"Every creature is full of God and a book about God," Meister Eckhart wrote. We can learn a lot from animals about ways to exist on the earth. During Medieval times, bestiaries were popular; they contained stories of animals which were used for moral and religious instruction. For example, the parental love of the pelican gashing itself to feed its young became a symbol of Christ. Modern day bestiaries such as one by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges are more interested in exercising the imagination than anything else.
The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21stCentury Bestiary by Caspar Henderson falls somewhere between these two extremes. The author is an English writer and journalist who has come up with 27 impressive essays on the wild and weird diversity of life forms on planet Earth. There is a certain elegance to his writing style which brings to mind the early wonder-inducing essays by Annie Dillard. Here you will find one creature for each letter of the alphabet. Henderson puts on display his knowledge of zoology, history, philosophy, art, and mythology as he serves as a dance partner with a barrel sponge, dolphin, eel, flatworm, leatherback turtle, a sea butterfly, zebra fish, and other fascinating creatures. Many of them come from the sea, and we learn even more about them through the author's margin notes which are filled with marvelous little tidbits.