Monday, August 29, 2016
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
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
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
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.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
1) Forsman, Dick. Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. 2016. Helm. Hardbound: 544 pages. Price: $75.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Raptors are notoriously hard to identify, even if seen well. Contrary to expectation, it is actually easier to identify raptors in flight than perched, and it is fortunate that most raptors are usually seen in flight!
This is the ultimate flight identification guide to Western Palearctic raptors. Covering over sixty species of raptors (over twenty more than the first edition) throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, this deeply researched text reaches even further into the history of these amazing creatures. A stunning photographic guide of never-before-published images, this thorough text covers every plumage and age in breathtaking detail.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in raptor identification in the region.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in raptor identification in the region.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
1) Merchant, Carolyn. Spare the Birds!: George Bird Grinnell and the First Audubon Society. 2016. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 328 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In 1887, a year after founding the Audubon Society, explorer and conservationist George Bird Grinnell launched Audubon Magazine. The magazine constituted one of the first efforts to preserve bird species decimated by the women’s hat trade, hunting, and loss of habitat. Within two years, however, for practical reasons, Grinnell dissolved both the magazine and the society. Remarkably, Grinnell’s mission was soon revived by women and men who believed in it, and the work continues today. In this, the only comprehensive history of the first Audubon Society (1886–1889), Carolyn Merchant presents the exceptional story of George Bird Grinnell and his writings and legacy. The book features Grinnell’s biographies of ornithologists John James Audubon and Alexander Wilson and his editorials and descriptions of Audubon’s bird paintings. This primary documentation combined with Carolyn Merchant’s insightful analysis casts new light on Grinnell, the origins of the first Audubon Society, and the conservation of avifauna.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of the Audubon Society.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
1) Bell, William J. et al.. Cockroaches: Ecology, Behavior, and Natural History. 2007 (2016). Johns Hopkins University Press. Paperback: 230 pages. Price: $89.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The cockroach is truly an evolutionary wonder. This definitive volume provides a complete overview of suborder Blattaria, highlighting the diversity of these amazing insects in their natural environments. Beginning with a foreword by Edward O. Wilson, the book explores the fascinating natural history and behavior of cockroaches, describing their various colors, sizes, and shapes, as well as how they move on land, in water, and through the air. In addition to habitat use, diet, reproduction, and behavior, Cockroaches covers aspects of cockroach biology, such as the relationship between cockroaches and microbes, termites as social cockroaches, and the ecological impact of the suborder. With over 100 illustrations, an expanded glossary, and an invaluable set of references, this work is destined to become the classic book on the Blattaria. Students and research entomologists can mine each chapter for new ideas, new perspectives, and new directions for future study.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in cockroaches.
2) Davies, Jeremy. The Birth of the Anthropocene. 2016. University of California Press. Hardbound: 234 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The world faces an environmental crisis unprecedented in human history. Carbon dioxide levels have reached heights not seen for three million years, and the greatest mass extinction since the time of the dinosaurs appears to be underway. Such far-reaching changes suggest something remarkable: the beginning of a new geological epoch. It has been called the Anthropocene. The Birth of the Anthropocene shows how this epochal transformation puts the deep history of the planet at the heart of contemporary environmental politics. By opening a window onto geological time, the idea of the Anthropocene changes our understanding of present-day environmental destruction and injustice. Linking new developments in earth science to the insights of world historians, Jeremy Davies shows that as the Anthropocene epoch begins, politics and geology have become inextricably entwined.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable overview on the subject.