Gyroscope of Life

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A book review of The Gyroscope of Life: Understanding Balances (and Imbalances) in Nature by David Parrish

A book review of The Gyroscope of Life: Understanding Balances (and Imbalances) in Nature by David Parrish

Stars: ***

Pocohontas Press (2020)
294 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: A love song to the field of biology written by an Appalachian naturalist and a 50-year practitioner, The Gyroscope of Life will stretch the minds of readers – scientists and nonscientists alike. Culturally, we tend to simplify challenging concepts by thinking of them as binary systems: life/death, female/male. But what if these concepts are more complex than mere opposites? David Parrish dives beneath the surface of some seemingly straightforward biological topics to provide a fresh look at the world, and the ways in which we imagine it.

While sharing his personal experiences with religion, science, battling illness, and more, Parrish explores a series of unconventional topics such as a biologist’s credo, Mother Nature’s House Rules, the foolishness of conflicts between science and religion, ritualistic funerary cannibalism, a biological critique of “The Big Bang Theory” theme song, pseudo-copulation of insects with flowers, and the Faustian bargain that agriculture and plant domestication represent. Strewn with metaphors, thought experiments, and a touch of humor, this guide will inspire readers to see life itself in an intriguingly new way.

The Gyroscope of Life

This book has great intentions and could be a 4 star book with the right reworking. The idea of a book about biology and ecology is a great idea. I love that the author explained Mother Nature’s House Rules. I enjoyed the part about the Big Bang Theory theme song and the explanation of male or female in the animal kingdom and plants. For example not every animal has X or Y chromosomes.

“In birds, some fish, some reptiles, and some insects, the sex chromosomes are labeled Z and W. They work much like the X and Y chromosomes, but with ZW being the female pairing and ZZ male.”

pg 180 The Gyroscope of Life

Most Interesting Part

There are three chapters which had interesting parts. Dead or Alive?, Plant or Animal? and Male or Female? all showed examples of a crossover between each grouping. For example something that is dead but also alive or plant that is also an like an animal.

“…but some living things gives us more reason for considering dead or alive a non-binary. That binarity was destroyed as we realized some organisms can totally suspend life for extended periods and then resume living. These beings can be clearly alive, then enter into a state where life is not possible, and then become clearly alive again.”

pg 120 The Gyroscope of Life


The book would have been better if just a few things were different. It needs spaces between paragraphs and photos or diagrams. It was just text on text on text. The only thing breaking up text was the occasional section title. I think some parts could have been taken out or said with less words to make room for diagrams or spaces.

Best for Biology Lovers

I also think I would have enjoyed it more if bio/ecology was more my thing. If that’s something you are really into, you will enjoy the book more than me.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.