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THE BEST BOOKS OF 1996 | NONFICTION

IN SEARCH OF NATURE By E.O. Wilson Island Press: 192 pp., $19.95

December 29, 1996|EDWARD HOAGLAND

Edward O. Wilson is one of the world's leading entomologists, the virtual avatar of the new tangent of inquiry called sociobiology. [Now] he has added activism to the proud tradition of the brilliant generalist leading the struggle among his scientific colleagues to preserve worldwide biodiversity.

"In Search of Nature" amounts to a kind of precis of decades of work encapsulating his close study of ant genera that has constituted his central thrust and the sociobiology that brought him notoriety and fame.

People ask him what to do about the ants in their kitchen. "Watch where you step. Be careful of little lives. Feed them crumbs of coffeecake and get a magnifying glass and you will be as near as any person may ever come to seeing social life as it might evolve on another planet. Six hundred million years separates their line of social development from ours."

Self-exploration of this sort should be exuberant as well as verging on our sense of what is sacred. And Wilson is a writer of enthralling importance for our place in time.

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