Author/journalist latest guest in Malibu Library Speaker Series

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The Malibu Library Speaker Series featured author and journalist David Quammen on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at Malibu City Hall. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Quammen shared his experience with animals like elephants, crocodiles, and various species

The Malibu Library Speaker Series continued last month by featuring author and journalist David Quammen.

Quammen shared stories and experiences on the assignments he covered as a journalist and how they inspired him in his books. 

Quammen has written 18 books, which include “Breathless” (2022), “The Tangled Tree” (2018), “Spillover” (2012), “The Song of the Dodo” (1996), and most recently, “The Heartbeat of the Wild” (2023). 

Though he began his career as a novelist (“To Walk the Line” [1970], and three other works of fiction), in recent decades he has written only nonfiction, focused mainly on science, the history of science, and the relationships of humans to landscape and biological diversity.

In the past 40 years, Quammen has also published a few hundred pieces of short nonfiction — feature articles, essays, columns — in magazines such as The New YorkerNational Geographic, Harper’s, Outside, Esquire, The Atlantic, Powder, and Rolling Stone. He writes occasional op-eds for The New York Times and other newspapers, and book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and The New York Review of Books.  Quammen has been honored with an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and is a three-time recipient of the National Magazine Award. 

His books have received various awards, and “Breathless” in 2022 was a finalist for the National Book Award. He lives in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife, Betsy Gaines Quammen (also an author: “American Zion” and the forthcoming “True West: Myth and Mending on the Far Side of America”) and their family of three dogs, a cat, and a python.

At last month’s event, Quammen shared his experience with animals like elephants, crocodiles, and various species he encountered throughout his career. He also studied and wrote about viruses.

Guests asked Quammen about where viruses come from and how they spread. He said he addressed the question in a written piece for the New York Times Magazine. 

“I find natural origin far more persuasive, but we need to know more,” Quammen said. “Viruses that live in other animals don’t come looking for us, we disturb the animals that they live in, we cut down the trees in their ecosystem, we capture animals and ship them to wet markets or eat them on the scene, we do all these things, and it’s that form of active human intervention, human disturbance, that allows viruses to spill over into us.”

Quammen said he goes more into depth in his 2012 book “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.”

“It’s we who we go and disturb them [animals],” Quammen said.

One guest asked Quammen about his opinion on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Getting vaccinated is not just for yourself, it’s for other people too,” Quammen said. 

After the program, many stayed to ask Quammen questions about his books and also purchased multiple books.  

“I had a wonderful time at the Malibu Speaker Series, I loved talking to and with these people, they were interested in the subjects, they listened to my stories, they laughed at my jokes and they had good questions, it’s sort of an evening you’d hope for when you’re a traveling writer,” Quammen said.

The next Malibu Library Speaker Series is on Wednesday, Nov. 29, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Malibu City Hall and will feature Mitch Albom, the author of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” and “For One More Day.” Albom is an internationally renowned and best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster, and musician. His books have collectively sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, have been published in 49 territories and in 47 languages around the world, and have been made into Emmy Award-winning and critically acclaimed television movies.