3 1/2 stars.
This is a hard book for me to rate.
It started off really strong (first five essays), I lost a little bit of interest & got annoyed around the middle, and it ended strong--the last three essays being especially good.
I guess this means, looking back over the chapters, that what worked for me was his perspectives on nature as a whole--water, earth, plants, animals, the long process of evolution, wonderings about various aspects of our world. What I didn't like so much was when he started talking about humankind specifically, and what this or that skull "means."
It should be of no surprise to anyone who knows me that his use of the word "man" and male pronouns as a blanket term for all people was annoying; I was also suspicious of his seemingly racist language. I'm not sure how much of it is just a sign of the times, the field of physical anthropology itself (which has been, historically, used to justify racism), or Eiseley's own beliefs. He praised people who fought the out & out racism of their time, but he also made a couple statements that I was uncomfortable with (in one of them, which I did not have the supplies on hand to sticky-note, he said something about undeveloped something or other and "looking at the Eskimos" and I was just like--woah hold on one second there, dude!). Adding to this, the book is somewhat dated, the most recent essay in being published in 1957 (and the first in 1946). This made me somewhat dubious of accepting all his claims and opinions.
Other things I didn't like: his use of the words primitive, higher (and yes, even though he often put it in quotes to show that he had personal disagreement with its use in certain cases...it wasn't a good enough disclaimer for me *nose in the air*), savage (same as with his use of "higher"--he doesn't seem to embrace the use of "savages" personally, but he doesn't dissocate himself from it enough for my tastes), and the way he said the city was man's "greatest" creation, that man was the "master" of the world and so on. At various points he seems to be writing from a different (and one more closely aligned with me) mindset--I guess that's the nature of collecting essays that span a decade. Anyway, I enjoyed it much more when he was talking about human ego and conceit.
Besides the qualms I've detailed, I thought it was quite nice (I notice I never seem to detail what I do like, only what I don't). His writing really shines when he's talking about critters & ideas bigger than humans. The story in "The Bird and the Machine" moved me to tears, his subject and writing were generally interesting to me, and every so often had a beautiful turn of phrase on some profound something or other.
So, all in all: it was a worthwhile read. Some of these essays I would gladly read again, and some of them kinda bugged me.