Flannery, Tim. An Explorer’s Notebook

Text Publishing $34.95

If you haven’t yet read any books written by Tim Flannery, 2007’s Australian of the Year, here’s a decent place to start. An Explorer’s Notebook is a delightful and gentle introduction to Flannery’s work, providing insight into the author’s personal journey from multi-disciplinary scientist to climate change educator.

The articles are organised chronologically, in three sections: In the Field: 1985-2002; On Other People’s Words: 1999-2007; and Climate: 2006-2007. Articles in the first section demonstrate the development of Flannery’s written voice, which strides out from the first pages, self-conscious and confident – much like the young scientist who explores far flung regions in theSolomon Islands,Papua New Guinea, andAustralia. Flannery is often praised for making scientific writing lively, and here this is clearly shown in tales of strange mammals and rugged journeys.

Less engaging is the middle section, if only for the lack of focus on the author. Flannery’s selection of book reviews published in New York Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement covers some random (that’s Ja’mie’s schoolyard ‘random’) ground – and the interest here lies in the titles presented: disparate work that Flannery obviously respects and wishes to introduce to a different readership.

But it is Tim Flannery that we are here to read, and not just his very good reviews. Hence the final section is the book’s strongest. Close to the present and aching in their immediacy, these chapters include Flannery’s acceptance speech as Australian of the Year, a couple of trademark articles on climate change issues, and a fascinating account of the international launches of The Weather Makers, This final chapter, A New Adventure, present a succinct account of global climate attitudes over the past year or so – a crucial period of significant swings in public opinion.

This notebook deserves its inevitable place in the informed Christmas stocking.