Sunday, June 30, 2024

New Titles


1) Dunne, Pete and Kevin Karlson. The Shorebirds of North America: A Natural History and Photographic Celebration. 2024. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 293 pages. Price: $

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A lavishly illustrated, large-format reference book by two preeminent experts on North American shorebirds.

     More than half a century has passed since the publication of The Shorebirds of North America (1967), Peter Matthiessen’s masterful natural history of what is arguably the world’s most amazing and specialized bird group. In the intervening decades, our knowledge about these birds has grown significantly, as have the threats to their populations and habitats. Pete Dunne and Kevin Karlson celebrate Matthiessen’s classic book with this updated and expanded natural history of North American shorebirds. This elegantly written book begins by introducing readers to the unrivaled splendor of shorebirds and goes on to cover topics ranging from their biology and habitats to courtship and breeding, flight, the perils of migration, and conservation. Detailed accounts convey the richness and variety of the five family groups, with incisive, fact-filled descriptions of all 52 species of shorebirds known to breed in North America.

     Featuring hundreds of breathtaking images by Karlson and other photographers and drawing on the latest science,
The Shorebirds of North America is a worthy tribute to Matthiessen’s enduring work and an indispensable reference for bird lovers everywhere.

RECOMMENDATION: This book is a MUST-HAVE for anyone with an interest in the shorebirds of North America! 

2) Dubb, Sarah T.. Birding with Benefits: A Novel. 2024. Gallery Books. Paperback: 314 pages. Price: $

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Newly-divorced, almost-empty-nester Celeste is finally seeking adventure and putting herself first, cliches be damned. So when a friend asks Celeste to “partner” with his buddy John for an event, Celeste throws herself into the role of his temporary girlfriend. But quiet cinnamon roll John isn’t looking for love, just birds—he needs a partner for Tucson’s biggest bird-watching contest if he’s ever going to launch his own guiding business. By the time they untangle their crossed signals, they’ve become teammates…and thanks to his meddling friends, a fake couple.

     Celeste can’t tell a sparrow from a swallow, but John is a great teacher, and the hours they spend hiking in the Arizona wilderness feed Celeste’s hunger for new adventures while giving John a chance to practice his dream job. As the two spend more time together, they end up watching more than just the birds, and their chemistry becomes undeniable. Since they’re both committed to the single life, Celeste suggests a status upgrade: birders with benefits, just until the contest is done. But as the bird count goes up and their time together ticks down, John and Celeste will have to decide if their benefits can last a lifetime, or if this love affair is for the birds.
RECOMMENDATION: A unique romance novel that birders will love! 

3) Webb, Richard and Jeff Blincow. A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of South America. 2024. Princeton University Press. Flexibound: 488 pages. Price: $
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: South America’s wide range of habitats support a tremendous diversity of plants and animals, including more than 400 species of larger mammals—those the size of a guinea pig or bigger. Many are truly iconic: Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot and numerous other beautiful cats; the fantastic Maned Wolf; the incomparable Giant Anteater; and an incredible variety of extraordinary primates. This groundbreaking guide provides detailed coverage of these and many other wonderful mammals, including porcupines and peccaries; squirrels, sloths, skunks and seals; opossums, olingos and otters; armadillos, agoutis and Andean Bear; and viscachas and Vicuña—not to mention tapirs and river and estuarine dolphins. 
     The species accounts include a description of key features and information on subspecies, comparisons with similar species that overlap in range, details of the habitats in which the species occurs, a summary of its distribution in South America and information on its conservation status. Each species is illustrated with carefully selected photos, or artwork where suitable photos were not available.
  • Detailed coverage of 420 species
  • Showcases over 550 stunning photos, many of rarely photographed species
  • Features specially commissioned artwork for almost 100 species, including comparative plates of all marmosets and titi monkeys
  • Includes up-to-date distribution maps
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a MUST-HAVE for anyone with an interest in the mammals of South America! 

4) Taylor, Emily. California Snakes and How to Find Them. 2024. Heyday. Paperback: 193 pages. Price: $
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias in the world, yet step into any local zoo and you'll find the snake pit to be among these menageries' greatest attractions. In this entrancing ode to the charms of California's legless reptiles, rattlesnake wrangler Emily Taylor shares her knowledge, enthusiasm, and advice for getting to know our slithering neighbors, dispelling the usual misapprehensions that surround them and celebrating their striking biological traits along the way. 
     Featuring profiles of the nearly 50 fork-tongued species that burrow and coil in California's diverse habitats, and containing tips for serpent seekers—including identification guides and handling advice—California Snakes and How to Find Them delves into the longstanding myths and latest natural history research on our ophidian friends of the West. Taylor showcases the biodiversity of California's snakes, from the Common Garter to the fetchingly pink Rosy Boa to the elusive Alameda Striped Racer, illustrated with more than 100 detailed photographs. Supported with critical insights—such as what to do during a venomous encounter, and an exploration of the seemingly simple question, What is a snake?—this guide is the perfect companion for both the seasoned naturalist and the budding snake enthusiast.
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must-have for anyone with an interest in California snakes!

5) Grant, B. Rosemary. One Step Sideways, Three Steps Forward: One Woman’s Path to Becoming a Biologist. 2024. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 331 pages. Price: $
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The story of the unorthodox and inspiring life and career of a pioneering biologist.

     Scientist Rosemary Grant’s journey in life has involved detours and sidesteps—not the shortest or the straightest of paths, but one that has led her to the top of evolutionary biology. In this engaging and moving book, Grant tells the story of her life and career—from her childhood love of nature in England’s Lake District to an undergraduate education at the University of Edinburgh through a swerve to Canada and teaching, followed by marriage, children, a PhD at age forty-nine, and her life’s work with Darwin’s finches in the Galápagos islands. Grant’s unorthodox career is one woman’s solution to the problem of combining professional life as a field biologist with raising a family.

     Grant describes her youthful interest in fossils, which inspired her to imagine another world, distant yet connected in time—and which anticipated her later work in evolutionary biology. She and her husband, Peter Grant, visited the Galápagos archipelago annually for forty years, tracking the fates of the finches on the small, uninhabited island of Daphne Major. Their work has profoundly altered our understanding of how a group of eighteen species has diversified from a single ancestral species, demonstrating that evolution by natural selection can be observed and interpreted in an entirely natural environment. Grant’s story shows the rewards of following a winding path and the joy of working closely with a partner, sharing ideas, disappointments, and successes.

RECOMMENDATION: This memoir is a must-read for anyone with an interested in evolutionary biology and/or women in STEM.  


Sunday, May 26, 2024

New Titles


1) Kaufman, Kenn. The Birds That Audubon Missed: Discovery and Desire in the American Wilderness. 2024. Avid Reader Press. Hardbound: 387 pages. Price: $

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Renowned naturalist Kenn Kaufman examines the scientific discoveries of John James Audubon and his artistic and ornithologist peers to show how what they saw (and what they missed) reflects how we perceive and understand the natural world.

     Raging ambition. Towering egos. Competition under a veneer of courtesy. Heroic effort combined with plagiarism, theft, exaggeration, and fraud. This was the state of bird study in eastern North America during the early 1800s, as a handful of intrepid men raced to find the last few birds that were still unknown to science.

     The most famous name in the bird world was John James Audubon, who painted spectacular portraits of birds. But although his images were beautiful, creating great art was not his main goal. Instead, he aimed to illustrate (and write about) as many different species as possible, obsessed with trying to outdo his rival, Alexander Wilson. George Ord, a fan and protégé of Wilson, held a bitter grudge against Audubon for years, claiming he had faked much of his information and his scientific claims. A few of Audubon’s birds were pure fiction, and some of his writing was invented or plagiarized. Other naturalists of the era, including Charles Bonaparte (nephew of Napoleon), John Townsend, and Thomas Nuttall, also became entangled in the scientific derby, as they stumbled toward an understanding of the natural world—an endeavor that continues to this day.

RECOMMENDATION: This book is a MUST-HAVE for anyone with an interest in the ornithological history of the USA! 





2) Porter, Richard et al.. Birds of the Middle East (Third Edition). 2024. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 400 pages. Price: $

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A fully revised edition of the acclaimed field guide to the birds of the Middle East.

     The Middle East is home to some of the most spectacular birdlife in the world. This field guide covers all species—including vagrants—found in the Arabian Peninsula (including Socotra), Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Cyprus. It features 180 superb color plates depicting some 900 species and subspecies as well as 646 color distribution maps that show the breeding range for almost every species. Maps and detailed species accounts are opposite the plates, making this marvelously illustrated guide ideal for easy reference in the field.

  • Features fully revised and updated text, plates, and maps
  • Covers more than 50 additional species and subspecies
  • Includes more than 100 new illustrations as well as new information on the status and distribution of endemic species
  • Now comes with QR codes of vocalizations
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a MUST-HAVE for anyone birding the Middle East!

3) Osborn, Sophie A. H.. Feather Trails: A Journey of Discovery Among Endangered Birds. 2024. Chelsea Green Publishing. Hardbound: 367 pages. Price: $
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The story of one woman’s remarkable work with a trio of charismatic, endangered bird species―and her discoveries about the devastating threats that imperil them.

     In Feather Trails, wildlife biologist and birder Sophie A. H. Osborn reveals how the harmful environmental choices we’ve made―including pesticide use, the introduction of invasive species, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction―have decimated Peregrine Falcons, Hawaiian Crows, and California Condors.

     In the Rocky Mountains, the cloud forests of Hawai’i, and the Grand Canyon, Sophie and her colleagues work day-to-day to try to reintroduce these birds to the wild, even when it seems that the odds are steeply stacked against their survival.

     With humor and suspense, Feather Trails introduces us to the fascinating behaviors and unique personalities of Sophie’s avian charges and shows that what endangers them ultimately threatens all life on our planet.

     More than a deeply researched environmental investigation, Feather Trails is also a personal journey and human story, in which Sophie overcomes her own obstacles―among them heat exhaustion, poachers, rattlesnakes, and chauvinism.

     Ultimately, Feather Trails is an inspiring, poignant narrative about endangered birds and how our choices can help to ensure a future not only for the rarest species, but for us too.

RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in endangered birds.


4) Ebert, David A. and Marc Dando. Field Guide to Sharks, Rays and Chimaeras of the East Coast of North America. 2024. Princeton University Press. Flexibound: 430 pages. Price: $

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The waters off the East Coast of North America are home to an amazing variety of sharks, rays and chimaeras. This groundbreaking, comprehensive and easy-to-use field guide covers all 173 species found along the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada, including Bermuda and the Bahamas, and extending into the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula. These are all the species that are encountered in the shallow waters of estuaries and coasts and in the open ocean, including rarely seen deepsea species.

     Lavishly illustrated throughout, this must-have guide includes detailed species accounts describing key identification features, habitat, biology and status. It also features illustrated key guides that enable users to accurately identify species, comparison plates of similar species, dentition plates and illustrations of egg cases, where known. This an essential guide for fisheries management, trade regulation and shark conservation.

  • The first field guide to cover all 173 species
  • Features hundreds of color illustrations and photos
  • Describes key features, habitat, biology and status
  • Includes depth guides, at-a-glance icons and distribution maps
  • Offers illustrated key guides, species comparisons and dentition plates
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must-have for anyone with an interest in sharks and related fishes of the region!  

5) Schieb, Armin. The Ant Collective: Inside the World of an Ant Colony. 2024. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 127 pages. Price: $
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Ants come alive on this fabulously illustrated journey into the heart of a bustling colony.
     Ants share a vibrant and complex communal life and remarkable abilities to communicate with each other. The Ant Collective presents the world of ants as you have never seen it before, using hyperrealistic, computer-generated imagery that shows 3D-like views of activities inside and outside a thriving nest of red wood ants. With chapters on topics ranging from the establishment and construction of the nest to the birth of an ant trail and the relocation of a colony, this one-of-a-kind book brilliantly integrates informative descriptions with the illustrations, drawing on the latest science to reveal the innermost workings of the colony and enabling you to explore the ant collective as if you are there.
  • Features a wealth of naturalistic 3D-like illustrations and schematic infographics
  • Depicts the anatomy of ants, the architecture of their nests, their interactions with the environment and other animals, and their collective social behavior
  • Follows the annual life cycle of the colony
RECOMMENDATION: The 3-D artwork highlights this book! This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in ants!

6) California Native Plant Society. Wildflowers of California. 2024. Timber Press. Flexibound: 606 pages. Price: $
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Wildflowers of California is a comprehensive field guide for anyone wishing to learn about the amazingly diverse wildflowers of the region. Organized by flower color and shape, and including a range map for each flower described, the guide is as user-friendly as it is informative. This must-have book is perfect for hikers, naturalists, and native plant enthusiasts.
  • Describes and illustrates 1200 commonly encountered species
  • Includes perennials, annuals, and shrubs, both native and nonnative
  • Thousands of superb color photographs and range maps
  • User-friendly organization by flower color and shape 
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must-have for anyone with an interest in California wildflowers! 

7-8) Varner, Collin. 50 Keystone Flora/Fauna Species of the Pacific Northwest: A Pocket Guide. 2024. University of Washington Press. Paperback: 123 pages each. Price: $
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A keystone species is an organism that defines and supports an entire ecosystem, filling a vital ecological niche. Without these species, ecosystems would be radically altered or even collapse. This full-color, pocket-sized field guide by best-selling naturalist Collin Varner highlights fifty keystone trees, flowering plants, fruit-bearing plants, marine plants, and fungi found across the Pacific Northwest bioregion. Species profiled include Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, large-leafed lupine, wild mint, Salal, salmonberry, marine eelgrass, and red-belted polypore. Each entry features clear photography, etymology, descriptions, habitat information, and risks and warnings. This convenient and easy-to-use reference is perfect for walkers, hikers, campers, and beachcombers and important for raising awareness of the need to conserve and protect these vital species. 

     A keystone species is an organism that defines and supports an entire ecosystem, filling a vital ecological niche. Without these species, ecosystems would be radically altered or even collapse. This full-color, pocket-sized field guide by best-selling naturalist Collin Varner highlights fifty keystone birds, mammals, amphibians, insects, fish, shellfish, and mollusks found across the Pacific Northwest bioregion. Species profiled include the American crow, bald eagle, American beaver, California sea lion, sea otter, orca, coyote, grizzly bear, giant Pacific octopus, Chinook salmon, Pacific tree frog, Pacific banana slug, and mixed bumblebee. Each entry features clear photography, etymology, descriptions, habitat information, and risks and warnings. This convenient and easy-to-use reference is perfect for walkers, hikers, campers, beachcombers, sailors, paddlers, and whale watchers and important for raising awareness of the need to conserve and protect these vital species.
RECOMMENDATION: Both books are handy sized introductions to the concept of keystone species. 

9) Zimmerman, Erin. Unrooted: Botany, Motherhood, and the Fight to Save an Old Science. 2024. Melville House. Hardbound: 262 pages. Price: $
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:Growing up in rural Ontario, Erin Zimmerman became fascinated with plants—an obsession that led to a life in academia as a professional botanist. But as her career choices narrowed in the face of failing institutions and subtle, but ubiquitous, sexism, Zimmerman began to doubt herself.

     Unrooted: Botany, Motherhood, and the Fight to Save an Old Science is a scientist’s memoir, a glimpse into the ordinary life of someone in a fascinating field. This is a memoir about plants, about looking at the world with wonder, and about what it means to be a woman in academia—an environment that pushes out mothers and those with any outside responsibilities. Zimmerman delves into her experiences as a new mom, her decision to leave her position in post-graduate research, and how she found a new way to stay in the field she loves.

     She also explores botany as a “dying science” worth fighting for. While still an undergrad, Zimmerman’s university started the process of closing the Botany Department, a sign of waning funding for her beloved science. Still, she argues for its continuation, not only because we have at least 100,000 plant species yet to be discovered, but because an understanding of botany is crucial in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

     Zimmerman is also a botanical illustrator and will provide 8 original illustrations for the book.
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in botany and/or women in STEM!