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The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter

By Ben Goldfarb


WINNER of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

Washington Post “50 Notable Works of Nonfiction”

Science News “Favorite Science Books of 2018”

Booklist “Top Ten Science/Technology Book of 2018”

“A marvelously humor-laced page-turner about the science of semi-aquatic rodents…. A masterpiece of a treatise on the natural world.”—The Washington Post

In Eager, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb reveals that our modern idea of what a healthy landscape looks like and how it functions is wrong, distorted by the fur trade that once trapped out millions of beavers from North America’s lakes and rivers. The consequences of losing beavers were profound: streams eroded, wetlands dried up, and species from salmon to swans lost vital habitat. Today, a growing coalition of “Beaver Believers”—including scientists, ranchers, and passionate citizens—recognizes that ecosystems with beavers are far healthier, for humans and non-humans alike, than those without them. From the Nevada deserts to the Scottish highlands, Believers are now hard at work restoring these industrious rodents to their former haunts. Eager is a powerful story about one of the world’s most influential species, how North America was colonized, how our landscapes have changed over the centuries, and how beavers can help us fight drought, flooding, wildfire, extinction, and the ravages of climate change. Ultimately, it’s about how we can learn to coexist, harmoniously and even beneficially, with our fellow travelers on this planet.

Reviews and Praise

“Written with clarity, intelligence, and humor, this engaging book will appeal to basically everyone.”―Forbes

“Eager takes us inside the amazing world of nature’s premier construction engineer…and shows us why the restoration of an animal almost driven to extinction is producing wide-ranging, positive effects on our landscapes, ecology, and even our economy.”―National Geographic

"Impressively researched, charmingly written, absolutely persuasive book. . . .Goldfarb makes his argument with a quiet power and deceptively breezy writing that paints a vivid picture of how the various inhabitants of the natural world rely on one other. Take one vital piece out and the whole thing could collapse."—The Seattle Times

"This book lodges itself among the ranks of the best sort of environmental journalism.”The Boston Globe

Eager is a passionate, captivating love letter to the beaver.”The Christian Science Monitor 

"Goldfarb’s writing shines with beautiful language and colorful stories.”Science News

“Engrossing and elegantly written…. Within its wide scope, Eager includes nuggets sure to make you the most fascinating conversationalist at your next party.”Scientific American

“A revelation! If we only let them live, beavers are the solution to many of our nation’s ecological problems. . . . Goldfarb’s wonderful book might just tail-slap a politician or two into realizing how much we need them to restore our critical wetlands.”—Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus

“This witty, engrossing book will be a classic from the day it is published.”Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

“European settlers who cut, plowed, and shot their way west also trapped the country nearly clean of mammals. . . . Now, though, beavers are on the rebound, and the how and who of that story, as told in Eager, will give you a new and completely different concept of the continent.”Carl Safina, New York Times bestselling author of Beyond Words

“[Goldfarb] writes eloquently of the return of this industrious, habitat–enriching animal, its conflicts with humans and their property, and of the ways both elegant and Rube Goldbergian in which beaver and human needs can be balanced.”Booklist, Starred Review

"[Goldfarb] shares his findings in lucid and entertaining prose….Filled with hard facts and fascinating people (and animals), [Eager] is an authoritative, vigorous call for understanding and action."Kirkus, Starred Review

"In this diverting volume, environmental journalist Goldfarb sings the praises of beavers. . . . An affectionate portrait of these 'hardy rodents.’"―Publishers Weekly

“This comprehensive book provides a well-rounded consideration of a frequently misunderstood species….Even if you don’t think you have an opinion on beavers, this engaging book will make you a beaver believer."―Library Journal

"Lively and educational….Eager offers rare insight into the history of beavers and their behavior, qualities, and characteristics. Even more importantly, [it] explores the animals’ complex relationship with humans, and the essential role they play in developing ponds and streams that support wildlife."―Foreword Reviews

Choice Reviews

"A thought-provoking book for anyone interested in ecosystems science." 

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