"In contemplating a single word to use in describing this work, this reviewer had come up with "amazing," only to discover on the book's back cover that eminent biologist E. O. Wilson had used the same adjective. Highly recommended."--Choice
"When not busy with his researches (and these are recounted with a winningly light touch), Novotny has found time to explore this unique culture. The results are spectacular: an exercise in witty and whimsical amateur anthropology that puts the professionals to shame."--Geographical
"What is striking about Notebooks is how there is a perfect balance between the academic and the literary. This is a very intriguing book with thoughtful and intelligent analysis and conclusions, and yet one does not feel as though they are reading a stuffy academic publication. Czech author Vojtech Novotny (translated by David Short) has provided a very interesting tale of travels, broadening horizons and insight unto the human condition." -- Sacramento Book Review
"Novotny's enthusiam for a country where he has worked for many years, his humor, and his ability to convey the fascination of scientific research make this book a perfect answer to anyone who thinks that everything has been catalogued and scanned, an unorthodox travel book that restores our faith in the weirdness of the world."--Benjamin Moser, Harper's Magazine
"Focusing on the people and their way of living, little escapes Novotny's attention; he examines the base-13 number system, myths about dwarfs, the price of brides ( 5,000), and other idiosyncrasies..."--Publishers Weekly
"[Novotny's] wry remarks on the ease of his 'commute' to an outlying laboratory (featuring blocked bridges, a bandit attack, several flat tires, and attempts at climbing muddy hills) and tips for the field biologist (expect malaria; whatever happens, don't panic) will intrigue both armchair travelers and lovers of popular science."--Booklist
"I hugely enjoyed reading Notebooks from New Guinea, partly because I have visited PNG and experienced firsthand some of the issues discussed, but also for its exploration of many cultural issues that visiting scientists often overlook. Anyone planning to visit PNG should definitely read this book, and not just research biologists. It will also generate a deep respect for the scientists who manage to carry out top-quality groundbreaking research in this most challenging environment." -- Alan J.A. Stewart, Trends in Ecology and Evolution
station. Supported by a team of Papuans whom he has trained up so that they can combine their wide and intimate knowledge of the plants and animals of their tropical forest with the knowledge of modern science, Novotny studies the ecological interactions of butterflies and plants.
Clearly this is no ordinary scientist. Combined with his intrepid courage (PNG is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, with a very high homicide rate), he is a shrewd observer of human nature. In the richly varied notes and reflections of this very individual volume are not only descriptions of natural history and scientific research in the rainforest, but accounts of the local peoples and their culture, the challenges of working across very different cultures, and amusing portraits of
the antics of Western tourists, separated by a few 'intermezzi' - episodes when the author fought bouts of malaria.
Novotny is that rare combination of excellent scientist and superb storyteller. The faithful translations by David Short bring these notes and reflections on science, nature, and human beings to a wide audience, without any loss to their richness, warmth, humility, and wisdom. The volume is illustrated with beautiful drawings by a self-taught Papuan artist, Benson Avea Bego, who lives in a remote village.