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Sounds Wild and Broken  By  cover art

Sounds Wild and Broken

By: David George Haskell
Narrated by: Steven Jay Cohen,David George Haskell
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Publisher's summary

Finalist for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction and the 2023 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

Winner of the Acoustical Society of America's 2023 Science Communication Award

“[A] glorious guide to the miracle of life’s sound.” —
The New York Times Book Review

A lyrical exploration of the diverse sounds of our planet, the creative processes that produced these marvels, and the perils that sonic diversity now faces


We live on a planet alive with song, music, and speech. David Haskell explores how these wonders came to be. In rain forests shimmering with insect sound and swamps pulsing with frog calls we learn about evolution’s creative powers. From birds in the Rocky Mountains and on the streets of Paris, we discover how animals learn their songs and adapt to new environments. Below the waves, we hear our kinship to beings as different as snapping shrimp, toadfish, and whales. In the startlingly divergent sonic vibes of the animals of different continents, we experience the legacies of plate tectonics, the deep history of animal groups and their movements around the world, and the quirks of aesthetic evolution.

Starting with the origins of animal song and traversing the whole arc of Earth history, Haskell illuminates and celebrates the emergence of the varied sounds of our world. In mammoth ivory flutes from Paleolithic caves, violins in modern concert halls, and electronic music in earbuds, we learn that human music and language belong within this story of ecology and evolution. Yet we are also destroyers, now silencing or smothering many of the sounds of the living Earth. Haskell takes us to threatened forests, noise-filled oceans, and loud city streets, and shows that sonic crises are not mere losses of sensory ornament. Sound is a generative force, and so the erasure of sonic diversity makes the world less creative, just, and beautiful. The appreciation of the beauty and brokenness of sound is therefore an important guide in today’s convulsions and crises of change and inequity.

Sounds Wild and Broken is an invitation to listen, wonder, belong, and act.

©2022 David George Haskell (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“Haskell’s own joy of discovery makes it irresistible to tune in . . . [he] is spot on that sensory connection can inspire people to care in ways that dry statistics never will . . . Haskell’s previous books [...] suggested the emergence of a great poet-scientist. [Sounds Wild and Broken] affirms [him] as a laureate for the earth, his finely tuned scientific observations made more potent by his deep love for the wild he hopes to save.”New York Times Book Review 

“Earth sings and rings and warbles: a musical planet, maybe the only one in the universe. As David George Haskell tells it in his captivating new book, Sounds Wild and Broken, it is astonishing good fortune—and a fearsome responsibility—to be given this music and the ears to hear it with . . . Sounds Wild and Broken offer[s] one delight after another.”—Kathleen Dean Moore, Scientific American

“[Haskell] is something of an idiosynchratic genius . . . [his] previous works leveraged two tools that established him as one of America’s premier nature writers: his Zen-like ability to pay granular attention to what most people ignore and a lyrical writing style few scientists can muster . . . As he did in The Songs of Trees, Haskell enlivens the science by taking us on a journey, hopping from continent to continent. He wanders the mountains of southern France, treks Ecuador’s Amazon jungle, and noses about eucalyptus forests in New South Wales, all to illustrate the connection between sound and place.”Outside