Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Titles



1) Brennan,  Leonard A. et al.. The Upland and Webless Migratory Game Birds of Texas. 2017.
Texas A&M University Press. Hardbound: 253 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Authored by some of the state’s top wildlife scientists, The Upland and Webless Migratory Game Birds of Texas presents the most up-to-date and comprehensive information covering twenty-one species of game birds. Ranging from the most well-known, like the Wild Turkey and Mourning Dove, to the marsh-loving rails and other more elusive species, these birds have widespread appeal among both hunters and birders and underscore the diverse challenges facing wildlife scientists, land managers, and conservationists in Texas today.
     From cultural significance to taxonomy and evolutionary history, this volume provides a wealth of background information on these species. Additionally, the book offers illustrated species accounts, detailed range maps, and information about habitat and management requirements, hunting regulations, and research priorities. Readers will gain a deeper understanding of these game birds and the array of terrestrial and wetland landscapes key to their survival. This will serve as a convenient and thorough reference volume for wildlife biologists and enthusiasts, as well as landowners and hunters.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in these game birds of Texas.


2) Huskey, Steve. The Skeleton Revealed: An Illustrated Tour of the Vertebrates. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 351 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The vertebrate skeleton is one of nature’s most amazing feats. Composed of cartilage and bone, it forms the supportive structure for all the remaining aspects of our anatomy. Stripped of skin, we can see the body’s fascinating underlying architecture.
     In this one-of-a-kind book, biologist and skeletal reconstructionist Steve Huskey lays bare the vertebrate skeleton, providing a guided tour of the nuanced differences among the many featured vertebrate species. Using skeletal preparations he has spent decades assembling, Huskey helps us understand why animals live the way they do. He shows us the jaw and fang structures that allow venomous snakes to both kill and consume their prey whole. We see that the eastern mole is built like a weightlifter, allowing it to "swim through soil." Startling images demonstrate that the odd-looking trumpetfish is built not for music but for suction, with a skull that expands to vacuum in its prey.
     The pages of The Skeleton Revealed illuminate not only the elegance of each skeleton, but also the natural history story each skeleton tells. Come along―let’s take a voyage through the boneyard.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in vertebrate anatomy.



3) Koch, Falynn Christine. Science Comics: Bats: Learning to Fly. 2017. First Second. Paperback: 122 pages. Price: $12.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic―dinosaurs, coral reefs, the solar system, volcanoes, bats, flying machines, and more. These gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you're a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty year old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you!
     This volume: In Bats, we follow a little brown bat whose wing is injured by humans on a nature hike. He is taken to a bat rehabilitation center where he meets many different species of bats. They teach him how they fly, what they eat, and where they like to live.
RECOMMENDATION: If you like the other books in the Science Comics series, you should enjoy this one too!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Title



1) Unwin, Mike and David Tipling. The Enigma of the Owl: An Illustrated Natural History. 2017. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 288 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A rare invitation into the mysterious lives of owls around the world, with spectacularly revealing photographs and fascinating details.
     Perhaps no other creature has so compelling a gaze as the owl. Its unblinking stare mesmerizes; its nocturnal lifestyle suggests secrets and mystery. This lavishly illustrated book celebrates owls from every corner of the world and offers abundant details on fifty-three of the most striking and interesting species, from the tiny Elf Owl of southwestern American deserts to the formidable Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the largest of all owls.  
     Mike Unwin has long studied and admired these remarkable birds from cold northern forests to tropical rivers and beyond. He explains how owls evolved into the supreme feathered predators of the night, and he examines their breeding and hunting behaviors, unusual calls, and the cultural myths and superstitions that surround different species. More than two hundred dramatic color photographs in the wild, taken or selected by David Tipling, capture the wondrous beauty of each owl and the drama of life in its own home region. 
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to the owls of the World.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

New Title



1) Schutt, Bill. Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. 2017. Algonquin Books. Hardbound: 332 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism--the role it plays in evolution as well as human history--is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.
     In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History,zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party--the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).
     Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species--including our own. 
     Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.
RECOMMENDATION: This book offers food for thought!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

New Title



1) del Hoyo, Josep and Nigel J. Collar. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: Passerines. 2016. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 1013 pages. Price: $275.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The first ever Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World is really two works in one. It is a complete checklist whose taxonomy incorporates the most up-to-date information and an exhaustive methodology (Tobias et al. 2010) in an entirely systematic and consistent way. At the same time, it contains illustrations and distribution maps for every bird species in the world. This includes the original artwork from the HBW series, as well as hundreds of new illustrations. This volume covers the passerines with 440 plates, 12,100 bird illustrations and 6,638 distribution maps.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with a serious interest in birds!

Friday, January 27, 2017

New Title



1) Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. 2017. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 280 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; and Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.
     In this informative and entertaining account, Williams investigates cutting-edge research as she travels to fragrant cypress forests in Korea to meet the rangers who administer “forest healing programs,” to the green hills of Scotland and its “ecotherapeutic” approach to caring for the mentally ill, to a river trip in Idaho with Iraqi vets suffering from PTSD, to the West Virginia mountains where she discovers how being outside helps children with ADHD. The Nature Fix demonstrates that our connection to nature is much more important to our cognition than we think and that even small amounts of exposure to the living world can improve our creativity and enhance our mood. In prose that is incisive, witty, and urgent, Williams show how time in nature is not a luxury but is in fact essential to our humanity. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas―and the answers they yield―are more urgent than ever.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the Human/nature connection.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

New Title



1) Leenders, Twan. Amphibians of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. 2017. Comstock Publishing Associates. Paperback: 531 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S. 
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Amphibians of Costa Rica is the first in-depth field guide to all 206 species of amphibians known to occur in Costa Rica or within walking distance of its borders. A diminutive nation with abundant natural wealth, the country is host to 146 species of frogs and toads. Frogs of gemlike beauty and dizzying variety abound: some species can fit on the end of a human finger; others would take two hands to hold. In the rainforests, you can find frogs capable of gliding from high in the treetops to the forest floor, some that carry their eggs or their tadpoles around on their back, and others that secrete glue-like substances from their skin that are capable of sticking shut the mouth of attacking snakes.
     Costa Rica is also home to fifty-three species of lungless salamanders, whose unique adaptations and abilities have allowed them to colonize habitats inaccessible to other amphibians. In addition to the spectacularly diverse salamanders, frogs, and toads found in the country, this guide includes the caecilians―bizarre and highly specialized creatures that somewhat resemble giant worms.
      Author, photographer, and conservation biologist Twan Leenders has been studying the herpetofauna of Central America for more than twenty years. Leenders and his team of researchers have traipsed the rainforests, dry forests, and swamps of Costa Rica―toting portable photo studios―to put together the richest collection of photographs of Costa Rican herpetofauna known to exist. In addition to hundreds of photographs, range maps, morphological illustrations, and precise descriptions of key field characteristics, Amphibians of Costa Rica offers a wealth of natural history information, describing prey and predators, breeding strategies, habitat, and conservation status.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in Costa Rican amphibians.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Titles



1) Johnson, Oscar and Susan Scott. Hawai‘i’s Kōlea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover. 2016. University of Hawaii Press. Paperback: 61 pages. Price: $16.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Oscar “Wally” Johnson, the undisputed world expert on Pacific Golden-Plovers, and Susan Scott, a popular-science writer, have combined their knowledge and enthusiasm to create a book for everyone who admires the exceptional birds called "Kōlea" in Hawaiian. With easy-to-understand yet scientifically accurate text and outstanding color photographs, Hawai`i's Kōlea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover is a handy, reliable source of information for both general readers and ornithology specialists.
     Although the Pacific Golden-Plover is a member of the shorebird group, Kōlea spend most of their time inland, favoring open space with short vegetation. This makes Hawai`i’s cemeteries, golf courses, and backyard lawns prime real estate for these migratory birds. Each year Kōlea fly thousands of miles nonstop from Alaska and return to the same spot in the Islands, whether a condominium courtyard, a busy beach park, or a strip of grass in downtown Honolulu. As a result, many Hawai`i residents get to know individual birds, calling them “my Kōlea.” In turn, urban plovers often grow tame around people, an endearing trait uncommon in other birds. Their human admirers see city Kōlea as charming, alert, and personable―qualities that, together with their grace and beauty, have made them arguably Hawai`i’s favorite bird.
     Observing the birds gives rise to countless questions: “When do the birds leave Hawai`i? When do they return? Do they have chicks in the Islands? How long does it take them to fly to Alaska?” To answer these and other questions, the authors have gathered together just about every detail researchers know about Pacific Golden-Plovers. If you marvel at the remarkable birds that prance through your park, strut in your street, and rest on your rooftop, this book will make you love Kōlea even more.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in this species!


2) Helen Czerski. Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life. 2017. W. W. Norton. Hardbound: 275 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Take a look up at the stars on a clear night and you get a sense that the universe is vast and untouchable, full of mysteries beyond comprehension. But did you know that the key to unveiling the secrets of the cosmos is as close as the nearest toaster?
     Our home here on Earth is messy, mutable, and full of humdrum things that we touch and modify without much thought every day. But these familiar surroundings are just the place to look if you’re interested in what makes the universe tick. In Storm in a Teacup, Helen Czerski provides the tools to alter the way we see everything around us by linking ordinary objects and occurrences, like popcorn popping, coffee stains, and fridge magnets, to big ideas like climate change, the energy crisis, or innovative medical testing. She guides us through the principles of gases (“Explosions in the kitchen are generally considered a bad idea. But just occasionally a small one can produce something delicious”); gravity (drop some raisins in a bottle of carbonated lemonade and watch the whoosh of bubbles and the dancing raisins at the bottom bumping into each other); size (Czerski explains the action of the water molecules that cause the crime-scene stain left by a puddle of dried coffee); and time (why it takes so long for ketchup to come out of a bottle).
     Along the way, she provides answers to vexing questions: How does water travel from the roots of a redwood tree to its crown? How do ducks keep their feet warm when walking on ice? Why does milk, when added to tea, look like billowing storm clouds? In an engaging voice at once warm and witty, Czerski shares her stunning breadth of knowledge to lift the veil of familiarity from the ordinary. You may never look at your toaster the same way.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in physics.