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Cover photo by Dennis Goodman

Wild Hope Amid the Sixth Extinction
by Eli J. Knapp

Through personal stories of mishap and adventure, historical vignettes, and scenic detours, professor Eli J. Knapp dissects eighteen critical forces that lie behind the earth's sixth extinction. Drawing from experiences across the globe, Knapp peeks into odd and overlooked corners of natural history, showing how ocean-going tortoises and ghost deer can both instruct and inspire. Full of humor, hope, and self-effacing scientific savvy, Knapp's exploration of our home planet provides welcome respite in a deadly serious subject.


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ELI J. KNAPP, Ph.D., is professor of intercultural studies and biology at Houghton College and director of the Houghton in Tanzania program. Knapp is a regular contributor to Birdwatcher’s DigestNew York State Conservationist, and other publications. An avid birdwatcher, hiker, and kayaker, he lives in Fillmore, New York, with his wife and children.

September 2021 | Nonfiction | 978-1-948814-40-9| 280 pp | $18.95 

Foreword INDIES Winner, Bronze, Ecology & Environment

Also by the author:




“Clever prose and gifted storytelling enliven Eli J. Knapp’s Dead Serious . . . diverting descriptions of flora and fauna lead into captivating lessons about biological principles, all of which are embellished with humor. A rousing read.”

“A very satisfying, very engaging, and ultimately very moving entreaty to stop the seemingly indifferent slide into a sixth extinction.”

“For Emily Dickinson, ‘Hope is the thing with feathers.’ True in so many ways, but in Dead Serious, Eli J. Knapp reminds us that in the face of the ongoing ‘sixth extinction,’ hope also is the thing with fur, fins, or scales—and at times, even a thing with an upright, bipedal posture and opposable thumbs. Through a mix of personal story and descriptive vignettes of conservation science, Knapp leads us on a fascinating and entertaining journey through the many causes of extinction—and toward the hope that we need to do the hard and at times discouraging work of saving the world we love.”

CHRISTOPHER NORMENT, author of Relicts of a Beautiful Sea: Survival, Extinction, and Conservation in a Desert World

“A humorous take on extinction? Although the theme of this book is extinction, and although Eli J. Knapp’s charming stories often crack me up, this book is, indeed, dead serious—except where it is heartfelt and funny. Knapp makes extinction relatable to those of us who feel far removed from ivory-billed woodpeckers and tiny arctic flowers growing on high peaks of the Adirondacks. I’m not surprised that always-insightful Knapp has come up with an original take on such a dire and disturbing topic. Heavy-handed, hard-science writings on what is happening to the biosphere are challenging to read, and leave one feeling hopeless. This book is the opposite of that: personal, engaging, even hopeful—what a great way to confront such an important, weighty subject.”
—DAWN HEWITT, editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest

 “A book about our wild lives teetering on the edge of extinction titled Dead Serious that is also dead smart and dead funny could only be written by Eli J. Knapp. Knapp offers himself as companion and guide to lead us toward a hope as wild and inspired as his imagination.”
—SUSAN FOX ROGERS, author of My Reach: A Hudson River Memoir

"In Dead Serious, Eli J. Knapp outlines the evolutionary ecology regarding extinction of species—a very serious issue for our time. However, this is not a depressing read, but a highly engaging one, with many intriguing encounters with wildlife." 
—TOM WESSELS, author of Reading the Forested Landscape


“Eli J. Knapp’s fresh approach to understanding the sixth extinction is invigorating in the extreme. Rather than wallowing in portends of self-destruction or the darkness of overbearing statistics, he leads his readers on an ebullient romp, both around the globe and through our documented natural history, to focus not on the pieces of the natural world that we've lost, but on the exquisite beauty and abundance of what we still have. This lovely book, even as it unpacks the different causes of the extinction of a species, somehow continues to crackle with positive energy and reminds us all why our big, beautiful world is worth protecting.”
AARON CANCE, The Printed Garden


“Extinction isn't funny, but maybe having a sense of humor about it is just what we need to encourage us to pay closer attention. Using eighteen factors described by professor Michael Soulé, Eli J. Knapp illustrates a favorite animal for each and tells us a story or two about why we should care. From the ivory-billed woodpecker (rarity) to the kinked cheetah tail (inbreeding) to the little brown bat (habitat disturbance), it’s all here and it’s as fascinating as it is frightening!”
ANNE HOLMAN, The King’s English Bookshop

“Knapp avoids the trap of writing about this heavy topic in a doom-and-gloom way. Instead, he tells personal stories . . . and describes wonders worth saving on planet Earth.”

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