"Coral reefs are the proving ground for mankind's ability to 'come to terms with nature'Aincluding our own," writes Davidson (The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South), who has lived in Key West and studied coral reefs (both above and under water) for years. Davidson traveled and dove around the world to do his research. His book includes many striking facts: oceans cover 71% of the earth's surface; coral reefs are home to approximately one-quarter of all marine species; the most widely cited estimate of square miles around the world covered by coral reefs is 240,000; Charles Darwin's first scientific book was The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (1842). And one of Davidson's most captivating chapters outlines the bizarre sex lives of fish. Despite reefs' grandeur, we humans have destroyed them at alarming rates, Davidson explains, as we have destroyed much of nature. His imaginative language (for example, "Coral reefs are the Russian novels of the sea world") and treatment of scientific terminology are impressive throughout. Davidson believes that "if we are to save the reefs, we must understand them better. But here we have come full circle, we have returned to our initial question. How do you comprehend something as complex as the coral reef?" Davidson's thorough book, which helps to do just that, will appeal primarily to environmentalists and divers but should be read by travelers to ocean settings as well. Eight pages of color photos, not seen by PW.