Thursday, August 30, 2012
1) L' Engle, Madeleine and Hope Larson. A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel. 2012. Farrar, Straus, Giroux. Hardbound: 392 pages. Price: $19.99 U.S.
SUMMARY: The world already knows Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, Calvin O'Keefe, and the three Mrs--Who, Whatsit, and Which--the memorable and wonderful characters who fight off a dark force and save our universe in the Newbery award-winning classic A Wrinkle in Time. But in 50 years of publication, the book has never been illustrated. Now, Hope Larson takes the classic story to a new level with her vividly imagined interpretations of tessering and favorite characters like the Happy Medium and Aunt Beast. Perfect for old fans and winning over new ones, this graphic novel adaptation is a must-read.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of the book should enjoy this graphic novel.
2) Stahl, Carmine and Ria McElvaney. Trees of Texas: An Easy Guide to Leaf Identification. 2003 (reprinted 2012). Texas A&M University Press. Paperback: 288 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Texas is long overdue for a new, accessible, innovative tree book. This guide to the identification of just over two hundred of Texas’ most common native and naturalized trees brims over with life-sized, black-and-white photographs of leaves, fruit, flowers, and bark. Scanned directly from actual specimens, these images accompany species descriptions that include height, growth rate, commercial or wildlife value, family, and vegetation region of the trees, alongside captivating folklore and interesting cultural and historical annotations.To aid in identification, the authors have organized the book by leaf shape and provide a simple but clear, illustrated key to help the reader match the leaf he or she is looking at to the pertinent description.
For the more knowledgeable reader who may not need help with actual identification, scientific and common names appear in the index. Appendixes list trees by family, by scientific and common names, by region, and as introduced species. Just for fun, the authors have added appendixes for wild edible recipes, light and water requirements, and butterfly host trees. A brief introduction and a glossary are also included in the manuscript.McElvaney and Stahl’s The Trees of Texas is innovatively organized and friendly to the novice, using life-sized illustrations as a visual guide to common native and naturalized trees. Perfect for people who want to learn to identify trees without wading through confusing technical terms, it makes a handy reference for libraries, schools, and nature centers. It is also suited for people with interests as diverse as the historical uses of plants, native plant gardening, attracting wildlife, and Texas history.
RECOMMENDATION: The lack of color illustrations in the main text of this book limits its usefulness.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
1) Baggott, Jim. Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the "God Particle". 2012. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 277 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: The hunt for the Higgs particle has involved the biggest, most expensive experiment ever. So what is this particle called the Higgs boson? Why does it matter so much? What does this "God particle" tells us about the Universe? And was finding it really worth all the effort?
The short answer is yes, and there was much at stake: our basic model for the building blocks of the Universe, the Standard Model, would have been in tatters if there was no Higgs particle. The Higgs field had been proposed as the way in which particles gain mass - a fundamental property of matter. Little wonder the hunt and discovery have produced such intense media interest.
Here, Jim Baggott explains the science behind the discovery, looking at how the concept of a Higgs field was invented, how it is part of the Standard Model, and its implications on our understanding of all mass in the Universe.
This book features:
*A non-technical account of the invention and discovery of the Higgs boson
*Explores the scientific background to the Higgs particle - how the theory was developed, its significance, and how it was discovered
*Explains the importance of the discovery and what it means for our understanding of the Universe
*Tackles a major discovery about the nature of the universe - a topic of wide interest and curiosity
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in particle physics.
Monday, August 27, 2012
1) Chinery, Michael. Insects of Britain and Western Europe. 2012 (3rd edition). Bloomsbury. Paperback: 320 pages. Price: GBP 16.99 (about $26.83 U.S.).
SUMMARY: More than 2000 of the most commonly observed and most distinctive insect species of Britain and Western Europe, from all orders and most families, are illustrated in this essential pocket guide. The text summarises key identification points, and introductory sections for each group covered give useful guidelines on the characteristics of the orders, families and genera covered. This is the most comprehensive guide available on the insects of this region and will be of great use to all naturalists with an interest in insects.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in European insects!
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
1) Potts, G.R.. Partridges. 2012. Collins. Paperback: 465 pages. Price: GBP 30 (about $47.56 U.S.).
SUMMARY: Globally, there are at least 45 species of game bird that have the word partridge in their name, but in this book G. R. Potts devotes himself to the Grey, Red-legged and Chukar Partridges, with particular emphasis on the Grey Partridge due to its well-known decline in Britain.
In this groundbreaking addition to the New Naturalist series, Potts explores how mankind and partridges have evolved together, both ultimately dependent on grasslands rather than forests. For thousands of years, both ate grass seeds and this continued until cereals largely replaced them. Hundreds of species of plant and insect that partridges and other birds eat thrived on farms for thousands of years until the dawn of the pesticides era. Since then the long decline in partridge abundance has been a barometer for biodiversity over vast swathes of the Northern Hemisphere.
Highlighting the positive example of the Norfolk Estate in the Sussex Study area, Potts investigates how both Grey and Red-legged Partridge numbers have been increased, flourishing in a highly productive and profitable system of farming and an oasis in what has often looked and sounded like a desert. In a small corner of England farmland wildlife is able to thrive much as it did before pesticides were introduced.
This is a complex and fascinating story, with a heady mix of hunting, farming, predation, parasites, disease and climate change. The way these factors have interacted tells us a lot about how lesser known species have fared and how they can be conserved for the future. Potts stresses the importance of these conservation efforts, as farmers respond to the needs of an extra three billion people worldwide, not just for food but for bio-fuels. Additionally, the pressures on farmland wildlife will further intensify in the coming years.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in these species and for those that collect New Naturalist titles.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
1) Hudson, W.H.. Adventures Among Birds. 1913 (reprinted 2012). Collins. Hardbound: 253 pages. Price: GPB 20 (about $31.76 U.S.).
SUMMARY: The Collins Nature Library is a new series of classic British nature writing – reissues of long-lost seminal works. The titles have been chosen by one of Britain’s best known and highly-acclaimed nature writers, Robert Macfarlane, who has also written new introductions that put these classics into a modern context.
Adventures Among Birds is almost a manifesto for the life of birds. Hudson's experience of different forms of birdlife is prodigious, and he weaves a thousand small anecdotes together into a rallying call against indifference to the beauty of birds.
From childhood memories of his first caged bird and his growing passion for them, slowly growing throughout his adolescence in Argentina, to the beauty of the diversity of birdlife in England, Hudson's delight at this particular aspect of nature is palpable.
It is in his protests against the hunting of birds for sport that his love for birds is most clearly shown. Their behaviour towards one another convinces Hudson of their friendship, and his powers of observation paint a picture of interaction and emotion between birds that is almost human.
Adventures Among Birds is a collection of detailed little pictures of the feathered world and why it matters. Told with an unrelenting passion for its subject, Hudson's book is sure to draw you in with its countless beautiful descriptions in miniature.
RECOMMENDATION: Here's your chance to own this classic on British ornithology.
2) Montgomery, David R.. The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood. 2012. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 302 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S. SUMMARY: How the mystery of the Bible's greatest story shaped geology: a MacArthur Fellow presents a surprising perspective on Noah's Flood.
In Tibet, geologist David R. Montgomery heard a local story about a great flood that bore a striking similarity to Noah’s Flood. Intrigued, Montgomery began investigating the world’s flood stories and—drawing from historic works by theologians, natural philosophers, and scientists—discovered the counterintuitive role Noah’s Flood played in the development of both geology and creationism. Steno, the grandfather of geology, even invoked the Flood in laying geology’s founding principles based on his observations of northern Italian landscapes. Centuries later, the founders of modern creationism based their irrational view of a global flood on a perceptive critique of geology. With an explorer’s eye and a refreshing approach to both faith and science, Montgomery takes readers on a journey across landscapes and cultures. In the process we discover the illusive nature of truth, whether viewed through the lens of science or religion, and how it changed through history and continues changing, even today.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting take on flood geology and its relevance to Human society.
3) Parry, James. The Mating Lives of Birds. 2012. The MIT Press/ New Holland Publishers (UK). Hardbound: 160 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S./ GBP: 19.99. SUMMARY: Birdsong may seem to us to be the purest expression of joy, but in fact when a male bird bursts into melodious song, he is warning off other males and advertising his availability to females. He may also engage in spectacular displays of plumage, dance-like movements, or even acrobatics (tree-based or aerial)--all as part of courtship. The female, meanwhile, assesses his vocalization, plumage, and territory before accepting him as a mate. The Mating Lives of Birds offers an engaging and lavishly illustrated account of this most captivating phenomenon in the natural world: bird courtship and display. It explains how birds’ reproduction strategies have evolved, and describes bird monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, promiscuity, and communal living arrangements. It shows us dancing cranes, somersaulting hummingbirds, drumming ducks, and the outrageously extravagant plumage of birds of paradise. It describes group territorial displays, jousting males, and phalarope role reversal (with the female sporting brighter plumage)--not to mention elaborate nest decoration and the presentation of food offerings.
The book’s fascinating account of the mating behavior of bird species from around the world is illustrated by 140 vividly detailed color images. Birdwatchers will find The Mating Lives of Birds to be an essential addition to their libraries.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction on the subject.
Monday, August 20, 2012
1) Benton, Ted. Grasshoppers & Crickets. 2012. Collins. Paperback: 532 pages. Price: GBP 30.00 (about $47.16 U.S.).
SUMMARY: Ted Benton offers a comprehensive account of the appearance, variations, behaviour, habitat, life-cycles and distribution of all the native British species of bush-crickets, crickets, groundhoppers and grasshoppers. Many details from direct field observation are included, which are published here for the first time.
With up-to-date information on newly arrived and recently established species, as well as long-established non-native species – such as the house cricket and greenhouse camel cricket – Benton pays special attention to a key area of evolutionary thought that has stimulated an international research focus on grasshoppers and crickets. Recent approaches to mating and reproduction emphasise differences and even conflicts of interest between males and females. The sexually selected adaptations and counter-adaptations to such conflicts of reproductive interest are used to explain the astonishing diversity of reproductive behaviour exhibited by grasshoppers and crickets: male territorial behaviour, coercive mating, complex songs, elaborate courtship performances, the donation of edible ‘nuptial gifts’, the reversal of sex-roles, mate-guarding, keeping of ‘harems’ and, in a few species, parental care of the offspring. These chapters provide an introduction to the theoretical issues and an overview of many case studies drawn from research on orthopterans from across the world (but including British species where relevant).
A unique DVD features many aspects of the behaviour of nearly all British species, including song, conflict, courtship behaviour, sex-role reversal and egg laying.
The book is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs and line drawings, covering all the British species (including immature stages in most cases), key habitats and many aspects of behaviour.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in British grasshoppers or crickets or for those that collect the New Naturalist series!
Sunday, August 19, 2012
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/grrlscientist/2012/aug/19/10
Saturday, August 18, 2012
1) Thorington, Richard W. et al.. Squirrels of the World. 2012. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 459 pages. Price: $75.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Squirrels of the World, written by scientists with more than 100 years of collective experience studying these popular mammals, is the first comprehensive examination of all 285 species of squirrels worldwide. The authors reveal virtually every detail of the family Sciuridae, which includes ground squirrels, tree squirrels, flying squirrels, prairie dogs, and chipmunks. Each species—from the familiar gray squirrel of American backyards to the exotic and endangered woolly flying squirrel of Pakistan—is described in a detailed account that includes distinguishing characteristics, ecology, natural history, conservation status, and current threats to its existence.
Squirrels of the World includes
• stunning color photographs that document rare and unusual squirrels as well as common varieties
• evolution, morphology, ecology, and conservation status
• colorful range maps marking species distribution
• images of the skull of each genus of squirrel
• extensive references
RECOMMENDATION: Also includes Marmots. If you have an interest in these rodents, you'll want this book!
Friday, August 17, 2012
1) Mikkola, Heimo. Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide. 2012. Firefly/Helm. Hardbound: 512 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S./ GBP: 34.99.
SUMMARY: Owls of the World is the ultimate resource dedicated to the identification of these charismatic birds of prey. Dozens of the world's finest photographers have contributed 750 spectacular photographs covering all of the world's 249 species of owls.
The photos are accompanied by detailed text describing:
*Accurate range maps
Owls are shown as adults from a perspective that clearly shows markings which assist in identification. Photographs of similar-looking species are included where identification is particularly difficult.
For photographers, birders, naturalists, researchers and any fan of these birds, Owls of the World is the definitive work on species identification. It is also a comprehensive encyclopedia for reference and leisure reading. No bookshelf should be without it.
RECOMMENDATION: The taxonomy in this book basically follows Owls of the World (2nd edition) by Konig et al. (2008). That book is prone to splitting up species (e.g. the Barn Owl, Tyto alba) into separate species. This taxonomy is at odds with other published sources. Also, some of the range maps of North American species need to be reworked. But birders will find the collection of photographs, especially of the rarer species, very useful!
1) Logan, William Bryant. Air: The Restless Shaper of the World. 2012. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 398 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: The author of Dirt and Oak brings to life this quickest, most sustaining, most communicative element of the earth.
Air sustains the living. Every creature breathes to live, exchanging and changing the atmosphere. Water and dust spin and rise, make clouds and fall again, fertilizing the dirt. Twenty thousand fungal spores and half a million bacteria travel in a square foot of summer air. The chemical sense of aphids, the ultraviolet sight of swifts, a newborn’s awareness of its mother’s breast—all take place in the medium of air.
Ignorance of the air is costly. The artist Eva Hesse died of inhaling her fiberglass medium. Thousands were sickened after 9/11 by supposedly “safe” air. The African Sahel suffers drought in part because we fill the air with industrial dusts. With the passionate narrative style and wide-ranging erudition that have made William Bryant Logan’s work a touchstone for nature lovers and environmentalists, Air is—like the contents of a bag of seaborne dust that Darwin collected aboard the Beagle—a treasure trove of discovery.
RECOMMENDATION: If you enjoyed the authors' other books, you should enjoy this one.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
1) Tipton, Bob L. et al.. Texas Amphibians: A Field Guide. 2012. University of Texas Press. Flexicover: 309 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: With a wide variety of habitats ranging from southeastern swamps to western deserts, Texas is home to numerous species of frogs, toads, and salamanders. Each area of Texas has a particular set of species that has evolved there over thousands of years. Indeed, most amphibians are not very mobile, and many live their entire lives within a few square meters. This makes them particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation and habitat destruction.
Texas Amphibians is the only field guide focused exclusively on the state’s frogs, toads, and salamanders. It presents brief, general accounts of the two orders and fifteen families. Then it identifies each of the seventy-two species in detail, including size, description, voice (if applicable), similar species, distribution (with maps), natural history, reproduction, subspecies (if applicable), and comments and conservation information. Color photographs illustrate the species.
The book also includes a general introduction to amphibian natural history, conservation, observation and collection, maintenance in captivity, museum and preserved specimens, and scientific and common names, as well as scientific keys to Texas salamanders and frogs and a generic key to amphibian larvae. This wealth of information, compiled by a team of experts who collectively have over a century of experience in field herpetology, will increase our appreciation for amphibians and the vital role they play as an early indicator of threats to the quality of the environment that we all share.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in Texan amphibians.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Saturday, August 11, 2012
1) Oddie, Bill. Bill Oddie's Birds of Britain & Ireland (Second Edition). 2012. New Holland. Paperback: 240 pages. Price: GBP 12.99 (about $20.38 U.S.).
SUMMARY: Individual descriptions of 250 species of British and Irish birds, arranged in taxonomic order. Concise details on appearance, song, habitat, breeding and behaviour are given and each species is illustrated with specially commissioned artworks showing differences of sex, age, season and breeding plumage. Includes a unique "confusion species" feature, to compare and contrast birds.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to the birds of the region!
2) Paterson, Andy. Pelagic Birds of the North Atlantic: An Identification Guide. 2012. New Holland. Spiralbound paperback: 32 pages. Price: GBP 9.99 (about $15.67 U.S.).
SUMMARY: Pelagic birding is an increasingly popular pastime in both Europe and North America, with ever greater numbers of people taking boat trips offshore to see birds such as the various species of petrels, skuas and shearwaters. This innovative new guide, printed on waterproof paper to withstand the rigours of oceanic trips, gives annotated illustrations (black & white line drawings) of every plumage of every pelagic species, including vagrants, which could be encountered in the North Atlantic, from the Caribbean and Cape Verde Islands right up to the Arctic. In total 56 species are covered, from albatrosses right through to phalaropes.
A prototype illustration sheet of the book, prepared by Andy Paterson, received high praise from a world expert on seabirds, Hadoram Shirihai, who saw it in action off the coast of Madeira. He declaimed how useful such a simple, waterproof guide would be if it were to be widely available. In short, this is a must-have guide for serious birders on both sides of the Atlantic.
RECOMMENDATION: Pelagic birders should find this waterproof guide useful.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
1) Apps, Peter. Smithers' Mammals of Southern Africa: A field guide (fourth edition). 2012. Struik Nature. Paperback: 392 pages. Price: $31.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: This revised and updated edition incorporates the latest information brought to light by molecular genetics, while remaining accessible to the layperson and handy in the field. Each entry includes an in-depth species description; notes on habitat, behavior, diet and conservation status; accurate illustrations and spoor drawings; and a distribution map. The book also details the whales, dolphins and seals seen along the coast.
A classic,comprehensive and highly authoritative field guide that is quite reader-friendly, written in non-technical language.
RECOMMENDATION: The page count has increased from 364 (third edition) to 392 pages (this edition). If you have an interest in South African mammals, you'll want this book!
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Friday, August 3, 2012
1) Stebbins, Robert C. and Samuel M. McGinnis. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition. 2012. University of California Press. Paperback: 538 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: This user-friendly guide is the only complete resource that identifies and describes all the amphibians and reptiles—salamanders, frogs and toads, lizards, snakes, and tortoises and turtles—that live in California. The species are described in richly detailed accounts that include range maps, lifelike color paintings by Robert C. Stebbins, clear drawings of various life stages including eggs, notes on natural history, and conservation status. Easy-to-use keys for every order help identify species, and informative chapters cover more general topics including evolution, habitat loss, and photography. Throughout, anecdotes and observations reveal new insights into the lives of California’s abundant but often hidden amphibians and reptiles.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in the herpetofauna of California!
Thursday, August 2, 2012
1) Williams, Tony D.. Physiological Adaptations for Breeding in Birds. 2012. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 368 pages. Price: $69.50 U.S.
SUMMARY: Physiological Adaptations for Breeding in Birds is the most current and comprehensive account of research on avian reproduction. It develops two unique themes: the consideration of female avian reproductive physiology and ecology, and an emphasis on individual variation in life-history traits. Tony Williams investigates the physiological, metabolic, energetic, and hormonal mechanisms that underpin individual variation in the key female-specific reproductive traits and the trade-offs between these traits that determine variation in fitness. The core of the book deals with the avian reproductive cycle, from seasonal gonadal development, through egg laying and incubation, to chick rearing. Reproduction is considered in the context of the annual cycle and through an individual's entire life history.
The book focuses on timing of breeding, clutch size, egg size and egg quality, and parental care. It also provides a primer on female reproductive physiology and considers trade-offs and carryover effects between reproduction and other life-history stages. In each chapter, Williams describes individual variation in the trait of interest and the evolutionary context for trait variation. He argues that there is only a rudimentary, and in some cases nonexistent, understanding of the physiological mechanisms that underpin individual variation in the major reproductive life-history traits, and that research efforts should refocus on these key unresolved problems by incorporating detailed physiological studies into existing long-term population studies, generating a new synthesis of physiology, ecology, and evolutionary biology.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in avian breeding biology.