The Guardian has undertaken the daunting task of choosing the top 100 nonfiction books of all time. They’re working from present day and going backwards (in terms of when these books were published), and they’ve just selected the first book for their list. It’s Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, the Pultizer Prize winning book published just last year.
In The Sixth Extinction, Kolbert explores the idea of mass extinction, a phenomenon that the world has seen five times before. Kolbert argues that we’re in the middle of a sixth such mass extinction, but that this time things are different: instead of environmental events or asteroid impacts, the extinction is being caused by us humans. That’s bad news, since we humans are a part of this ecosystem, too. By playing a role in this ongoing mass extinction, Kolbert argues, humans are hurting themselves as much as they’re hurting the planet.
The Guardian raves about Kolbert’s book, calling it “an urgent contemporary report” on the ongoing environmental disaster. As for the rest of the list, The Guardian will release it in serial form in the coming weeks and months. They’re working backwards, so all we can say for sure is that no books from 2015 will be in the running now that Kolbert’s 2014 effort has made the cut.