1) Beccaloni, George. Biggest Bugs (life-size!). 2010. Firefly Books. Hardbound: 84 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Biggest Bugs Life-size is a veritable jump-off-the-page spectacle for bug enthusiasts. It is the first book to include color photographs of 38 of the world's biggest, heaviest, longest and mightiest bugs reproduced at their actual size. Concise text gives all of the essential facts, including the bug's size, what it eats and who discovered it. Maps show where the bugs live.
The book's dramatic gatefold shows the world's longest bug -- at 22-inches, the Chan's megastick is almost as long as an adult's arm. There is also the gargantuan cockroach, with the longest wingspan in the world, and the potentially pesky gigantea beefly, which is as big as a human eyeball. Even the names are big: giant hawker dragonfly, colossus earwig, giant tarantula hawk wasp, goliath bird-eating spider, Amazonian giant centipede, titan longhorn beetle.
Biggest Bugs Life-size shows the bugs as they are in real life, in brilliant color and in enormous photographs that readers won't soon forget.
RECOMMENDATION: For ages 9-12.
2) Phillips, Roger. Mushrooms and other Fungi of North America. 2010. Firefly Books. Paperback: 384 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: For amateur collectors or professional mycologists working in the field, this guidebook is quite simply the best North American mushroom reference ever published. Each of the 1,000 specimens is shown in full color on a neutral background to eliminate distractions, and specimens are arranged to show the cap, stem, gills, spines and a cross section, usually in various stages of growth.
Roger Phillips identifies all regional varieties of Basidiomycetes, which include chanterelles, puffballs and fungi, and Ascomycetes, which include morels and cup fungi. Detailed descriptive information on each mushroom variety includes:
-Dimensions of cap, gills and stem
-Color and texture of flesh
-Odor and taste
-Habitat and growing season
-Distribution and appearance of spores
-Edibility and poison warnings
There is also helpful advice on collecting specimens plus an illustrated beginner identification key and a generic key for the more advanced collector.
Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America is at once the ideal introduction to mycology and an essential reference for the experienced collector -- the definitive book in its category.
RECOMMENDATION: A very useful guide to the fungi of North America.
3) Bevis, John. Aaaaw to Zzzzzd: The Words of Birds. 2010. The MIT Press. Hardbound: 143 pages. Price: $12.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Birds sing and call, sometimes in complex and beautiful arrangements of notes, sometimes in one-line repetitions that resemble a ringtone more than a symphony. Listening, we are stirred, transported, and even envious of birds’ ability to produce what Shelley called “profuse strains of unpremeditated art.” And for hundreds of years, we have tried to write down what we hear when birds sing. Poets have put birdsong in verse (Thomas Nashe: “Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo”) and ornithologists have transcribed bird sounds more methodically. Drawing on this history of bird writing, in Aaaaw to Zzzzzd, John Bevis offers a lexicon of the words of birds. For tourists in Birdland, there could be no more charming phrasebook.
Consulting it, we find seven distinct variations of “hoo” attributed to seven different species of owls, from a simple hoo to the more ambitious hoo hoo hoo-hoo, ho hoo hoo-hoo; the understated cheet of the tree swallow; the resonant kreeaaaaaaaaaaar of the Swainson’s hawk; the modest peep peep peep of the meadow pipit. We learn that some people hear the Baltimore oriole saying “here, here, come right here, dear” and the yellowhammer saying “a little bit of bread and no cheese.”
Bevis, a poet, frames his lexicons—one for North America and one for Britain and northern Europe—with an evocative appreciation of birds, birdsong, and human attempts to capture the words of birds in music and poetry. He also offers an engaging account of other methods of documenting birdsong—field recording, graphic notation, and mechanical devices including duck calls and the serinette, an instrument used to teach song tunes to songbirds.
The singing of birds is nature at its most sublime, and words are our medium for expressing this sublimity. Aaaaw to Zzzzzd belongs in the bird lover’s backpack and on the word lover’s bedside table, an unexpected and sui generis pleasure.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting introduction to bird vocalizations.