.... Feathers is a book
designed to be read, not skimmed, with every page revealing new layers of

"To read Feathers is
to meet up with an enthusiastic old friend who simply cannot wait to tell you
about something he just discovered...a must-read by bird watchers and
naturalists of all levels of interest or experience."—Bird Watcher's Digest

"A fascinating book...unusually
well-written. Highly recommended."—Peter Matthiessen, National Book Award-winning author of The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country

"Absolutely fascinating
history, and a terrific read."—Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

"This is rich and engaging ornithology at its
best."—Frank B. Gill, author of Ornithology

"This is science
written in clear and entertaining prose; a great read."—Bernd Heinrich, Emeritus Professor of Biology, University of Vermont; author of Winter World and Mind of the Raven

"Feathers is
simply a splendid book!"—Robert Michael Pyle, author of Wintergreen and Mariposa Road

"[A] fascinating and eminently readable