Thursday, September 28, 2023

New Titles


1) Schlinger, Barney A.. The Wingsnappers: Lessons from an Exuberant Tropical Bird. 2023. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 225 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Birds, hormones, and extraordinary behavior: The story of the tiny but mighty golden-collared manakin of Panama.

     This book is the story of a remarkable bird, the golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus) of Panama. Males of this species perform one of the most elaborate, physically complex, and noisy courtship displays of any animal on the planet. Barney A. Schlinger delves into the specialized neurons, muscles, bones, and hormonal systems underlying the manakin’s unique courtship behavior, creating a rich life-history account that integrates field observations and evolutionary biology with behavioral ecology, anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and general ornithology.
      The personal lives of investigators and the natural history of the Panamanian rainforest provide context for this account of the bird's fascinating behavior. Schlinger clearly and approachably explains basic concepts in disciplines such as avian anatomy, endocrinology, sexual differentiation, and the neurobiology of song and aeroacoustics, offering readers a window into the biology of this exuberant bird.
RECOMMENDATION: A must read for anyone with an interest in these Neotropical birds.  

2) Andrews, Donna. Birder, She Wrote: A Meg Langslow Mystery. 2023. Minotaur Books. Hardbound: 298 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Meg is relaxing in the hammock, taste-testing Michael’s latest batch of Arnold Palmers and watching the hummingbirds at their feeders when her hopes for a relaxing early summer morning are dashed.

     First her father recruits her to help him install a new batch of bees in the hive in her backyard. Then Mayor Shiffley recruits her to placate the NIMBYs (Not in my backyard), as she calls them – a group of newcomers to Caerphilly who have built McMansions next door to working farms and then do their best to make life miserable for the farmers. And finally Meg’s grandmother, shows up, trailed by a nosy reporter who is writing a feature on her for a genteel Southern ladies’ magazine.

     Cordelia drafts Meg to accompany her and Deacon Washington of the New Life Baptist Church – and the reporter, alas – in their search for a long-lost African-American cemetery. Unfortunately what they discover is not an ancient cemetery but a fresh corpse. Can Meg protect her grandmother – and Caerphilly – from the reporter who seems to see the worst in everything . . . and help crack the case before the killer finds another victim?
RECOMMENDATION: If you enjoyed the other titles in this series, you should enjoy this one!

3) Houlihan, Patrick. The Birds of Ancient Egypt. 2023. Oxbow Books. Paperback: 191 pages. Price: $59.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Hailed as a sumptuously produced and finely illustrated outstanding contribution to ancient Egyptian studies, this facsimile reprint of Patrick Houlihan’s 1986 comprehensive study makes a welcome return in the Oxbow Classics in Egyptology series.

     Animals of all kinds are amply illustrated in Egyptian art, none more so than birds, in both secular and religious contexts and in hieroglyphic scripts. A great variety of bird species has for millennia made twice yearly migrations passing over Egypt, which is also an important overwintering area for many. These migrant birds, together with indigenous species were an abundant and easily exploited source of food for ancient Egyptians, for domestication and status display. Tomb scenes displaying birds provided as food for the deceased are abundant, as are procession scenes of offering with bearers bringing gifts of fowl. Many birds also had religious associations. Houlihan provides a systematic and unparalleled survey of all the bird life depicted by the ancient Egyptians in art and hieroglyphic writing, some 72 species (plus bats), with a list of known mummified species, and discussions on their religious and secular associations and many illustrations. Their present-day distributions are compared with that known from the time of the Pharaohs. A checklist of the birds of modern Egypt is provided by Steven Goodman.
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must have for anyone with an interest in the history of ancient Egypt! 

4) Jameson, Conor Mark. Finding W.H. Hudson: The Writer Who Came to Britain to Save the Birds. 2023. Pelagic Publishing. Paperback: 348 pages. Price: $32.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: An imposing, life-size oil painting dominates the main meeting room at the RSPB’s base in the heart of England: ‘the man above the fireplace’ – always present, rarely mentioned. Curious about the person in the portrait, the author began a quest to rediscover William Henry Hudson (1841–1922). It became a mission of restoration: stitching back together the faded tapestry of Hudson’s life, re-colouring it in places and adding new threads from the testaments of his closest friends.

     This book traces the unassuming field naturalist’s path through a dramatic and turbulent era: from Hudson’s journey to Britain from Argentina in 1874 to the unveiling by the prime minister of a monument and bird sanctuary in his honour 50 years later, in the heart of Hyde Park – a place where the young immigrant had, for a time, slept rough. At its core, this extraordinary story reveals Hudson’s deep influence on the creation of his beloved Bird Society by its founding women, and the rise of the conservation movement. It reveals the strange magnetism of this mysterious man from the Pampas – unschooled, battle-scarred and once penniless – that made his achievements possible, and left such a profound impression on those who knew him.

     By the end of his life, Hudson had Hollywood studios bidding for his work. He was a household name through his luminous and seminal nature writing, and the Bird Society had at last reached the climax of a 30-year campaign, working to create the first global alliance of bird protectionists. A century after Hudson’s death, this is a long-overdue tribute to perhaps our most significant – and most neglected – writer-naturalist and wildlife campaigner.

RECOMMENDATION: A must read for anyone with an interest in British ornithological history.



5) Kaizar, Sarah and A. Scott Meiser. Rare Air: Endangered Birds, Bats, Butterflies, & Bees. 2023. Mountaineers Books. Hardbound: 149 pages. Price: $21.95 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Rare Air, the culmination of artist Sarah Kaizar’s dedication to illustrating endangered fauna, features 66 endangered species of flight--33 birds, 5 bats, 12 bees, and 16 butterflies--presented in her scientifically accurate and utterly engaging pen-and-ink style. Complementing the art are informative and story-driven natural histories of each species by writer A. Scott Meiser, as well as interviews with biologists who are working to sustain some of the same species. An introduction highlights how Kaizar developed this project, while the “How to Get Involved” appendix provides helpful tips on actions readers can take to help these creatures.

     Kaizar’s work informs readers about the world around them in a way that is beautiful and engaging, while also examining the environmental conditions that put these species at risk.
Rare Air broadens the conversation about environmental study and inspires readers across the country to care for our winged creatures.

RECOMMENDATION: Kaizar's artwork highlights this book!


6) LoMedico Marriott, Kate et al.. Evolution of the Ammonoids. 2023. CRC Press. Paperback: 260 pages. Price: $79.95 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Ammonites are an extinct and charismatic lineage that persisted for over 300 million years. They were used, with other fossils, to corroborate the principle of faunal succession and launch the field of biostratigraphy. Despite intense research, many important questions remain unanswered. Furthermore, outdated hypotheses persist. Many new findings include a better understanding of their appearance in life, their locomotion, and their role in long-gone ecosystems. And, of course, there are still controversies; e.g. why did shell complexity increase during evolutionary history. This richly illustrated book describes the full range of ammonoids and their fascinating evolutionary history.

Key Features:

  • Documents the early history of paleontology and the role played by ammonoids
  • Describes the basic anatomy of a diverse and long-persisting lineage
  • Summarizes the classification and diversity of ammonoids
  • Lavishly illustrated with beautiful reconstructions
  • Highlights recent findings and outstanding controversies
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must have for anyone with an interest in Ammonites!

7) Berta, Annalisa. Sea Mammals: The Past and Present Lives of Our Oceans’ Cornerstone Species. 2023. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 224 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: From the gregarious sea otter and playful dolphins to the sociable narwhal and iconic polar bear, sea mammals are a large, diverse, and increasingly precious group. In this book, Annalisa Berta, a leading expert on sea mammals and their evolution, presents an engaging and richly illustrated introduction to past and present species of these remarkable creatures, from the blue whale and the northern fur seal to the extinct giant sperm whale, aquatic sloth, and walking sea cow.

     The book features more than 50 individual species profiles, themed chapters, stunning photographs, and specially commissioned paleo-illustrations of extinct species. It presents detailed accounts of these mammals’ evolutionary path, anatomy, behavior, habitats, and conservation. And because these are key species that complete many food chains and have the widest influence of all sea life, the book also offers insights into a broad variety of marine worlds today and in the future.
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a well illustrated introduction to marine mammals. 

8) Engelbrecht, Ian. Field Guide to Scorpions of South Africa. 2023. Struik Nature. Paperback: 292 pages. Price: $25.00 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: South Africa is home to an astonishing variety of scorpions, with 108 species in three families occurring in most of the region’s biomes, from desert and grassland to fynbos, savanna and forest. Scorpions are even found in urban gardens.

     Field Guide to Scorpions of South Africa is the first comprehensive guide to describe and illustrate all known species in the country. The clear, detailed species accounts cover appearance, habitat and behavior, and discuss the variation within species according to region. Up-to-date distribution maps are included for all species and exceptional photographs, carefully worked to show astounding detail and vivid colors, bring to life the intricate patterning and colors of different species. Both males and females are presented, as well as a variety of color forms, facilitating accurate identification in the field.

     The introduction discusses scorpion classification, anatomy, biology, behavior and habitat, as well as venomosity and the treatment of stings. Tips on how and where to find scorpions and how to contribute to their conservation as a citizen scientist are also included. An invaluable tool for students, researchers, academics, hikers and anyone with an interest in South Africa’s rich and fascinating fauna.

RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must have for anyone with an interest in the region's scorpions!


9) Beolens, Bo et al. (editors). Eponym Dictionary of Fishes. 2023. Whittles Publishing. Hardbound: 1463 pages. Price: $90.00 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The Eponym Dictionary is a series of brief but concise biographies of all those people after whom fish have been named in both the vernacular and scientific names. It also covers names which seem to be eponyms but are not, such as toponyms, names of organisations, ethnic groups, etc. It also shows the networks of scientific collaboration, friendship or patronage. Each species named after an individual is listed with their authors and years for context and wherever possible it is shown how the authors and the eponym are linked.

     Every effort has been made to be accurate and meticulous, and the book is also a repository of biographical knowledge that will entertain as well as inform. In conjunction with the other books it forms a database of everyone named in a vertebrate. For ease of use, this volume is designed as a dictionary, making it easy to find the person behind the name and, in doing so, discover which fish commemorates them and learn something of their lives and background.

     Some brief entries summarise whole volumes of biography, especially those honoured in a name because of their standing in society rather than their scientific behaviour. There is a vast range of derivations related not just to scientists, zoologists and scholars, but also pop stars, TV and film personalities and writers. There is a whole world of aquarists and fish hobbyists, many of whom have been immortalised for adding to our knowledge of tropical fish. The Eponym Dictionary of Fishes is a web of relationships and connections, icons and idols. 

RECOMMENDATION: This book is a must have for anyone with a serious interest in ichthyological nomenclature!

Sunday, August 27, 2023

New Titles


1) Wolf, Heather. Find More Birds: 111 Surprising Ways to Spot Birds Wherever You Are. 2023. The Experiment. Paperback: 268 pages. Price: $

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A gorgeously photographed trove of 111 ingenious tips for seeing more birds wherever you are—from crowd favorites (hummingbirds, owls, eagles) to species you’ve never spotted before.

      Seeing more birds than you ever imagined and witnessing exciting avian drama is possible—whether you’re on the go or in your own neighborhood, local park, or backyard. As Heather Wolf explains, it all comes down to how you tune in to the show happening around you, the one in which birds—highly skilled at staying under the radar—are the stars. In 
Find More Birds, Heather shares her very best tactics—and the jaw-dropping photographs they helped her capture.

  • Look for birds at their favorite “restaurants”— from leaf litter to berry bushes, and ball fields to small patches of mud.
  • Watch for “tree bark” that moves . . . you may find it has feathers.
  • Try simply sitting on the ground for a revealing new perspective.

      Plus, special tips point the way to crowd favorites such as hummingbirds, owls, and eagles—and can’t-miss bird behaviors. As your senses sharpen and “noticing” becomes second nature, Find More Birds will turn your daily routines into bird-finding adventures, too. Whether you’re strolling down the block or parking your car, you never know what will surprise you next! 

RECOMMENDATION: Best for beginning or intermediate birders. 


2) Grimaldi, David A. (editor). The Complete Insect: Anatomy, Physiology, Evolution, and Ecology. 2023. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 368 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: With an astounding 3.5 million species occupying virtually every habitat on Earth, insects are one of the most diverse groups of animals on the planet, from the humble bee to the agile praying mantis. Taking you inside the extraordinary world of insects, The Complete Insect explores all aspects of the natural history of these remarkable creatures, providing a close-up look at their fascinating anatomy, physiology, evolution, ecology, behavior, and more. It features hundreds of stunning color photographs and illustrations and draws on a broad range of examples, from familiar ants to iridescent jewel beetles. A celebration of the rich complexity of insect life, The Complete Insect is a must-have book for insect enthusiasts and armchair naturalists.

  • An absorbing, wide-ranging, and beautiful exploration of the fascinating natural history of insects
  • Features a wealth of stunning full-color photographs from the field
  • Includes photomicrographs and electron micrographs that offer a rare view of normally invisible structures
  • Examines the complex relationship between humans and insects
  • Integrates physiological adaptations with ecology and behavior

 RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to the insects!


3) Penny, Nick. Call of the Kingfisher: Bright Sights and Birdsong in a Year by the River. 2023. Bradt. Paperback: 236 pages. Price: $16.99 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Call of the Kingfisher is the enchanting debut from composer and wildlife recordist, Nick Penny. This love letter to a short stretch of Northamptonshire’s River Nene celebrates all the wild things that live there, especially the kingfishers. Uniquely, it comes with bonus audio content to complement the text, accessed via QR codes.

     For four decades, Penny has walked beside the river at Oundle – a lovely but little-known part of England where where Clark Gable and thousands of American airmen were stationed during World War II, and where bandleader Glenn Miller performed his final airfield concert before going missing in action. For a whole year, Penny gave the waterway all the time it asked for. The more attention he gave, the more he saw the kingfishers and heard their high whistling calls.

     Call of the Kingfisher relates a year by the river, the author’s experiences there and the people he meets. Other strands weave around the feathered protagonist: explorations of history and landscape, from Roman and Bronze Age sites to watermills and centuries-old stone churches; homages to naturalists who lived nearby; forest dawns and dusks listening to the precious song of nightingales. But the background tapestry is the riverbank’s sights and sounds, and its greens and browns, shot through with the blue and orange threads of a kingfisher’s glowing feathers.

     As a composer and wildlife recordist, Penny has a deep interest in sounds in the natural environment. He uses the local landscape and wildlife sounds as inspiration, and brings fresh insights into countryside sounds. The book includes access to an hour of high-quality birdsong recordings made alongside the River Nene – audio soundbites of nature’s riches, from kingfishers and nightingales to owls and cuckoos.

     This is a book about the things that can be seen and heard when we approach nature with patience and curiosity. It celebrates people who have used that focus to help preserve wildlife and pass on their knowledge to future generations. Above all, Call of the Kingfisher serves as a call to appreciate what we’ve got, wherever we are, and to use our ears as much as our eyes when we experience the natural world. 

RECOMMENDATION: To me this book seems like a modern version of  Gilbert White's The Natural History of Selborne.


4) Cagle, Nicolette. Saving Snakes: Snakes and the Evolution of a Field Naturalist. 2023. University of Virginia Press. Paperback: 210 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Snake populations are declining around the globe, but calls for their conservation are muted by fear and prejudice. Saving Snakes offers a new approach to understanding snakes-one built on respect. From Cuba and Nicaragua to Costa Rica and Australia, Nicolette Cagle has traveled the world in search of snakes. She also has spent decades conducting natural science research on snake activity, specifically in regions of the U.S. where urban development encroaches upon their habitat.

     Beautifully written, Saving Snakes entwines Cagle's personal narrative with deep scientific and historical research. By tracing the author's evolution as a field naturalist, it provides a blueprint for developing a conservation consciousness among young people and paves the way for increased inclusivity in the male-dominated field of herpetology. Fundamentally a book about snakes, this is also the story of one woman's pursuit of her passion as she searches for, studies, and advocates for these enigmatic creatures.

RECOMMENDATION: A must read for anyone with an interest in snake biology and/or conservation!


5) Alcalá, Kathleen. The Deepest Roots: Finding Food and Community on a Pacific Northwest Island. 2016 (2019). University of Washington Press. Paperback: 344 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: As friends began "going back to the land" at the same time that a health issue emerged, Kathleen Alcalá set out to reexamine her relationship with food at the most local level. Remembering her parents, Mexican immigrants who grew up during the Depression, and the memory of planting, growing, and harvesting fresh food with them as a child, she decided to explore the history of the Pacific Northwest island she calls home.

The Deepest Roots, Alcalá walks, wades, picks, pokes, digs, cooks, and cans, getting to know her neighbors on a much deeper level. Wanting to better understand how we once fed ourselves, and acknowledging that there may be a future in which we could need to do so again, she meets those who experienced the Japanese American internment during World War II, and learns the unique histories of the blended Filipino and Native American community, the fishing practices of the descendants of Croatian immigrants, and the Suquamish elder who shares with her the food legacy of the island itself.

     Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability,
The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.

RECOMMENDATION: An interesting overview of what it's like to live on an island in Puget Sound.  



6) Fukuda, Andrew. This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II. 2020. Tor Teen. Hardbound: 382 pages. Price: $17.99 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: In 1935, ten-year-old Alex Maki from Bainbridge Island, Washington is disgusted when he’s forced to become pen pals with Charlie Lévy of Paris, France―a girl. He thought she was a boy. In spite of Alex’s reluctance, their letters continue to fly across the Atlantic―and along with them, the shared hopes and dreams of friendship. Until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the growing Nazi persecution of Jews force them to confront the darkest aspects of human nature.

     From the desolation of an internment camp on the plains of Manzanar to the horrors of Auschwitz and the devastation of European battlefields, the only thing they can hold onto are the memories of their letters. But nothing can dispel the light between them.

     Winner of the American Library Association's Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. 

RECOMMENDATION: As someone who grew up in Alex Maki's home region, I'm familiar with the history of the Japanese-American internment during World War II. Students of World War II history should read this book!


7) Eski,Yarin. A Criminology of the Human Species: Setting an Unsettling Tone. 2023. Palgrave Macmillan. Hardbound: 142 pages. Price: $44.99 U.S.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The book sketches out how the criminological lens could be used in the climate change debate around possible human extinction. It explores the extent to which the human species can be considered deviant in relation to other species of the contemporary biosphere, as humans seem to be the only species on Earth that does not live in natural balance with their environment (anymore). It discusses several unsettling topics in the public debate on climate change, specifically the taboo of how humans may not survive the ongoing climate change. It includes chapters on the Earth’s history of mass-extinctions, the global state of denial including toward the possibility that the human species could go extinct, and it considers humans' future as a deviant, fatal species outside of Earth, in outer-space, possibly on other planets. It puts forward and enriches the critical criminological tradition by conceptualizing and setting an unsettling tone within criminology and criminological research on the human species and our extinction, by daring criminologists (and victimologists) to ponder and seek empirical answers to controversial imaginations and questions about our possible extinction.

RECOMMENDATION: An introduction to the field of "Green Criminology".