Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Title



1) Bewell, Alan. Natures in Translation: Romanticism and Colonial Natural History. 2016. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 393 pages. Price: $60.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For many critics, Romanticism is synonymous with nature writing, for representations of the natural world appear during this period with a freshness, concreteness, depth, and intensity that have rarely been equaled. Why did nature matter so much to writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? And how did it play such an important role in their understanding of themselves and the world?
     In Natures in Translation, Alan Bewell argues that there is no Nature in the singular, only natures that have undergone transformation through time and across space. He examines how writers―as disparate as Erasmus and Charles Darwin, Joseph Banks, Gilbert White, William Bartram, William Wordsworth, John Clare, and Mary Shelley―understood a world in which natures were traveling and resettling the globe like never before. Bewell presents British natural history as a translational activity aimed at globalizing local natures by making them mobile, exchangeable, comparable, and representable.
     Bewell explores how colonial writers, in the period leading up to the formulation of evolutionary theory, responded to a world in which new natures were coming into being while others disappeared. For some of these writers, colonial natural history held the promise of ushering in a "cosmopolitan" nature in which every species, through trade and exchange, might become a true "citizen of the world." Others struggled with the question of how to live after the natures they depended upon were gone. Ultimately, Natures in Translation demonstrates that―far from being separate from the dominant concerns of British imperial culture―nature was integrally bound up with the business of empire.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of nature writing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

New Title


1) Behrens, Ken and Keith Barnes. Wildlife of Madagascar. 2016. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 344 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar is one of the world's great natural treasures and ecotourism destinations. Despite being an island, it is home to nearly an entire continent's variety of species, from the famous lemurs to a profusion of bizarre and beautiful birds, reptiles and amphibians. Wildlife of Madagascar is a compact and beautifully illustrated photographic guide, and an essential companion for any visitor or resident. With an eye-catching design, authoritative and accessible text and easy-to-use format, it provides information on identification, distribution, habitat, behaviour, biology and conservation for all the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies likely to be seen.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in Malagasy wildlife.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

New Titles



1) Alvarez, Walter. A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves. 2016. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 246 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Famed geologist Walter Alvarez expands our view of human history by revealing the cosmic, geologic, and evolutionary forces that have shaped us.
     One in a million doesn’t even come close.
     Not when we’re talking about the odds that you would happen to be alive today, on this particular planet, hurtling through space. Almost fourteen billion years of cosmic history, over four billion years of Earth history, a couple million years of human history, the rise and fall of nations, the unbroken string of generations necessary to lead to you―it’s staggering to consider. Yet behind everything in our world, from the phone in your pocket to even the force of gravity itself, lies a similarly grand procession of highly improbable events.
     This panoramic viewpoint has captured the imagination of historians and scientists alike, and together they’ve created a new field―Big History―that integrates traditional historical scholarship with scientific insights to study the full sweep of our universe and its past. Famed geologist Walter Alvarez―best known for the impact theory explaining dinosaur extinction―has championed a science-first approach to Big History, and A Most Improbable Journey is one of the first Big History books to be written by a scientist rather than a historian. Alvarez brings his unique expertise and infectious curiosity to give us a new appreciation for the incredible occurrences―from the Big Bang to the formation of supercontinents, the dawn of the Bronze Age, and beyond―that have led to our improbable place in the universe.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Big History.


2) Cameron, Robert. Collins New Naturalist Library: Slugs and Snails. 2016. William Collins. Paperback: 508 pages. Price: $28.27 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Slugs and snails are part of the great Phylum Mollusca, a group that contains creatures as varied as the fast-moving squid or the sedentary clams, cockles and mussels. The largest group, however, are the gastropods, animals originally with a single foot and a single coiled shell. They are the only group of molluscs to have representatives living on land as well as in the sea and freshwaters. This book is about the slugs and snails that live on land. For creatures living on land they are bizarre: snails carry a huge weight of shell; both snails and slugs move slowly relative to their potential enemies; and most are not well camouflaged. Their wet bodies are at the mercy of dry weather and their movement is very wasteful of energy and water. Despite all this, they are found from the tundra through to deserts, and on all continents apart from Antarctica. They have reached the most remote oceanic islands and undergone amazing evolutionary developments. In terms of species, they outnumber all land vertebrates. As pests, slugs and snails are all too familiar. The damage that they can cause in our gardens and to agricultural crops can be considerable and they are remarkably tenacious and thus difficult to control. In this long-anticipated New Naturalist volume, Robert Cameron introduces us to this remarkable group of gastropods. While dealing with the natural history of slugs and snails of the British Isles it also ventures across the world to explore the wide range of structures and ways of life of slugs and snails, particularly their sometimes bizarre mating habits, which in turn help to illuminate the ways in which evolution has shaped the living world. Snails can be and have been used to explore important ideas in evolutionary biology, in biogeography and in ecology, and Cameron draws out these explorations, looking specifically at the role of evolution in determining how our understanding of snails has developed over the years.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those that collect the New Naturalist series.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Best Bird Books of 2016


The following are my picks for the best bird books of 2016:

 

BEST BOOK:

 

 

1) Reeber, Sébastien.Waterfowl of North America, Europe, and Asia: An Identification Guide. 2015. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 656 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This is the ultimate guide for anyone who wants to identify the ducks, geese, and swans of North America, Europe, and Asia. With 72 stunning color plates (that include more than 920 drawings), over 650 superb photos, and in-depth descriptions, this book brings together the most current information on 84 species of Eurasian and North American waterfowl, and on more than 100 hybrids. The guide delves into taxonomy, identification features, determination of age and sex, geographic variations, measurements, voice, molt, and hybridization. In addition, the status of each species is treated with up-to-date details on distribution, population size, habitats, and life cycle. Color plates and photos are accompanied by informative captions and 85 distribution maps are also provided. Taken together, this is an unrivaled, must-have reference for any birder with an interest in the world's waterfowl.
 

RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in waterfowl. I especially like the treatment of hybrids.

 

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

 

 

1) Clement, Peter and Chris Rose. Robins and Chats. 2015. Helm. Hardbound: 688 pages. Price: $90.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Robins and chats are a diverse group of birds comprising both highly colourful and visible species, such as the robin-chats of Africa, as well as some of the most skulking and elusive birds, such as the shortwings of Asia. Many species, like the well-known Nightingale, are renowned songsters, some are even familiar garden birds, but a good number are highly sought-after for their extreme rarity or simply because they are hard to see.
     This authoritative handbook, part of the Helm Identification Guides series, looks in detail at the world's 175 species of robins and chats. This large group passerines was formerly considered to be part of the thrush family (Turdidae), but is now usually treated as a separate family, Muscicapidae, together with the Old World flycatchers. The vast majority of species are Eurasian or African, with only a handful of species straying into the New World or Australasia. The Australian Robins, although superficially similar, have long been regarded as a separate family and are not included in this book. 
     Robins and Chats discusses the identification and habits of these birds on a species-by-species basis, bringing together the very latest research with accurate range maps, more than 600 colour photographs, and 62 superb colour plates that illustrate age and racial plumage differences. This authoritative and sumptuous book will be indispensable for all chat enthusiasts, and will surely remain the standard reference on the subject for many years to come.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those that collect bird family monographs or have an interest in these species.

 


2) Shunk, Stephen. Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 298 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: From the iconic Woody Woodpecker to the ubiquitous Northern Flicker, woodpeckers have long captivated our attention. Their astonishing anatomy makes them one of the most specialized bird families in the world, and their keystone ecological roles in our forests and woodlands makes them some of the most important birds on the continent.
     This comprehensive and authoritative guide to the natural history, ecology, and conservation of North America’s 23 woodpecker species goes far beyond identification. It explores their unique anatomy and their fascinating and often comical behaviors; it covers each species’ North American conservation status; and it showcases over 250 stunning photographs of woodpeckers in their natural habitats, plus easy-to-read figures and range maps. This reference guide is an essential addition to every birder's library.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in North American woodpeckers!


3) Walther, Michael. Extinct Birds of Hawaii. 2016. Mutual Publishing. Hardbound: 238 pages. Price: $21.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Extinct Birds of Hawai'i captures the vanishing world of unique bird species that has  slipped away in the Islands mostly due to human frivolity and unconcern. Richly illustrated, including paintings by Julian P. Hume (many painted specifically for this volume), it enables us to enjoy vicariously avian life unique to Hawai'i that exists no longer.  
Extinct Birds of Hawai'i also sends a powerful message: Although Hawai'i is well-known for its unique scenic beauty and its fascinating native flora, fauna, bird and marine life, it is also called the extinction capital of the world. The Islands' seventy-seven bird species and sub-species extinctions account for approximately fifteen percent of global bird extinctions during the last seven-hundred years. On some islands over eighty percent of the original land bird species are now extinct.
     With the many agents of extinction still operating in the Islands' forests, Hawai'i's remaining native land birds are at a high risk of being lost forever. Many birdwatchers, nature lovers, and eco-tourists are unaware of the tremendous loss of species that has occurred in this remote archipelago. Extinct Birds of Hawai'i shows the bird life that has been lost and calls attention to the urgent need for preservation action.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated guide to these species. A must have for those with an interest in Hawaiian birds or bird extinctions.


4) Zickefoose, Julie. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 338 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in bird nests, or what happens after a fledgling leaves the nest, come along on Julie’s sensitive exploration of often-uncharted ornithological ground.
     This beautiful book is as much an art book as it is a natural history, something readers have come to expect from Julie Zickefoose. More than 400 watercolor paintings show the breathtakingly swift development of seventeen different species of wild birds. Sixteen of those species nest on Julie's wildlife sanctuary, so she knows the birds intimately, and writes about them with authority. To create the bulk of this extraordinary work, Julie would borrow a wild nestling, draw it, then return it to its nest every day until it fledged. Some were orphans she raised by hand, giving the ultimate insider’s glimpse into their lives. In sparkling prose, Julie shares a lifetime of insight about bird breeding biology, growth, and cognition.
      As an artist and wildlife rehabilitator, Julie possesses a unique skill set that includes sketching and painting rapidly from life as well as handling delicate hatchlings. She is uniquely positioned to create such an opus, and in fact, nothing like it has ever been attempted. Julie has many fans, and she will gain many more with this unparalleled work.
RECOMMENDATION: This is Zickefoose's best book to date!

 

Friday, December 9, 2016

New Title


1) Montgomery, David R. and Anne Biklé. The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health. 2016. W.W. Norton. Paperback: 309 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A riveting exploration of how microbes are transforming the way we see nature and ourselves―and could revolutionize agriculture and medicine.
     Prepare to set aside what you think you know about yourself and microbes. Good health―for people and for plants―depends on Earth’s smallest creatures. The Hidden Half of Nature tells the story of our tangled relationship with microbes and their potential to revolutionize agriculture and medicine, from garden to gut.
     When David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé decide to restore life into their barren yard by creating a garden, dead dirt threatens their dream. As a cure, they feed their soil a steady diet of organic matter. The results impress them. In short order, the much-maligned microbes transform their bleak yard into a flourishing Eden. Beneath their feet, beneficial microbes and plant roots continuously exchange a vast array of essential compounds. The authors soon learn that this miniaturized commerce is central to botanical life’s master strategy for defense and health.
     They are abruptly plunged further into investigating microbes when Biklé is diagnosed with cancer. Here, they discover an unsettling truth. An armada of bacteria (our microbiome) sails the seas of our gut, enabling our immune system to sort microbial friends from foes. But when our gut microbiome goes awry, our health can go with it. The authors also discover startling insights into the similarities between plant roots and the human gut. We are not what we eat. We are all―for better or worse―the product of what our microbes eat.
     This leads to a radical reconceptualization of our relationship to the natural world: by cultivating beneficial microbes, we can rebuild soil fertility and help turn back the modern plague of chronic diseases. The Hidden Half of Nature reveals how to transform agriculture and medicine―by merging the mind of an ecologist with the care of a gardener and the skill of a doctor.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in microbes.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

New Title



1) Sidles, Connie (editor). Caring for Birds and Nature: 100 Years of Seattle Audubon. 2016. Seattle Audubon Society. Hardbound: 184 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Connie Sidles' latest book is an in-depth look at the first 100 years of Seattle Audubon with historic photos, interviews, and moving stories about our history of working to protect birds and nature in Washington. Every copy signed by the editor.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Washington State ornithological/environmental history.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

New Title


1) Paul, Gregory. The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs: Second Edition. 2016. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 360 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The best-selling Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs remains the must-have book for anyone who loves dinosaurs, from amateur enthusiasts to professional paleontologists. Now extensively revised and expanded, this dazzlingly illustrated large-format edition features some 100 new dinosaur species and 200 new and updated illustrations, bringing readers up to the minute on the latest discoveries and research that are radically transforming what we know about dinosaurs and their world.
     Written and illustrated by acclaimed dinosaur expert Gregory Paul, this stunningly beautiful book includes detailed species accounts of all the major dinosaur groups as well as nearly 700 color and black-and-white images--skeletal drawings, "life" studies, scenic views, and other illustrations that depict the full range of dinosaurs, from small feathered creatures to whale-sized supersauropods. Paul's extensively revised introduction delves into dinosaur history and biology, the extinction of nonavian dinosaurs, the origin of birds, and the history of dinosaur paleontology, as well as giving a taste of what it might be like to travel back in time to the era when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in dinosaurs.

Monday, November 21, 2016

New Title


1) Grimmett, Richard, Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp and Hem Sagar Baral. Birds of Nepal: Revised Edition (Helm Field Guides). 2016. Bloomsbury. Paperback: 368 pages. Price: $50.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This fully updated edition of Birds of Nepal is the most comprehensive guide to the birds of this beautiful Himalayan country. The texts have been completely re-written for this edition and many of the illustrations have been replaced. In addition, maps have been included for the first time.
     Every species recorded in Nepal is covered, including vagrants, with accurate distribution maps for most species. 142 color plates are featured, illustrating more than 790 species with text on facing pages for quick and easy reference. The comprehensive text covers identification, voice, habits, habitats, altitudinal range, distribution and status.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone birding the country!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New Title


1) Fagan, Jesse and Oliver Komar. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Paperback: 438 pages. Price: $25.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A field guide to the birds of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, abundantly illustrated and with comprehensive coverage of both endemic and migrant birds.
     Birding is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry in northern Central America, and this is the newest and best bird field guide to this region—the first new bird guide in over ten years for the countries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This guide is far more complete than previous ones, with more than 800 species accounts, full-color range maps, and 1,000 beautiful illustrations and behavioral vignettes covering all species recorded in the region.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone birding the region!

Monday, November 14, 2016

New Title



1) Prothero, Donald R. and Mary Persis Williams. The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals. 2016. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 240 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: After the mass extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, mammals became the dominant terrestrial life form on our planet. Roaming the earth were spectacular beasts such as saber-toothed cats, giant mastodonts, immense ground sloths, and gigantic giraffe-like rhinoceroses. Here is the ultimate illustrated field guide to the lost world of these weird and wonderful prehistoric creatures.
     A woolly mammoth probably won't come thundering through your vegetable garden any time soon. But if one did, this would be the book to keep on your windowsill next to the binoculars. It covers all the main groups of fossil mammals, discussing taxonomy and evolutionary history, and providing concise accounts of the better-known genera and species as well as an up-to-date family tree for each group. No other book presents such a wealth of new information about these animals--what they looked like, how they behaved, and how they were interrelated. In addition, this unique guide is stunningly illustrated throughout with full-color reconstructions of these beasts--many never before depicted--along with photographs of amazing fossils from around the world.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in prehistoric mammals.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

New Titles



1) Eaton, James A., Bas van Balen, Nick W. Brickle, and Frank E. Rheindt. Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea. 2016. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 496 pages. Price: $75.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: 1,399 species, 578 endemics and 16 undescribed species. 2,424 illustrations and 1,339 distribution maps.
     The first ornithological field guide covering the vast chain of the Indonesian archipelago, with over 2,500 illustrations, describes all 1,417 bird species known to occur in the region, including 601 endemics, 98 vagrants, eight introduced species and 18 species yet to be formally described. Together these represent over 13% of global bird diversity. In addition, all subspecies from the region are described.
     The guide fully encompasses the biogeographic regions of the Greater Sundas (Sumatra, Borneo, Java and Bali) and Wallacea (Sulawesi, the Moluccas and the Lesser Sundas), plus all satellite islands. This region spans an arc of over 4,000 km along the Equator, including Brunei, East Timor, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak and most of the territory of the Republic of Indonesia.
The authors' vast experience and knowledge of the region's birds brings together the latest taxonomic insights, knowledge of distribution, field identification features, vocalizations and more to create an indispensable reference for anyone with an interest in the avifauna of this fabulously diverse region.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone birding the region!


2) Denny, Mark. Long Hops: Making Sense of Bird Migration. 2016. University of Hawaii Press. Paperback: 241 pages. Price: $29.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In Long Hops, physicist Mark Denny explains, in a clear, conversational style, the science of bird migration―from the intricacies of bird aeronautics to the newly unraveled mysteries of their magnetic compasses. While providing wherever possible examples of indigenous Hawaiian species, the book surveys the migration phenomenon as a whole, showing that birds are breathtaking works of engineering with spectacular capabilities for long-distance flights. Each year thousands of these hardy migrants fly 2,500 miles nonstop from Alaska to Hawai‘i. How do they endure such marathon journeys, and how on earth do they know which direction to travel over featureless ocean? In fact, many migratory journeys, in all parts of the world and performed by birds as small as warblers and as large as swans, cover much longer distances.
     After answering the “who, why, where, when” questions, Denny focuses on the questions of how: how researchers study bird migration; how they gather data from old-fashioned bird banding, high-tech satellite tracking, and other techniques; and―above all―how the birds do it. Throughout the book, concepts such as the physics of bird flight and the role of physical geography on navigation are explained in a relatively math-free way. Denny also examines past adaptations migrating birds have made to changing environments and the challenges they face in the future, as the world beneath them faces rapid climate change exacerbated by human activity.
RECOMMENDATION: A good overview on the subject.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

New Titles



1) Chiappe, Luis M. and Meng Qingjin. Birds of Stone: Chinese Avian Fossils from the Age of Dinosaurs. 2016. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 294 pages. Price: $85.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: When fossils of birds from China’s Jehol region first appeared in scientific circles, the world took notice. These Mesozoic masterpieces are between 120 and 131 million years old and reveal incredible details that capture the diversity of ancient bird life. Paleontologists all over the world began to collaborate with Chinese colleagues as new and wondrous fossil-related discoveries became regular events. The pages of National Geographic and major scientific journals described the intricate views of feathers as well as food still visible in the guts of these ancient birds. Now, for the first time, a sweeping collection of the most interesting of Jehol’s avian fossils is on display in this beautiful book.
      Birds of Stone makes visible the unexpected avian diversity that blanketed the earth just a short time (geologically speaking) after a dinosaur lineage gave rise to the first birds. Our visual journey through these fossils is guided by Luis M. Chiappe, a world expert on early birds, and Meng Qingjin, a leading figure in China's natural history museum community. Together, they help us understand the "meaning" of each fossil by providing straightforward narratives that accompany the full-page photographs of the Jehol discoveries.
     Anyone interested in the history of life―from paleontologists to inquisitive birders―will find Birds of Stone an irresistible feast for the eyes and mind.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview of these fossils.






2) Cunfer, Geoff and Bill Waiser (editors). Bison and People on the North American Great Plains: A Deep Environmental History. 2016. Texas A&M University Press. Hardbound: 323 pages. Price: $60.00 U.S. 
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The near disappearance of the American bison in the nineteenth century is commonly understood to be the result of over-hunting, capitalist greed, and all but genocidal military policy. This interpretation remains seductive because of its simplicity; there are villains and victims in this familiar cautionary tale of the American frontier. But as this volume of groundbreaking scholarship shows, the story of the bison’s demise is actually quite nuanced. 
     Bison and People on the North American Great Plains brings together voices from several disciplines to offer new insights on the relationship between humans and animals that approached extinction. The essays here transcend the border between the United States and Canada to provide a continental context. Contributors include historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, paleontologists, and Native American perspectives.
     This book explores the deep past and examines the latest knowledge on bison anatomy and physiology, how bison responded to climate change (especially drought), and early bison hunters and pre-contact trade. It also focuses on the era of European contact, in particular the arrival of the horse, and some of the first known instances of over-hunting. By the nineteenth century bison reached a “tipping point” as a result of new tanning practices, an early attempt at protective legislation, and ventures to introducing cattle as a replacement stock. The book concludes with a Lakota perspective featuring new ethnohistorical research. 
     Bison and People on the North American Great Plains is a major contribution to environmental history, western history, and the growing field of transnational history.
RECOMMENDATION:For those with a serious interest in the topic.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Title



1) Bannick, Paul. Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls. 2016.
Mountaineers Books. Hardbound: 224 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In Owl, award-winning photographer Paul Bannick uses his intimate yet dramatic images to track four different nesting owl species, Northern Pygmy, Burrowing, Great Gray, and Snowy, throughout the course of one year and in four distinct habitats. Readers follow along at the nest as each stage in an owl's life is chronicled: courtship, mating, and nesting in spring; fledging and feeding of young in summer; dispersal and learning independence in fall; and finally, winter's migration.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of Bannick's photography will enjoy this book.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New Title


1) Davis, Walt. Building an Ark for Texas: The Evolution of a Natural History Museum. 2016. Texas A&M University Press. Hardbound: 218 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Recounted through the eyes of a major participant, this book tells the story of the Dallas Museum of Natural History from its beginning in 1922 as a collection of specimens celebrating the plants and animals of Texas to its metamorphosis in 2012 as the gleaming Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The life of this museum was indelibly influenced by a colorful staff of scientists, administrators, and teachers, including a German taxidermist, a South American explorer, and a Milwaukee artist, each with a compelling personal investment in this museum and its mission.
     From the days when meticulously and skillfully prepared dioramas were the hallmark of natural history museums to the era of blockbuster exhibits and interactive education, Walt Davis traces the changing expectations of and demands on museums, both public and private, through an engaging, personal look back at the creation and development of one exceptional institution, whose building and original exhibits are now protected as historical landmarks at Fair Park in Dallas.
RECOMMENDATION:  For those with an interest in natural history museums.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Title



1) Miller, Kelly B. and Johannes Bergsten. Diving Beetles of the World: Systematics and Biology of the Dytiscidae. 2016. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 320 pages. Price: $150.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Among the hundreds of thousands of species of beetles, there is one family, containing some 4,300 species, that stands out as one of the most diverse and important groups of aquatic predatory insects. This is the Dytiscidae, whose species are commonly known as diving beetles. No comprehensive treatment of this group has been compiled in over 130 years, a period during which a great many changes in classification and a near quadrupling of known species has occurred.
     In Diving Beetles of the World, Kelly B. Miller and Johannes Bergsten provide the only full treatments of all 188 Dytiscid genera ever assembled. Entomologists, systematists, limnologists, ecologists, and others with an interest in aquatic systems or insect diversity will find these extensively illustrated keys and taxon accounts immensely helpful. The keys make it possible to identify all taxa from subfamily to genera, and each key and taxon treatment is accompanied by both photographs and detailed pen-and-ink drawings of diagnostic features.
     Every genus account covers body length, diagnostic characters, classification, species diversity, a review of known natural history, and world distribution. Each account is also accompanied by a range map and at least one high-resolution habitus image of a specimen. Diving beetles are fast becoming important models for aquatic ecology, world biogeography, population ecology, and animal sexual evolution and, with this book, the diversity of the group is finally accessible.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in diving beetles.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Title



1) Prothero, Donald R.. Giants of the Lost World: Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Monsters of South America. 2016. Smithsonian Books. Hardbound: 174 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: More than a hundred years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a novel called The Lost World with the exciting premise that dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts still ruled in South America. Little did Conan Doyle know, there were terrifying monsters in South America--they just happened to be extinct. In fact, South America has an incredible history as a land where many strange creatures evolved and died out. In his book Giants of the Lost World: Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Monsters of South America, Donald R. Prothero uncovers the real science and history behind this fascinating story. The largest animal ever discovered was the huge sauropod dinosaur Argentinosaurus, which was about 130 feet long and weighed up to 100 tons. The carnivorous predator Giganotosaurus weighed in at more than 8 tons and measured more than 47 feet long, dwarfing the T. rex in comparison. Gigantic anacondas broke reptile records; possums evolved into huge saber-toothed predators; and ground sloths grew larger than elephants in this strange, unknown land. Prothero presents the scientific details about each of these prehistoric beasts, provides a picture of the ancient landscapes they once roamed, and includes the stories of the individuals who first discovered their fossils for a captivating account of a lost world that is stranger than fiction.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in vertebrate fossils of the region.
        

Thursday, September 29, 2016

New Title



1) Falkingham, Peter L., Daniel Marty, and Annette Richter (editors). Dinosaur Tracks: The Next Steps. 2016. Indiana University Press. Hardbound: 413 pages. Price: $90.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The latest advances in dinosaur ichnology are showcased in this comprehensive and timely volume, in which leading researchers and research groups cover the most essential topics in the study of dinosaur tracks. Some assess and demonstrate state-of-the-art approaches and techniques, such as experimental ichnology, photogrammetry, biplanar X-rays, and a numerical scale for quantifying the quality of track preservation. The high diversity of these up-to-date studies underlines that dinosaur ichnological research is a vibrant field, that important discoveries are continuously made, and that new methods are being developed, applied, and refined. This indispensable volume unequivocally demonstrates that ichnology has an important contribution to make toward a better understanding of dinosaur paleobiology. Tracks and trackways are one of the best sources of evidence to understand and reconstruct the daily life of dinosaurs. They are windows on past lives, dynamic structures produced by living, breathing, moving animals now long extinct, and they are every bit as exciting and captivating as the skeletons of their makers.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in dinosaur ichnology.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Titles



1) Chester, Sharon. The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North. 2016. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 542 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Arctic Guide presents the traveler and naturalist with a portable, authoritative guide to the flora and fauna of earth's northernmost region. Featuring superb color illustrations, this one-of-a-kind book covers the complete spectrum of wildlife--more than 800 species of plants, fishes, butterflies, birds, and mammals--that inhabit the Arctic's polar deserts, tundra, taiga, sea ice, and oceans. It can be used anywhere in the entire Holarctic region, including Norway's Svalbard archipelago, Siberia, the Russian Far East, islands of the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and Greenland. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, size, habitat, range, scientific name, and the unique characteristics that enable these organisms to survive in the extreme conditions of the Far North. A color distribution map accompanies each species account, and alternative names in German, French, Norwegian, Russian, Inuit, and Inupiaq are also provided.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated (color photos) introduction to the natural history of the region.

2) Redman, Nigel, Terry Stevenson, and John Fanshawe. Birds of the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Socotra. 2016. Princeton University Press. 2016. Paperback: 512 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Birds of the Horn of Africa is widely regarded as the best field guide to the more than 1,000 species of resident, migrant, and vagrant birds found in northeast Africa--and it just got even better. Now fully revised and expanded, this comprehensive, easy-to-use guide has been updated with the latest information on distribution, identification, and taxonomy. New vagrants to the region have been added; color plates, illustrations, and distribution maps have been thoroughly updated and improved; and much more--making this still the must-have guide for birders, naturalists, and travelers in the region.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those birding the region!

New Titles



1) Hallett, Mark and Mathew J. Wedel. The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants. 2016. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 320 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: From The Land Before Time to Jurassic Park, images of fantastically large, long-necked, plant-eating dinosaurs have captured our imaginations. These are the sauropods: centerpieces of museums and gentle giants of the distant past. Imagine what it must have been like to crest a hill and see in the valley below not just one sauropod, but an entire herd, feeding its way across the landscape.
     The most massive land animals ever to have lived, sauropods roamed widely across the continents through most of the "Age of Dinosaurs" from about 220 to 65 million years ago. They reached incredible sizes, giving rise to the question: Why were they so big? Early guesses suggested that they gained protection from predators by virtue of their size, which also allowed them to reach the tops of trees in order to eat leaves and conifer needles. More recent hypotheses hold that they needed a long and complicated digestive tract due to their consumption of low-nutrient food sources: size was an offshoot of that need. Whatever the explanation, there is little doubt that natural selection produced something extraordinary when the Sauropoda diversified into a wide variety of species. This book combines majestic artwork and the best of paleontological research to resurrect the lives of sauropods. The Sauropod Dinosaurs shows how these amazing creatures raised and defended their young, traveled in groups, and interacted with the rich diversity of Mesozoic plants and animals. Beautiful enough to sit on the coffee table, the book also serves as the best reference available on these bygone giants. Anyone with a passion for dinosaurs or prehistoric life will cherish this once-in-a-generation masterpiece.
     The book includes the following features:· Over 200 full-color illustrations· More than 100 color photographs from museums, field sites, and collections around the world· Thoughtfully placed drawings and charts· Clearly written text reviewed by major sauropod researchers· Descriptions of the latest sauropod concepts and discoveries· A field guide to major groups of sauropods· Detailed skeletal reconstructions and anatomical restorations· A comprehensive glossary.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview on the subject.


2) Hayes, Louise and Philippe Henry. Alligators of Texas. 2016. Texas A&M University Press. Flexibound: 227 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Found only in the United States, the American alligator ranges in Texas through 120 counties, from the Sabine River to the Rio Grande, across a swath of river drainages and coastal marshes that include both the backwater swamps of the Big Thicket and the urban bayous of greater Houston.
     From its beginning in a pile of eggs buried in a meticulously constructed nest to its possible end as an alligator burger or a pair of boots, an alligator’s habitat preferences sometimes coincide with the favorite haunts of boaters, hunters, and coastal residents.
     In Alligators of Texas, biologist Louise Hayes and photographer Philippe Henry bring readers up close to this cryptic reptile’s food choices, parenting skills, communication techniques, and responses to natural events such as freezes and hurricanes. They also relate some Texas “alligator tales”; discuss alligator farming, hunting, and live capturing; and examine how people can successfully co-exist with this predator. They end by telling readers where they can view alligators, both in the wild and in captivity.
     Although not as often, as easily, or perhaps as happily observed as white-tailed deer or armadillos, the American alligator is an iconic Texas animal, and knowing more about its life and habits can help Texans better understand its rightful place in the landscape.
RECOMMENDATION: A detailed treatment of the species.

Monday, September 26, 2016

New Title



1) Darin A. Croft and Velizar Simeonovski. Horned Armadillos and Rafting Monkeys: The Fascinating Fossil Mammals of South America. 2016. Indiana University Press. Hardbound: 304 pages. Price: $50.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: South America is home to some of the most distinctive mammals on Earth―giant armadillos, tiny anteaters, the world’s largest rodent, and its smallest deer. But the continent once supported a variety of other equally intriguing mammals that have no close living relatives: armored mammals with tail clubs, saber-toothed marsupials, and even a swimming sloth. We know of the existence of these peculiar species thanks to South America’s rich fossil record, which provides many glimpses of prehistoric mammals and the ecosystems in which they lived. Organized as a "walk through time" and featuring species from 15 important fossil sites, this book is the most extensive and richly illustrated volume devoted exclusively to the Cenozoic mammals of South America. The text is supported by 75 life reconstructions of extinct species in their native habitats, as well as photographs of fossil specimens and the sites highlighted in the book. An annotated bibliography is included for those interested in delving into the scientific literature.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview of these mammals.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New Title


1) Low, Tim. Where Song Began: Australia's Birds and How They Changed the World. 2016. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 406 pages. Price: $32.50 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Renowned for its gallery of unusual mammals, Australia is also a land of extraordinary birds. But unlike the mammals, the birds of Australia flew beyond the continent’s boundaries and around the globe many millions of years ago. This eye-opening book tells the dynamic but little-known story of how Australia provided the world with songbirds and parrots, among other bird groups, why Australian birds wield surprising ecological power, how Australia became a major evolutionary center, and why scientific biases have hindered recognition of these discoveries.
      From violent, swooping magpies to tool-making cockatoos, Australia’s birds are strikingly different from birds of other lands—often more intelligent and aggressive, often larger and longer-lived. Tim Low, a renowned biologist with a rare storytelling gift, here presents the amazing evolutionary history of Australia’s birds. The story of the birds, it turns out, is inseparable from the story of the continent itself and also the people who inhabit it.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in avian evolution and ecology.

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Title



1) Sterling, Kier B. and Marianne G. Ainley. The American Ornithologists' Union: The First Century, 1883-1983. 2016. Nuttall Ornithological Club. Hardbound: 405 pages. Price: $39.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, Number 20. A history of the first 100 years of the A.O.U., highlighting the Union's activities and accomplishments, relating some to overall developments in the evolution of American natural science. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Published by the Club, With the support of the American Ornithologists' Union, 2016. Contents: Beginnings; By-Laws; The Auk, A Quarterly Journal of Ornithology; Classification and Checklists; Annual Meetings; Research and Awards in the AOU; Bird Protection; Special Projects; Patterns of Change in the AOU; Conclusions. Endnotes; Literature Cited. Appendices: Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries, Treasurers, Editors; AOU Founders, 1883, and highlights of their careers; Annual Meetings of the AOU 1883-1982; Brewster Medals 1929-1982; Coues Awards 1972-1982; The 'Ten Year Index' of The Auk; Pertinent data of the Ornithological Monographs; Index.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in ornithological history.

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Title



1) Schmidly, David J. and Robert D. Bradley. The Mammals of Texas 7th Edition. 2016. University of Texas Press. Paperback: 694 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Mammals of Texas has been the standard reference since the first edition was coauthored by William B. Davis and Walter P. Taylor in 1947. Revised several times over the succeeding decades, it remains the most authoritative source of information on the mammalian wildlife of Texas, with physical descriptions and life histories for 202 species, abundant photographs and drawings, and distribution maps.
     In this new edition, David J. Schmidly is joined by one of the most active researchers on Texas mammals, Robert D. Bradley, to provide a thorough update of the taxonomy, distribution, and natural history of all species of wild mammals that inhabit Texas today. Using the most recent advances in molecular biology and in wildlife ecology and management, the authors include the most current information about the scientific nomenclature, taxonomy, and identification of species, while also covering significant advances in natural history and conservation.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in the mammals of Texas.

Monday, August 29, 2016

New Title



1) Lanham, J. Drew. The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature. 2016. Milkweed Editions. Hardbound: 216 pages. Price: $24.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: “In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils of love, land, identity, family, and race emerges The Home Place, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham.
     Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, South Carolina—a place “easy to pass by on the way somewhere else”—has been home to generations of Lanhams. In The Home Place, readers meet these extraordinary people, including Drew himself, who over the course of the 1970s falls in love with the natural world around him. As his passion takes flight, however, he begins to ask what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity.”
     By turns angry, funny, elegiac, and heartbreaking, The Home Place is a remarkable meditation on nature and belonging, at once a deeply moving memoir and riveting exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South—and in America today.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in natural history and/or race relations.

Friday, August 26, 2016

New Title



1) Sekercioglu, Çagan H. et al. (editors). Why Birds Matter: Avian Ecological Function and Ecosystem Services. 2016. University Of Chicago Press. Paperback: 387 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For over one hundred years, ornithologists and amateur birders have jointly campaigned for the conservation of bird species, documenting not only birds’ beauty and extraordinary diversity, but also their importance to ecosystems worldwide. But while these avian enthusiasts have noted that birds eat fruit, carrion, and pests; spread seed and fertilizer; and pollinate plants, among other services, they have rarely asked what birds are worth in economic terms. In Why Birds Matter, an international collection of ornithologists, botanists, ecologists, conservation biologists, and environmental economists seeks to quantify avian ecosystem services—the myriad benefits that birds provide to humans.
     The first book to approach ecosystem services from an ornithological perspective, Why Birds Matter asks what economic value we can ascribe to those services, if any, and how this value should inform conservation. Chapters explore the role of birds in such important ecological dynamics as scavenging, nutrient cycling, food chains, and plant-animal interactions—all seen through the lens of human well-being—to show that quantifying avian ecosystem services is crucial when formulating contemporary conservation strategies. Both elucidating challenges and providing examples of specific ecosystem valuations and guidance for calculation, the contributors propose that in order to advance avian conservation, we need to appeal not only to hearts and minds, but also to wallets.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in avian/Human ecology.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Title



1) Letts, Elizabeth. The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis. 2016. Ballantine Books. Hardbound: 400 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the chaotic last days of the war a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.
      With only hours to spare, one of the Army’s last great cavalrymen, American colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.
      Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender.
      A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in horses or military history.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

New Title



1) Ridgely, Robert S. et al.. Wildlife Conservation Society Birds of Brazil: The Atlantic Forest of Southeast Brazil, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. 2016. Cornell University Press. Paperback: 415 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and is one of the planet's richest places for bird diversity, especially when it comes to the number of endemic species. Brazil’s Atlantic Forest region is one of the most dazzling of all. Immediately surrounding São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, this area of Brazil is also a relatively accessible area to birders from around the world.
     In the Birds of Brazil Field Guides, the Wildlife Conservation Society brings together a top international team to do justice to the incredible diversity of Brazilian birds. This second guide presents 927 bird species, 863 illustrated, that occur in just the southeastern Atlantic Forest biome (Mata Atlântica in Portuguese). Of these species, 140 are endemic and 105 near endemic to just this region; 83 of these are threatened. Modern and compact, this field guide provides illustrations of unparalleled quality, key field marks, and regional range maps to facilitate easy recognition of all species normally occurring in this vibrant and critically important area of Brazil.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in the birds of the region.