Monday, February 27, 2012
1) de Boer, Bart, Eric Newton, and Robin Restall. Birds of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. 2012. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 176 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Located in the southern Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, the islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire are home to a colorful diversity of bird species. Birds of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire is the first comprehensive field guide to the birds of the region and the ideal companion for identifying the islands' remarkable avian population. This compact and portable book contains close to 1,000 superb color illustrations on 71 color plates and detailed descriptions of every species. Concise text on facing pages highlights key identification features, including voice, habitat, behavior, and status. This field guide is essential for all birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts interested in this part of the world.
This book features:
*First-ever comprehensive field guide to the birds of the Netherlands Antilles
*Complete coverage of the islands' bird species, including residents, migrants, and vagrants
*Close to 1,000 illustrations on 71 color plates depicting every species and all major plumages and races
*Concise text on facing pages highlights key identification features, including voice, habitat, behavior, and status.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those birding the region.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
1) Goodwin, Jason. An Evil Eye: An Investigator Yashim Mystery. 2012. Picador. Paperback: 328 pages. Price: $15.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: It’s Istanbul in 1839, and as the new sultan installs his harem in the palace, the intrepid investigator Yashim is set adrift on the swirling currents of loyalty and betrayal. The dramatic treachery of Fevzi Ahmet, the admiral of the fleet, brings Yashim up against the one man he has ever hated…the only man he has ever feared.
Drawn ever deeper into the closed and mysterious world of the Sultan’s harem, Yashim must search for a secret that could save a life or destroy an empire. An Evil Eye is a heart-pounding mystery of exotic Istanbul and a riveting journey into a veiled realm.
RECOMMENDATION: This is the fourth book in the Investigator Yashim series. If you have an interest in fictional historical mysteries, you might enjoy this book.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
1) Manakadan, Ranjit et al.. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent: A Field Guide. 2011. BNHS/Oxford. Hardbound: 409 pages. Price: $34.99 U.S.
SUMMARY: This book is a revised edition of a pictorial guide to the birds of the Indian subcontinent first published in 1983. The book deals with the birds of the Indian Subcontinent--India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, including the islands of Andaman and Nicobars, Lakshadweep, and Maldives and not includes Afghanistan and the Chagos Archipelago. The main part of the book is taken up by bird topography and complemented by 112 plates containing illustrations of 1251 species to describe how their family/species perceived in the society. Additional notes of over 100 definite species are also provided to add special flavour to the reader. The Guide contains species descriptions to aid field identification, as there are quite a few bird species where a pictorial representation is not sufficient, especially to identify similar looking birds. The brief descriptions of the species have been added to enable quick identification, except for species where more detailing is required.
The detailed indices--of group and stand-alone names, common names, and scientific names of the birds of the Indian Subcontinent--would be of immense help to the serious scholars and researcher of birds of the Indian Subcontinent. This book features:
*Revised edition of a pictorial guide to the birds
*Brief descriptions on similar looking birds
*112 plates containing illustrations of 1251 species
RECOMMENDATION: This book lacks range maps and the artwork by John Henry Dick looks out-of-date. I prefer Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmett and the Inskipps.
2) Moran, Jeffrey P.. American Genesis: The Evolution Controversies from Scopes to Creation Science. 2012. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 196 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
SUMMARY:The question of teaching evolution in the public schools is a continuing and frequently heated political issue in America. From Tennessee's Scopes Trial in 1925 to recent battles that have erupted in Louisiana, Kansas, Ohio, and countless other localities, the critics and supporters of evolution have fought nonstop over the role of science and religion in American public life.
In American Genesis, Jeffrey P. Moran explores the ways in which the evolution debate has reverberated beyond the confines of state legislatures and courthouses. Using extensive research in newspapers, periodicals, and archives, Moran shows that social forces such as gender, regionalism, and race have intersected with the debate over evolution in ways that shed light on modern American culture. He investigates, for instance, how antievolutionism deepened the cultural divisions between North and South--northerners embraced evolution as a sign of sectional enlightenment, while southerners defined themselves as the standard bearers of true Christianity. Evolution debates also exposed a deep gulf between conservative Black Christians and secular intellectuals such as W. E. B. DuBois. Moran also explores the ways in which the struggle has played out in the universities, on the internet, and even within the evangelical community. Throughout, he shows that evolution has served as a weapon, as an enforcer of identity, and as a polarizing force both within and without the churches.
America has both the most advanced scientific infrastructure as well as the highest rate of church adherence among developed nations, and the issues raised in the evolution controversies touch the heart of our national identity. American Genesis makes an important contribution to our understanding of the impact of this contentious issue, revealing how its tendrils have stretched out to touch virtually every corner of our lives. This book features:
* Goes beyond a depiction of legal and political battles to explore the ideology and identities of both creationists and evolutionary scientists.
* Analyzes the roles that race and gender have played in the antievolution controversies and, conversely, examines the ways in which overlooked groups have made their own use of creationism and evolutionary thought.
* Situates the antievolution impulse within the context of American populism and regionalism.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the creationism/evolution debate.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
1) Waldbauer, Gilbert. How Not to Be Eaten: The Insects Fight Back. 2012. University of California Press. Hardbound: 221 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: All animals must eat. But who eats who, and why, or why not? Because insects outnumber and collectively outweigh all other animals combined, they comprise the largest amount of animal food available for potential consumption. How do they avoid being eaten? From masterful disguises to physical and chemical lures and traps, predatory insects have devised ingenious and bizarre methods of finding food. Equally ingenious are the means of hiding, mimicry, escape, and defense waged by prospective prey in order to stay alive. This absorbing book demonstrates that the relationship between the eaten and the eater is a central—perhaps the central—aspect of what goes on in the community of organisms. By explaining the many ways in which insects avoid becoming a meal for a predator, and the ways in which predators evade their defensive strategies, Gilbert Waldbauer conveys an essential understanding of the unrelenting coevolutionary forces at work in the world around us.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in insect biology and/or evolution.
Friday, February 17, 2012
1) Burnett, D. Graham. The Sounding of the Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century. 2012. The University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 793 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: From the Bible’s “Canst thou raise leviathan with a hook?” to Captain Ahab’s “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee!,” from the trials of Job to the legends of Sinbad, whales have breached in the human imagination as looming figures of terror, power, confusion, and mystery.
In the twentieth century, however, our understanding of and relationship to these superlatives of creation underwent some astonishing changes, and with The Sounding of the Whale, D. Graham Burnett tells the fascinating story of the transformation of cetaceans from grotesque monsters, useful only as wallowing kegs of fat and fertilizer, to playful friends of humanity, bellwethers of environmental devastation, and, finally, totems of the counterculture in the Age of Aquarius. When Burnett opens his story, ignorance reigns: even Nature was misclassifying whales at the turn of the century, and the only biological study of the species was happening in gruesome Arctic slaughterhouses. But in the aftermath of World War I, an international effort to bring rational regulations to the whaling industry led to an explosion of global research—and regulations that, while well-meaning, were quashed, or widely flouted, by whaling nations, the first shot in a battle that continues to this day. The book closes with a look at the remarkable shift in public attitudes toward whales that began in the 1960s, as environmental concerns and new discoveries about whale behavior combined to make whales an object of sentimental concern and public adulation.
A sweeping history, grounded in nearly a decade of research, The Sounding of the Whale tells a remarkable story of how science, politics, and simple human wonder intertwined to transform the way we see these behemoths from below.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in the history of whaling.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
1) Figes, Orlando. The Crimean War: A History. 2012. Picador. Paperback: 575 pages. Price: $22.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: The Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale—these are the enduring icons of the Crimean War. Less well-known is that this savage war (1853-1856) killed almost a million soldiers and countless civilians; that it enmeshed four great empires—the British, French, Turkish, and Russian—in a battle over religion as well as territory; that it fixed the fault lines between Russia and the West; that it set in motion the conflicts that would dominate the century to come.
In this masterly history, Orlando Figes reconstructs the first full conflagration of modernity, a global industrialized struggle fought with unusual ferocity and incompetence. Drawing on untapped Russian and Ottoman as well as European sources, Figes vividly depicts the world at war, from the palaces of St. Petersburg to the holy sites of Jerusalem; from the young Tolstoy reporting in Sevastopol to Tsar Nicolas, haunted by dreams of religious salvation; from the ordinary soldiers and nurses on the battlefields to the women and children in towns under siege..
Original, magisterial, alive with voices of the time, The Crimean War is a historical tour de force whose depiction of ethnic cleansing and the West's relations with the Muslim world resonates with contemporary overtones. At once a rigorous, original study and a sweeping, panoramic narrative, The Crimean War is the definitive account of the war that mapped the terrain for today's world.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in European/Russian and/or military history.
2) Van Nieuwenhuyse, Dries et al.. The Little Owl: Conservation, Ecology, and Behavior of Athene noctua. 2011. Cambridge University Press. Paperback: 574 pages. Price: $39.99 U.S.
SUMMARY: Our understanding of the basic biology of owls is poor compared to that of other bird species. The Little Owl, Athene noctua, has become one of the best models for biological and conservation research, due to its commonness and the fact that it occupies nest-boxes very easily. In this unique book the authors synthesise the substantial literature, and detail current information regarding the Little Owl. They discuss its wide-ranging ecology, genetics and subspecies and population status by country. In addition, they outline a strategy and monitoring program for its conservation. The book features an outstanding bibliography of literature on the Little Owl, listing publications dated from 1769 to 2007, in many languages, including Russian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch. Whilst being an invaluable resource for academic researchers, its straightforward style holds undoubted appeal for amateurs and enthusiasts.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in the Little Owl or in owls in general.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
1) Rothenberg, David. Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science, and Evolution. 2011. Bloomsbury Press. Hardbound: 311 pages. Price: $30.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: "The peacock's tail," said Charles Darwin, "makes me sick." That's because the theory of evolution as adaptation can't explain why nature is so beautiful. It took the concept of sexual selection for Darwin to explain that, a process that has more to do with aesthetics than the practical. Survival of the Beautiful is a revolutionary new examination of the interplay of beauty, art, and culture in evolution. Taking inspiration from Darwin's observation that animals have a natural aesthetic sense, philosopher and musician David Rothenberg probes why animals, humans included, have innate appreciation for beauty-and why nature is, indeed, beautiful.
Sexual selection may explain why animals desire, but it says very little about what they desire. Why will a bowerbird literally murder another bird to decorate its bower with the victim's blue feathers? Why do butterfly wings boast such brilliantly varied patterns? The beauty of nature is not arbitrary, even if random mutation has played a role in evolution. What can we learn from the amazing range of animal aesthetic behavior-about animals, and about ourselves?
Readers who enjoyed the bestsellers The Art Instinct and The Mind's Eye will find Survival of the Beautiful an equally stimulating and profound exploration of art, science, and the creative impulse.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting take on how art and the natural world meet.
Monday, February 13, 2012
1) Powell, Robert, Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper, Jr.. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada (second edition). 2012. University Press of Kansas. Paperback: 152 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: This profusely illustrated comprehensive key for identifying herpetofaunal specimens from the continental United States and Canada incorporates a wealth of scientific findings.
Since the first edition was published in 1998, the number of currently recognized species of native salamanders, frogs, turtles, lizards, amphisbaenians (wormlike lizards), snakes, and crocodilians in this area has increased from 545 to 634, and the number of established non-native species has increased from 39 to 58. The increase in native taxa reflects the dynamic nature of modern systematics and the use of new (especially molecular) techniques to elucidate relationships and redefine species boundaries. The increase in non-native exotic species reflects the porosity of the North American borders when it comes to controlling animal imports.
The key is easy to use and illustrated with outstanding line drawings that show details of color patterns and structures used for identification. To accommodate the additional taxa, the number of line drawings in this new edition has increased from 257 to 279. In addition, 25 maps illustrating the distributions of some problematic species groups have been added. The literature cited has been expanded considerably, including a large number of annotations detailing current taxonomic ambiguities or disagreements. Collectively these features, together with numerous references to the Peterson Field Guides and accounts in the Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles, dramatically enhance opportunities to teach and learn the classification and identification of the herpetofauna.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in the herpetofauna of the region!
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
1) Dutson, Guy. Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. 2012. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 447 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Melanesia harbors an amazing range of endemic bird species and subspecies, many of which are poorly known. Birds of Melanesia is the first comprehensive field guide to all 501 species found in the Bismarck Archipelago, Bougainville, the Solomons, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. This beautifully illustrated guide features 86 color plates that depict almost every species--including many endemic subspecies--and many of the plates are arranged by island group for easy reference. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features and distribution, as well as key features for all subspecies. Distribution bars are also given for all species except extreme vagrants. This title includes:
*Covers all 501 species recorded in Melanesia, 204 of which are endemic
*Features 86 color plates that illustrate almost every species
*Provides detailed species accounts
*Includes distribution bars for all species except extreme vagrants
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those birding the region!
2) Grimmett, Richard, Carol and Tim Inskipp. Birds of India (with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and The Maldives) Second Edition. 2012. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 528 pages. Price: $39.50 U.S.
SUMMARY: The best field guide to the birds of the Indian subcontinent is now even better. Thoroughly revised, with 73 new plates and many others updated or repainted, the second edition of Birds of India now features all maps and text opposite the plates for quicker and easier reference. Newly identified species have been added, the text has been extensively revised, and all the maps are new. Comprehensive and definitive, this is the indispensable guide for anyone birding in this part of the world.
The leading field guide to the birds of the Indian subcontinent--now thoroughly revised and improved. This title includes:
*1,375 species illustrated and described, including all residents, migrants, and vagrants
*226 color plates--including 73 new ones--depict every species and many distinct plumages and races
*Concise text and accurate distribution maps opposite plates for easy reference
*Includes newly identified species
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those birding the Indian Subcontinent!
Friday, February 10, 2012
1) Shuker, Karl P.N.. The Encyclopedia of New and Rediscovered Animals. 2012. Coachwhip Publications. Paperback: 368 pages. Price: $64.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals is the third, wholly-updated edition of the very first—and still the definitive—book to be devoted to the spectacular zoological discoveries and equally amazing rediscoveries of the 20th century, which attracted international acclaim and exemplary reviews following its original publication in 1993 (when it was entitled The Lost Ark), and its subsequent republication in 2002 as an updated, greatly-expanded second edition (entitled The New Zoo). This latest edition also contains an in-depth survey of the 21st century’s most celebrated discoveries and rediscoveries made during its first decade, plus an exhaustive, significantly-increased bibliography, as well as the only comprehensive collection of colour and b/w illustrations of these spectacular animal species ever published (including new, previously-unpublished photographs, and several exclusive, specially-commissioned full-colour paintings).
Unquestionably, The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals provides good reason indeed for believing that our world continues to holds many more animal surprises in store for future revelation.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in cryptozoology.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
1) Fagan, Brian. The First North Americans: An Archaeological Journey. 2012. Thames and Hudson. Paperback: 272 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: This new history of North America is based mainly on archaeology, but also on cutting-edge research in many scientific disciplines, from biology and climatology to ethnohistory and high-tech chemistry and physics. Brian Fagan describes the controversies over first settlement, which likely occurred via Siberia at the end of the Ice Age, and the debates over the routes used as humans moved southward into the heart of the continent. A remarkable diversity of hunter-gatherer societies evolved in the rapidly changing North American environments, and the book explores the ingenious ways in which people adapted to every kind of landscape imaginable, from arctic tundra to open plains and thick woodland.
Professor Fagan recounts the increasingly sophisticated acclimation by Native Americans to arctic, arid and semiarid lands, culminating in the spectacular Ancestral Pueblo societies of the Southwest and the elaborate coastal settlements of California and the Pacific Northwest. He then traces the origins of the Moundbuilder societies of the Eastern Woodlands, which reached their apogee in the flamboyant Mississippian culture of the South and Southeast and the mounds of the ancient city of Cahokia. The book ends with a description of the Algonquian and Iroquoian peoples of the Northeast and St. Lawrence Valley, and an epilogue that enumerates the devastating consequences of European contact for Native Americans.
RECOMMENDATION: A good introduction on the subject.
2) Manley, Bill. Egyptian Hieroglyphs for Complete Beginners. 2012. Thames and Hudson. Paperback: 160 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: An original and accessible approach to learning hieroglyphs, written by an experienced teacher and author.
This is the first guide to reading hieroglyphs that begins with Egyptian monuments themselves. Assuming no knowledge on the part of the reader, it shows how to interpret the information on the inscriptions in a step-by-step journey through the script and language of ancient Egypt.
We enter the world of the ancient Egyptians and explore their views on life and death, Egypt and the outside world, humanity and the divine. The book draws on texts found on some thirty artifacts ranging from coffins to stelae to obelisks found in museums in Egypt, America, and Europe, and selected across two thousand years. The texts are then explained clearly, and are supported by full translations, photographs, and line drawings.
RECOMMENDATION: Ever wanted to learn about Egyptian hieroglyphs? Here's the book for you!
3) Stringer, Chris and Peter Andrews. The Complete World of Human Evolution (2nd edition). 2012. Thames and Hudson. Paperback: 240 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Human domination of the earth is now so complete that it is easy to forget how recently our role in the history of the planet began. The earliest apes evolved around twenty million years ago, yet Homo sapiens has existed for a mere 160,000 years. In the intervening period, dozens of species of early ape and human have lived and died out, leaving behind the fossilized remains that have helped to make the detailed picture of our evolution revealed here.
Since this book was first published in 2005 there have been exciting new developments in the story of ape and human evolution, and the authors take account of them in this revised edition. The big gap in the fossil record in Africa is beginning to be filled with the discovery of several new species of apes in Kenya and Ethiopia that date from ten to nine million years ago. There are new discoveries of Australopithecus, updates on the dating of hominin sites, results of new DNA analyses, and much more.
Illustrated with photographs, diagrams, and reconstruction drawings, this is essential reading for anyone interested in human origins.
RECOMMENDATION: Ever wondered about our ancestors? Here's a readable introduction to human evolution.