Atlas Obscura Book Club Discussion 3/13: Last Chance to See, Week 4



Welcome to the Atlas Obscura Book Club discussion volume 4!

Today’s thread will be our final discussion of Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. We’ll be looking at the last couple of mini chapters, “Sifting Through the Embers” and “Mark’s Last Word…”, and sharing final thoughts and feelings. Dare I say that things ended on a hopeful note…?

If you’re new to the discussion, feel free to check out the previous threads here! Here’s how the discussion works: We’ll post some discussion topics in a short series of comments below. If you’d like to comment on a specific discussion topic, click the greyed-out “replies” button near the bottom of the discussion post. You can then comment on that discussion post specifically. There will likely be a number of people commenting on multiple discussions, so any time you feel like you may have lost the thread, you can copy and paste questions into your new comment, or you can always check the replies from the original discussion topic. We’re still working out the kinks on these kinds of discussions, so if you have any thoughts or suggestions on how to improve our group discussions, please let us know here.

ALSO, we’ve picked the next book in the Atlas Obscura Book Club! It will be, drum roll please… The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, a fiction novel about the incredible, and very real, diving women of Jeju, South Korea! Join us again on April 10th for our first discussion! (Thanks to @AnyaPH for the suggestion!)

And with that, let’s talk about Last Chance to See. Did you like it? What was your favorite animal that they encountered? Below are some supplementary materials related to the reading that we thought might be interesting, and the discussion topics can be found in the comments below.

Join the Atlas Obscura Book Club!
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General thoughts and observations on the book as a whole? Favorite stories? What was your greatest take away from the book?


What endangered species are you most passionate about? Tell us about it and how we can help it!


In the final section, Carwardine writes the terrific line, “The darker it gets, the faster we’re driving,” a beautiful encapsulation of the grim irony behind animal conservation. The book is full of amazing, insightful quotes like that. What were some of your favorites?


Do you have any further reading you’d suggest for us if we enjoyed Last Chance to See?

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Personally I’m always interested in sea turtles. They seem so slow and serene and harmless. They’re not hurting anyone. Check here to see a whole bunch of conservation initiatives.


I wouldn’t want to necessarily get stuck with this sub-sub genre but here are 3 similar books I think:

A gap in nature - Flannery, Tim F. 

The song of the dodo - Quammen, David

The re-origin of species - Kornfeldt, Torill

(I’m all for something like Iyer’s “Video Night in Kathmandu” instead, or one of the hilarious books by Troost or Tim Cahill…?!)


What endangered species are you most passionate about? Tell us about it and how we can help it!

Pandas, but they’re clawing their way back. All that cuteness overload works for them.


Of the Red variety or the classic Black and white kind ?

Personally I absolutely love and am fascinated by the Red Panda , but I’m not so keen on the Giant Panda , although not due to any animosity to the species but due to the bias towards them in conservation and a former workplace of mine where they kept them and prioritized them at the expense of other species.

Anyway , sorry for going off on a tangent … What I wanted to say is , have you read this book ?

If not you are in for a treat and it would definitely be a cool addition to that superb bookcase of yours.


Oooh, that looks like an interesting book! There are both Red Pandas and Giant Pandas in the Smithsonian National Zoo - both very cute.


It’s a pretty thought provoking one for sure , its not really about Pandas as such but more about how that animal has gone from being this semi mythical creature known only in a remote region of China to a state of iconic international stardom.

So it deals with the first European contact with the animal during the Western colonization of the country , first ones taken into captivity and the way panda diplomacy took hold during the cold war and its adoption as the WWF symbol.

But the most interesting thing I remember about the book was the part about Ruth Harnecke and her quest to bring a panda cub back to the US in the 1920’s , she was a fascinating character for sure.


There was a reprise done 20 years after the original with Adams with Stephen Fry. There was a book as well as a BBC series. The series can be found on Netflix and possibly YouTube.


Any chance we can choose books with 2-3 months in advance? I’d love to participate, but I get books from the library, and the average hold time is ~10 weeks. The Island of Sea Women is kind of an extreme example, it’s telling me I’ve got a 5 month hold :confused:


Yeesh! I’m sorry to hear about the inconvenience. While I can’t guarantee that kind of lead time, we’ll can certainly try to announce the new books as soon as possible. Thanks again for your interest, and I still hope you can join!