1) Hansen, Keith et al.. Hansen's Field Guide to the Birds of the Sierra Nevada. 2021. Heyday. Paperback: 339 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Identify and learn about over two hundred and fifty birds of the Sierra Nevada. From tiniest hummingbirds to condors with nine-foot wingspans; from lower-elevation wrens to the rasping nutcrackers of the High Sierra; from urban House Sparrows to wild water–loving American Dippers, Hansen’s Field Guide to the Birds of the Sierra Nevada showcases artist-naturalist Keith Hansen’s sixteen-year project to illustrate the birds of the Sierra Nevada. Paired with stunningly detailed portraits is text informed by decades of birding experience—prose that while firmly grounded in expertise will nonetheless delight readers with its whimsy, allusion, and affection. Take the Bufflehead: “A diminutive and endearing diving duck,” which moves “with spirited abandon.” Or the “scrappy and antagonistic” Merlin, “holding dominion over winter skies, tormenting eagles, hawks, and vultures alike.” The White-tailed Kite is “angelic in poise, a streamlined bird of unblemished tailoring”; the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher sports a black eye-to-eye brow, imparting a “Frida Kahlo–like stare.” This book is the field guide companion to the Birds of the Sierra Nevada: Their Natural History, Status, and Distribution, also coauthored by Edward C. Beedy and illustrated by Keith Hansen (University of California Press, 2013).
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone birding the Sierra Nevadas! Keith Hansen's artwork highlights this book!
2) St. John, Alan. Reptiles of the Northwest: British Columbia to California, Rockies to the Coast (Second Edition). 2021. Lone Pine. Paperback: 272 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: This updated and revised comprehensive field guide covers 42 native turtles, lizards and snakes, grouped and color coded for quick identification. All of the species are shown in a quick reference guide. Stunning color photos, range maps and notes on identification, distribution, habitat and behavior offer insight into the fascinating lives of these animals, and field notes relate the author's experiences with each species. Also included is a guide to reptile habitats in the Northwest, as well as answers to frequently asked questions, illustrated keys to the species and a life list for you own notes.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in the reptiles of the region!
3) Mapes, Lynda V.. Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home. 2021. Braided River. Hardbound: 192 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Orca whale J35, also known as "Tahlequah," gave birth in July of 2018 in
the waters off British Columbia, but her calf died soon after, leading
its mother to carry her for 17 days across 1000 miles before finally
releasing the calf and rejoining her pod. This extraordinary and caring
behavior sparked not only worldwide sympathy, but also a revival of our
awareness of the critical need to preserve orcas, the chinook salmon
they feed on, and their habitat that together make up the core of
Pacific Northwest identity.
In Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home journalist Lynda V. Mapes explores the natural history of the orca and the unique challenges for survival of the Southern Resident group that frequents Puget Sound. These whales are among the most urban in the world, a focus of researchers, tourists, and politicians alike. Once referred to as "blackfish" and still known as "killer whales," orcas were for generations regarded as vermin to be avoided or exterminated, then later were captured live for aquariums all over the world. With greater exposure, scientists realized how intelligent the mammal is and are learning about their matriarchal family groups, vocalizations, behavior, and different subspecies. Today only 74 Southern Resident whales are left, and they are threatened by habitat degradation, lack of chinook salmon (their primary food source), relentless growth, and climate change. Can we reverse the trend?
This special project, co-published with the Pulitzer Prize winning Seattle Times newspaper, features stunning imagery by Times photographer Steve Ringman, as well as from partner organizations including The Whale Museum, NOAA, and Center for Whale Research.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in Puget Sound's Orcas!
4) Bezzerides, Alex. Evolution Gone Wrong: The Curious Reasons Why Our Bodies Work (Or Don't). 2021. Hanover Square Press. Hardbound: 384 pages. Price: $28.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: From blurry vision to crooked teeth, ACLs that tear at alarming
rates and spines that seem to spend a lifetime falling apart, it’s a
curious thing that human beings have beaten the odds as a species.
After all, we’re the only survivors on our branch of the tree of life. The flaws in our makeup raise more than a few questions, and this detailed foray into the many twists and turns of our ancestral past includes no shortage of curiosity and humor to find the answers.
Why is it that human mothers have such a life-endangering experience giving birth? Why are there entire medical specialties for teeth and feet? And why is it that human babies can’t even hold their heads up, but horses are trotting around minutes after they’re born?
In this funny, wide-ranging and often surprising book, biologist Alex Bezzerides tells us just where we inherited our adaptable, achy, brilliant bodies in the process of evolution.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable overview on how evolution has affected the Human body!
5) Foth, Christian and Oliver W. M. Rauhut (editors). The Evolution of Feathers: From Their Origin to the Present. 2020. Springer. Hardbound: 243 pages. Price: $119.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Feathers are one of the most unique characteristics of modern birds and represent the most complex and colourful type of skin derivate within vertebrates, while also fulfilling various biological roles, including flight, thermal insulation, display, and sensory function. For years it was generally assumed that the origin of flight was the main driving force for the evolution of feathers. However, various discoveries of dinosaur species with filamentous body coverings, made over the past 20 years, have fundamentally challenged this idea and produced new evolutionary scenarios for the origin of feathers.
This book is devoted to the origin and evolution of feathers, and highlights the impact of palaeontology on this research field by reviewing a number of spectacular fossil discoveries that document the increasing morphological complexity along the evolutionary path to modern birds. Also featuring chapters on fossil feather colours, feather development and its genetic control, the book offers a timely and comprehensive overview of this popular research topic.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in avian paleontology! My favorite chapters are: The Plumage of Basal Birds and Palaeocolour: A History and State of the Art.
6) Soplop, Julia. Equus Rising: How the Horse Shaped U.S. History. 2020. Hill Press. Paperback: 316 pages. Price: $15.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Weapon. Legend. Energy source. Shaper of cultures. Center of controversy. Throughout U.S. history, the horse has served as one of the most powerful influences on the country's development. Beginning fifty-five million years ago with the evolution of the horse across the Great Plains, this story charts its extinction in North America, followed by its reintroduction to the continent by the Spanish. The eventual acquisition of Spanish horses by the native peoples of the plains had profound consequences for the continent's future: it resulted in the explosion of wild horses across the West and unleashed some of the most talented and brutal mounted warriors in the world, the Comanche, who staved off European-American development of much of the plains for nearly two centuries. From there, the story tracks the horse's incredible contributions-through warring and racing and hauling, through companionship and servitude and strength-across the broad arc of the country's next three hundred years. Soplop employs the horse as a narrative thread not only to bind seemingly disparate events, but also to allow for the inclusion of figures often written out of traditional histories: women and minorities. Through a modern, unconventional lens, she skillfully weaves together science, policy, literature, and history to trace the fascinating story of how one animal shaped the nation. Captivating pen and ink illustrations by Montana artist Robert Spannring, interspersed with Soplop's stunning photography, add further depth and visual interest.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in the horses of North America!
7) Patterson, Daniel and Eric Russell. Tenacious of Life: The Quadruped Essays of John James Audubon and John Bachman. 2021. University of Nebraska Press. Hardbound: 352 pages. Price: $70.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Daniel Patterson and Eric Russell present a groundbreaking case for
considering John James Audubon’s and John Bachman’s quadruped essays as
worthy of literary analysis and redefine the role of Bachman, the
perpetually overlooked coauthor of the essays. After completing The Birds of America (1826–38), Audubon began developing his work on the mammals. The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America
volumes show an antebellum view of nature as fundamentally dynamic and
simultaneously grotesque and awe-inspiring. The quadruped essays are
rich with good stories about these mammals and the humans who observe,
pursue, and admire them.
For help with the science and the essays, Audubon enlisted the Reverend John Bachman of Charleston, South Carolina. While he has been acknowledged as coauthor of the essays, Bachman has received little attention as an American nature writer. While almost all works that describe the history of American nature writing include Audubon, Bachman shows up only in a subordinate clause or two. Tenacious of Life strives to restore Bachman’s status as an important American nature writer.
Patterson and Russell analyze the coauthorial dance between the voices of Audubon, an experienced naturalist telling adventurous hunting stories tinged often by sentiment, romanticism, and bombast, and of Bachman, the courteous gentleman naturalist, scientific detective, moralist, sometimes cruel experimenter, and humorist. Drawing on all the primary and secondary evidence, Patterson and Russell tell the story of the coauthors’ fascinating, conflicted relationship. This collection offers windows onto the early United States and much forgotten lore, often in the form of travel writing, natural history, and unique anecdotes, all told in the compelling voices of Antebellum America’s two leading naturalists.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in Audubon's The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America!
8) Simard, Suzanne. Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. 2021. Knopf. Hardbound: 348 pages. Price: $28.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Suzanne Simard is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and
intelligence; she's been compared to Rachel Carson, hailed as a
scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas in a way that is dazzling
and profound. Her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls of
James Cameron's Avatar) and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide.
Now, in her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths--that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complicated, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.
Simard writes--in inspiring, illuminating, and accessible ways—how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors, and remember the past; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies--and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them.
Simard writes of her own life, born and raised into a logging world in the rainforests of British Columbia, of her days as a child spent cataloging the trees from the forest and how she came to love and respect them—embarking on a journey of discovery, and struggle. And as she writes of her scientific quest, she writes of her own journey--of love and loss, of observation and change, of risk and reward, making us understand how deeply human scientific inquiry exists beyond data and technology, that it is about understanding who we are and our place in the world, and, in writing of her own life, we come to see the true connectedness of the Mother Tree that nurtures the forest in the profound ways that families and human societies do, and how these inseparable bonds enable all our survival.
RECOMMENDATION: This well received memoir will change your views on forest ecology!