Radio 2 Book Club: Bring Back the King

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Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-extinction by Helen Pilcher will feature on the Radio 2 Fact not Fiction Book Club on Thursday 29 September.

The book was selected with the help of a panel made up of Reading Agency and library staff from across the UK. Find out more about the non-fiction strand of the Radio 2 Book Club.

We have an exclusive extract available for you to read as well as some discussion questions for your reading group.

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Bring Back the King

If you could bring back just one animal from the past, what would you choose? It can be anyone or anything from history, from the King of the Dinosaurs, T. rex, to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, and beyond.

De-extinction – the ability to bring extinct species back to life – is fast becoming reality. Around the globe, scientists are trying to de-extinct all manner of animals, including the woolly mammoth, the passenger pigeon and a bizarre species of flatulent frog. But de-extinction is more than just bringing back the dead. It’s a science that can be used to save species, shape evolution and sculpt the future of life on our planet.

In Bring Back the King, scientist and comedy writer Helen Pilcher goes on a quest to identify the perfect de-extinction candidate. Along the way, she asks if Elvis could be recreated from the DNA inside a pickled wart, investigates whether it’s possible to raise a pet dodo, and considers the odds of a 21st century Neanderthal turning heads on public transport.

Pondering the practicalities and the point of de-extinction, Bring Back the King is a witty and wry exploration of what is bound to become one of the hottest topics in conservation – if not in science as a whole – in the years to come. Read this book – the King commands it.

Selection panel review

Our library reading panel loved Bring Back the King – here are some of their comments:

“The central idea in the book is de-extinction delivered with humour and stories that make it an easy read, both interesting and funny. This isn’t a book I would usually have picked up but I enjoyed it and think the contents and author’s wit would make it a really enjoyable interview.”

“It would be awful if this book wasn’t included [on Radio 2]! It’s totally what is required for the book club – well written, engaging and appealing to not just men and women but probably secondary school aged children too – oh everyone.”

“Written in an engaging and easy read style you hardly notice you are being told scientific facts, just an interesting topic – and who doesn’t want to have a pet T-rex/Elvis? Great read for reading groups as lots to take away/discuss including ethics of de-extinction. Great read.”

About the author

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Helen Pilcher is a tea-drinking, biscuit-nibbling science and comedy writer. She has a PhD in Cell Biology from London’s Institute of Psychiatry. A former reporter for Nature, she now specializes in biology, medicine and quirky off-the-wall science, and writes for outlets including New Scientist and BBC Focus. Unusually for a self-proclaimed geek, Helen also used to be a stand-up comedian before the arrival of children meant she couldn’t physically stay awake past 9pm. She now gigs from time to time, and lives in rural Warwickshire with her husband, three kids and besotted dog.

A word from Helen

“Radio 2, I honest to God LOVE you and your listeners. Thank you so much for featuring my book, Bring Back the King: the New Science of De-extinction, in your brilliant Book Club. It’s the most exciting thing to happen to me since I dressed my dog in a dinosaur costume and tried to smuggle him into the Natural History Museum.

When I was a kid, I used to go fossil hunting on the beach at Charmouth in Dorset. I was totally rubbish at it, but it got me dreaming about what it would be like to meet a real, live T. rex. Then, a few years ago, I heard that scientists had brought an extinct mountain goat back to life and I began to wonder what else could be ‘de-extincted’. What about dodos, Neanderthals and dead rock ’n’ roll stars? This book is my adult mind trying to satisfy my childish curiosity, and as I’ve researched and written it, I have learned and laughed a lot. My hope is that Bring Back the King will tug at the heart strings, warm the cockles and tickle the cerebral cortex all at the same time. Maybe it will even make you want to hug a woolly mammoth…I hope so."

Get involved

Tune in to the Radio 2 Arts Show on Thursday 29 September to hear an interview with Helen Pilcher talking about her book.

Do you want to read Bring Back the King? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #FactNotFiction. You can also see what other readers thought, or add the book to your group’s reading list.

Want to find out more? Take a look at the Radio 2 Book Club Twitter feed or find out more on the Radio 2 Book Club website


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