‘Red Leviathan: The Secret History of Soviet Whaling’ by Ryan Tucker Jones (University of Chicago Press, £24.55, ISBN 9780226628851) struck me as unexpectedly topical for this particular moment in my life. And not only because I’ve just returned from a spectacular Aurora Expeditions cruise to the remote Scottish Islands on board MV Greg Mortimer, during which I was able to take a close look for the first time ever at one of the world’s living wonders - the magnificent Minke whales in their natural habitat in the North Atlantic.

In fact, it was not one whale but three, playing joyfully just 20 metres away from our inflatable and unsinkable Zodiac shuttle boat near the island of St Kilda, casually showing their greyish glistening bulks, then diving again and waving at us with the huge fans of their caudal fins. “Wow! Wow!” all eight passengers on board our Zodiac, including yours truly, were howling in chorus, like a pack of hungry wolves. Having forgotten...

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