1) Conniff, Richard. The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth. 2010. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 464 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: The story of bold adventurers who risked death to discover strange life forms in the farthest corners of planet Earth.
Beginning with Linnaeus, a colorful band of explorers made it their mission to travel to the most perilous corners of the planet and bring back astonishing new life forms. They attracted followers ranging from Thomas Jefferson, who laid out mastodon bones on the White House floor, to twentieth-century doctors who used their knowledge of new species to conquer epidemic diseases. Acclaimed science writer Richard Conniff brings these daredevil "species seekers" to vivid life. Alongside their globe-spanning tales of adventure, he recounts some of the most dramatic shifts in the history of human thought. At the start, everyone accepted that the Earth had been created for our benefit. We weren't sure where vegetable ended and animal began, we couldn't classify species, and we didn't understand the causes of disease. But all that changed as the species seekers introduced us to the pantheon of life on Earth—and our place within it.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of natural history exploration and collecting.
2) Henderson, Carrol L.. Mammals, Amphibians, and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. 2010. University of Texas Press. Paperback: 198 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: To help visitors, as well as local residents, identify and enjoy the wildlife of Costa Rica, Carrol L. Henderson published Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica in 2002, and it instantly became the indispensable guide. Now Henderson has created a field guide dedicated to the monkeys, sloths, treefrogs, lizards, crocodiles, and other animals that travelers are most likely to see while exploring the wild lands of Costa Rica. He includes fascinating information on their natural history, ecology, identification, and behavior gleaned from his forty years of travels, studies, and wildlife viewing in Costa Rica, as well as details on where to see these remarkable and beautiful creatures. The mammals, amphibians, and reptiles are illustrated by stunning and colorful photographs—most of which were taken in the wild by Henderson. A detailed and invaluable appendix that identifies many of Costa Rica's best wildlife-watching destinations, lodges, and contact information for trip-planning purposes completes the volume.
RECOMMENDATION: A good introduction on the subject.
3) Sedaris, David. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. 2010. Little, Brown. Hardbound:163 pages. Price: $21.99 U.S.
SUMMARY: Featuring David Sedaris's unique blend of hilarity and heart, this new collection of keen-eyed animal-themed tales is an utter delight. Though the characters may not be human, the situations in these stories bear an uncanny resemblance to the insanity of everyday life.
In "The Toad, the Turtle, and the Duck," three strangers commiserate about animal bureaucracy while waiting in a complaint line. In "Hello Kitty," a cynical feline struggles to sit through his prison-mandated AA meetings. In "The Squirrel and the Chipmunk," a pair of star-crossed lovers is separated by prejudiced family members.
With original illustrations by Ian Falconer, author of the bestselling Olivia series of children's books, these stories are David Sedaris at his most observant, poignant, and surprising.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of David Sedaris's work might like this book.