The Loneliest Polar Bear: A True Story of Survival and Peril on the Edge of a Warming World

Crown. Mar. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781984826336. $28. NAT HIST
In this debut, science and environmental journalist Williams chronicles the life of Nora, a polar bear cub whose mother abandoned her days after her birth at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Nora is raised by zoo staff, who must deal with her physical and mental challenges, from creating a proper formula for her to eat as a cub to alleviating her anxiety as she matures. Through Nora’s story, Williams weaves information about polar bear research, both in captivity and in the wild. He intersperses the history of Indigenous people of the Arctic, past and present. In doing so, he illuminates the increasing barriers to their traditional way of life caused by late-forming sea ice and warming temperatures, connecting these concerns to climate change and similar issues faced by polar bears. Finally, he covers climate change itself as both a political and a societal issue.
VERDICT While there are some confusing segues, overall, this is an absorbing, extensively researched book for fans of popular science and those who appreciate stories about polar bears, both captive and wild, as well as behind-the-scenes work at zoos. Readers interested in learning more about polar bears and their changing habitats should also try James Raffan’s Ice Walker (2019).
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