Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Feathers (Thor Hanson)

Hanson, Thor - Feathers


Title: Feathers
Author:  Thor Hanson
Genre: Non-Fiction / Natural World
First published: 2011
Edition: Paperback, published in 2012 by Basic Books

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.


I enjoy strange niche books like this one, which focuses entirely on, you guessed it, feathers. You know, those amazing things that birds grow naturally and us humans like to use for stuff, from fashion to arrows and writing implements.

I had read Buzz by this author before, which I really loved, so I knew I already liked Hanson’s writing style. This one did not fail in that respect. I really appreciate the way he explains his subject matter. It’s not too academic and neither does he treat the reader like a complete idiot. Instead he takes his own experiences and knowledge and goes to people more knowledgeable than him to find out more.

Thus we find out why feathers may have evolved and what the first feathered dinosaurs may have looked like. I enjoyed finding about all sorts of weird and wonderful adaptations that have happened in the natural world to make some feathers more specialised.

However, the author goes on to look at the uses we put feathers to. The author looks at the earliest uses of feathers and how feathers are still used today. From Las Vegas show girls to down sleeping bags, feathers are still around us today, but nowhere near the hot commodity they ones were.

I don’t think this book worked quite as well as Buzz, but I still really enjoyed finding out more about one of the wonders of the natural world. There were parts that was endlessly fascinating and parts that did not interest me as much, but overall this was a fascinating read.

If you are the kind of weird person, like me, who enjoys this type of weirdly specific book, I would definitely recommend it.

5 out of 7 stars


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