Friday, January 28, 2011

Reprinted Title                                                              
1) Atwater, Richard and Florence. Mr. Popper's Penguins. 1938 (reprinted 2009). Little, Brown. Paperback: 139 pages. Price: $6.99 U.S.

SUMMARY: The lovable Mr. Popper dreams of being an intrepid Antarctic explorer, living life among the penguins alongside his hero Admiral Drake. So he is shocked one day when the Admiral responds to his fan letter by sending him a package containing a real live penguin! Soon, this penguin is joined by another, and before long Mr. Popper has an ice rink in the basement and a dozen delightful penguins living in his house. With hardly enough money to feed his family, and an ever-increasing bill for raw fish and canned shrimp, what can the wonderfully imaginative Mr. Popper do but train his penguins and take the show on the road! This unforgettable tale has become a beloved classic, inviting readers to imagine, dream, and believe that anything is possible. Caldecott and Newbery Medal winner Robert Lawson offers delightfully humorous illustrations that are as integral to the charm of this classic as the story itself. The movie version of this book is due out in August 2011 and stars Jim Carrey.
RECOMMENDATION: From what I've read about the movie version, I recommend you read the book and skip the movie!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


1) Borrow, Nik and Ron Demey. Birds of Ghana. 2010. Helm Field Guides. Paperback: 352 pages. Price: 26.99 GBP (about $43.00 U.S.).

SUMMARY: Ghana is one of the safest and most accessible countries in Western Africa and is rapidly becoming a top tourist destination. This dedicated country field guide uses illustrations from the acclaimed Birds of Western Africa, which have been recomposed into a new set of plates, with new text and maps specific to Ghana. The result is a compact and up-to-date guide to all the birds of Ghana.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for birders interested in the birds of Ghana and western Africa!

2) Newman, Vanessa. Newman's Birds of Southern Africa (Commemorative Edition). 2010. Struik Nature. Paperback: 536 pages. Price:19.99 GBP (about $32.00 U.S.).
SUMMARY: This Commemorative edition of Newman's Birds of Southern Africa at once updates a classic and pays tribute to one of the region's best loved birding authors, the late Kenneth Newman. With the support of bird expert Faansie Peacock, the author's daughter, Vanessa Newman, has thoroughly revised, updated and expanded this new edition to reflect the latest research, both in terms of text and illustrations. Covering all the birds recorded from the Antarctic to the Zambezi River, its range includes the birds from the southern seas as well as those of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique. The familiar, user-friendly format of Newman's Birds uses colour coding to indicate major bird groups and, as always, large accurate paintings of each species reflect the bird as it is seen in the field, now labeled with diagnostic features. A revised introductory section takes readers step-by-step through how to use this latest edition of Newman's Birds of Southern Africa in the field. Also available in Afrikaans as Newman se Voëls van Suider-Afrika.
RECOMMENDATION: Probably the best bird guide for the region that's currently available!

New Title

1) Tilford, Tony. A Photographic Guide to Birds of Bali, Java and Sumatra (2nd edition). 2010. New Holland Publishers. Paperback: 136 pages. Price: 7.99 GBP (about $12.71 U.S.).

SUMMARY: The Indonesian islands of Bali, Java and Sumatra are home to a staggering array of birds. They are part of one of the world's biodiversity hot-spots and act as a magnet for birdwatchers from around the world. More than 250 species of migrant and resident birds - including many endemics, such as the spectacular Bali Myna - are featured in this concise and easy-to-use guide. Each species is illustrated in full colour and with key information on identification, habitat and distribution. This new edition is fully updated with all the latest names and recently recognised species. The photographs are by Alain Compost.
RECOMMENDATION: A useful compact guide to the birds of the region.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Title

1) Coulson, Graeme and Mark Eldridge (editors). Macropods: The Biology of Kangaroos, Wallabies and Rat-Kangaroos. 2010. CSIRO Publishing. Paperback: 408 pages. Price: $81.50 U.S.

SUMMARY: This book covers the proceedings of a major 2006 symposium on macropods that brought together the many recent advances in the biology of this diverse group of marsupials, including research on some of the much neglected macropods such as the antilopine wallaroo, the swamp wallaby and tree-kangaroos. More than 80 authors have contributed 32 chapters, which are grouped into four themes: genetics, reproduction and development; morphology and physiology; ecology; and management.
     The book examines such topics as embryonic development, immune function, molar progression and mesial drift, locomotory energetics, non-shivering thermogenesis, mycophagy, habitat preferences, population dynamics, juvenile mortality in drought, harvesting, overabundant species, road-kills, fertility control, threatened species, cross-fostering, translocation and reintroduction. It also highlights the application of new techniques, from genomics to GIS.
     Macropods is an important reference for academics and students, researchers in molecular and ecological sciences, wildlife and park managers, and naturalists.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in the Macropodoidea.

New and Recent Titles

1) Conner, Richard N. et al.. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker: Surviving in a Fire-maintained Ecosystem. 2001 (reprinted 2011). University of Texas Press. Paperback: 363 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Though small among its woodpecker relatives, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker poses a huge dilemma for its human neighbors. Uniquely adapted to live in the old-growth pine forests of the southeastern United States, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker has nearly disappeared as the forests have been cleared for agricultural, commercial, and residential uses over the last two centuries. Today, it waits at a crossroads. Scientific management practices could restore the woodpecker's habitat and population, but the imperative to convert old-growth forests to other uses remains.
     In this book, three of the leading experts on the Red-cockaded Woodpecker offer a comprehensive overview of all that is currently known about its biology and natural history and about the ecology of the fire-maintained forests it requires for survival. As the most visible endangered species in the Southeast, and the one whose conservation impacts the largest land area, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker holds a compelling interest not only for ornithologists, but also for wildlife managers, foresters, developers, environmentalists, and government officials. For all of these groups, this book will be the essential resource for learning more about the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and ensuring its survival.
RECOMMENDATION: A good technical overview on the species.
The Red-cockaded Woodpecker: Surviving in a Fire-Maintained Ecosystem (Corrie Herring Hooks Series)

2) Delacorte, Peter and Michael C. Witte. The Book of Terns (2nd edition). 2011. Ternaround Press. Paperback: about 100 pages. Price: $14.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: The Book of Terns, Michael C. Witte and Peter Delacorte’s brilliant, epic, and mind-boggling compendium of bad puns and great drawings, is back! Long available only in dusty used-bookstores and sleazy corners of the Internet, The Book of Terns reterns with a vengeance, with a spiffy new cover and several never-before-seen cartoons to accompany the old favorites.
RECOMMENDATION: For all birders! This book will tern heads! The book is available from this website: and from Buteo Books:

3) Gordon, David George. The Secret World of Slugs and Snails: Life in the Very Slow Lane. 2010. Sasquatch Books. Paperback: 150 pages. Price: $14.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: A preeminent expert on the small wonders of the natural world, David George Gordon playfully and thoughtfully sheds light on the fascinating lives of slugs and snails. Covering everything from snail sex to the manufacture of synthetic slug slime, Gordon takes us on a journey through the languid and magical world of these charismatic invertebrates. From essays like 'Grow Your Own Escargot' to indispensable gardening tips, this book is chock-full of information on the much-maligned mollusks. Whether removing non-native slugs from your garden or following a native snail as it meanders across the forest floor, you'll never look at these underdogs the same way again. The book was illustrated by Karen Luke Fildes.
RECOMMENDATION: A good introduction to these gastropods. I wish it had color illustrations of the different species though!

Periodical: The Evolution of Feathers

The February issue of National Geographic has an article about the evolution of feathers by Carl Zimmer. You can read it here:

The photo gallery is here:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New and Recent Titles

1) Ellison, Walter G. (editor). Second Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia. 2011. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 494 pages. Price: $75.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Despite their small sizes, Maryland and Washington, DC, possess a vast range of environments—from the high peaks of the Allegheny Ridges to the low marshes of the Chesapeake Bay. Home to 200 nesting bird species, these habitats are under constant threat from urban sprawl, changing farming practices, and the degradation of coastal wetlands. The Second Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia documents the impact of these environmental changes on the region's bird population and discusses the recovery of the endangered Bald Eagle and the new confirmation of breeding by three species—the Common Merganser, the Ruddy Duck, and the Double-crested Cormorant.
     Species accounts, each with a stunning color photograph, provide detailed coverage of the habitats, biology, and relative abundance of mid-Atlantic nesting birds. Up-to-date maps reflect changes in their breeding ranges and distributions over the past two decades. Of perhaps greatest value are the comparative analyses with data from the first statewide survey conducted in the 1980s.
     Treasured by birders—and an invaluable reference for ornithologists, conservationists, and land use planners—this book will significantly influence our understanding and management of avian species in the region for the next decade.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for birders of the region!

2) Long, John et al.. Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea: One Hundred Million Years of Evolution. 2002. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 244 pages. Price: $86.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: From kangaroos and koalas to the giant Diprotodon and bizarre "thingodontans," prehistoric mammals evolved within the changing and sometimes harsh environments of Australia. As part of Gondwana, Australia was the first landmass to be isolated from the supercontinent Pangaea. In Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea, four respected paleontologists present a history of the development of modern mammals from the unique evolutionary environment of Australia and New Guinea. The authors describe both what is known about prehistoric Australian mammals and what can be reconstructed from the fossil evidence about their appearance and behaviors. This accessible reference work offers facts about how each mammal got its name and provides a description of how the fossil mammal resembles its modern descendants.
     Over 200 four-color illustrations enhance the text, which describes the age, diet, and habitat of these extinct mammals. The authors also detail how each mammal evolved and is now classified. Diagrams showing skeletal features and tooth structure and a glossary of technical terms are also included.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in mammalian paleontology.                                           

Also by John Long:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Titles

1) Fabian, Ann. The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America's Unburied Dead. 2010. University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 270 pages. Price: $27.50 U.S.

SUMMARY: When Philadelphia naturalist Samuel George Morton died in 1851, no one cut off his head, boiled away its flesh, and added his grinning skull to a collection of crania. It would have been strange, but perhaps fitting, had Morton’s skull wound up in a collector’s cabinet, for Morton himself had collected hundreds of skulls over the course of a long career. Friends, diplomats, doctors, soldiers, and fellow naturalists sent him skulls they gathered from battlefields and burial grounds across America and around the world.
     With The Skull Collectors, eminent historian Ann Fabian resurrects that popular and scientific movement, telling the strange—and at times gruesome—story of Morton, his contemporaries, and their search for a scientific foundation for racial difference. From cranial measurements and museum shelves to heads on stakes, bloody battlefields, and the “rascally pleasure” of grave robbing, Fabian paints a lively picture of scientific inquiry in service of an agenda of racial superiority, and of a society coming to grips with both the deadly implications of manifest destiny and the mass slaughter of the Civil War. Even as she vividly recreates the past, Fabian also deftly traces the continuing implications of this history, from lingering traces of scientific racism to debates over the return of the remains of Native Americans that are held by museums to this day.
     Full of anecdotes, oddities, and insights, The Skull Collectors takes readers on a darkly fascinating trip down a little-visited but surprisingly important byway of American history.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting story on a little known chapter of America's history. I also recommend this book:

2) Goodman, Jordan. The Devil and Mr. Casement: One Man's Battle for Human Rights in South America's Heart of Darkness. 2010. Picador. Paperback: 322 pages. Price: $18.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: In September 1910, the activist Roger Casement arrived in the Amazon jungle on a mission for the British government: to investigate reports of widespread human-rights abuses in the forests along the Putumayo River. Casement was outraged by what he uncovered: nearly thirty thousand Indians had died to produce four thousand tons of rubber for Peruvian and British commercial interests, under the brutal rubber baron Julio César Arana. In 1912, Casement’s seven-hundred-page report of the Putumayo violence set off reverberations throughout the world. Drawing on a wealth of original research,The Devil and Mr. Casement is a haunting story of modern capitalism with enormous contemporary political resonance.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of human rights.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds

     Today, I got in an advance copy of the above book and I thought  I would share some early thoughts. First of all its binding is similar to the Sibley 2000 guide except larger. Each photo plate is layered with birds up close and in the distance giving depth to the plates. They remind me of museum dioramas. The text is brief like the Sibley guide. According to the PR sheets supplied to me, the author will be putting additional info at his website once the book is officially launched in March 2011. A WESTERN edition is in the works!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


1) Hosler, Jay. Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth. 2011. Hill and Wang. Hardbound: 150 pages. Price: $18.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: An accessible graphic introduction to evolution for the most science-phobic reader.
     llustrated by the brilliant duo Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon, this volume is written by the noted comic author and professor of biology Jay Hosler. Evolution features the same characters introduced in the highly regarded The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, now here to explain the fundamentals of the evolution of life on Earth. On the heels of explaining to his planetary leader the intricacies of human genetics in The Stuff of Life, the intrepid alien scientist Bloort-183 is charged in this sequel with covering the wider story of evolution. Using the same storytelling conceit that Plenty magazine declared “so charming that you won’t even notice you’ve absorbed an entire scientific field” and that caused Seed to pick The Stuff of Life as a best book of 2008, Evolution brilliantly answers Wired’s demand, “What’s the solution to America’s crisis in science education? More comic books!”
      Evolution, the most accessible graphic work on this universally studied subject, takes the reader from earth’s primordial soup to the vestigial structures, like the coccyx and male nipples, of modern humans. Once again, the award-winning illustrations of the Cannons render the complex clear and everything cleverly comedic. And in Hosler, Evolution has an award-winning biology teacher whose science comics have earned him a National Science Foundation grant and an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition.
RECOMMENDATION: This graphic novel should be used to introduction evolution to the general public.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Titles

1) Brown, Lester R.. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. 2011. W.W. Norton. Paperback: 240 pages. Price: $15.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: In this urgent time, World on the Edge calls out the pivotal environmental issues and how to solve them now.
     We are in a race between political and natural tipping points. Can we close coal-fired power plants fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet and avoid catastrophic sea level rise? Can we raise water productivity fast enough to halt the depletion of aquifers and avoid water-driven food shortages? Can we cope with peak water and peak oil at the same time? These are some of the issues Lester R. Brown skillfully distills in World on the Edge. Bringing decades of research and analysis into play, he provides the responses needed to reclaim our future.
RECOMMENDATION: A good overview of current environmental problems.

2) Palmer, Dexter. The Dream of Perpetual Motion. 2011. Picador. paperback: 356 pages. Price: $16.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Imprisoned for life aboard a zeppelin that floats high above a fantastic metropolis, greeting-card writer Harold Winslow pens his memoirs. His only companions are the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent, the only woman he has ever loved, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father, Prospero, the genius and industrial magnate who drove her insane. As Harold heads toward a last desperate confrontation with Prospero to save Miranda’s life, he finds himself an unwitting participant in the creation of the greatest invention of them all: the perpetual motion machine. Beautifully written, stunningly imagined, and wickedly funny,The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a heartfelt meditation on the place of love in a world dominated by technology.
RECOMMENDATION: For those that enjoy steampunk fiction.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Title

1) Switek, Brian. Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature. 2010. Bellevue Literary Press. Paperback: 320 pages. Price: $17.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Spectacular fossil finds make today’s headlines; new technology unlocks secrets of skeletons unearthed a hundred years ago. Still, evolution is often poorly represented by the media and misunderstood by the public. A potent antidote to pseudoscience, Written in Stone is an engrossing history of evolutionary discovery for anyone who has marveled at the variety and richness of life.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable introduction to the fossil record and evolution. You can visit the author's blog here:

Thursday, January 6, 2011



1) Evison, Jonathan. West of Here: A Novel. 2011. Algonquin Books. Hardbound: 486 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.

SUMMARY:Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, on Washington State’s rugged Pacific coast, West of Here is propelled by a story that both re-creates and celebrates the American experience—it is storytelling on the grandest scale. With one segment of the narrative focused on the town’s founders circa 1890 and another showing the lives of their descendants in 2006, the novel develops as a kind of conversation between two epochs, one rushing blindly toward the future and the other struggling to undo the damage of the past.
     An exposition on the effects of time, on how something said or done in one generation keeps echoing through all the years that follow, and how mistakes keep happening and people keep on trying to be strong and brave and, most important, just and right, West of Here harks back to the work of such masters of Americana as Bret Harte, Edna Ferber, and Larry McMurtry, writers whose fiction turned history into myth and myth into a nation’s shared experience. It is a bold novel by a writer destined to become a major force in American literature.
RECOMMENDATION: If you like historical fiction, you'll like this book!

New Title

1) Wolpert, Lewis. How We Live and Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells. 2011. W. W. Norton. Paperback: 240 pages. Price: $15.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Acclaimed biologist Lewis Wolpert eloquently narrates the basics of human life through the lens of its smallest component: the cell.
     Everything about our existence-movement and memory, imagination and reproduction, birth, and ultimately death-is governed by our cells. They are the basis of all life in the universe, from bacteria to the most complex animals. In the tradition of the classic Lives of a Cell, but with the benefit of the latest research, Lewis Wolpert demonstrates how human life grows from a single cell into a body, an incredibly complex society of billions of cells. Wolpert goes on to examine the science behind topics that are much discussed but rarely understood—stem-cell research, cloning, DNA, cancer—and explains how all life on earth evolved from just one cell. Lively and passionate, this is an accessible guide to understanding the human body and life itself.
RECOMMENDATION: A basic introduction to cellular biology that could have used illustrations!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New and Recent Titles

1) Kennedy, Robert S. et al.. A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines. 2000 (reprinted 2010). Oxford University Press. Paperback: 369 pages. Price: $101.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: This is the first and only guide to cover all 572 species of birds known to occur within the 7,100 islands that comprise the Philippines. The Philippines are the home of nearly 172 species that are not found anywhere else in the world-many of which are endangered as the result of high levels of habitat destruction in the Philippine forest. Thus, knowledge and study of the endemic characteristics of the birds of the Philippines are of critical importance.
     This Guide is illustrated with 72 specially painted color plates, showing all species recorded from the Philippines except four rare accidental species. The accompanying text gives detailed information about the plumage, voice, range, distribution, status, habitat, life history, and behavior of the birds and includes helpful distribution maps for all the species highlighted.
     Created by an expert team of authors and artists that includes two prominent Philippine ornithologists, this book combines over 60 years of experience and research. Not only will it appeal to ornithologists and avid birders, but it will enthrall conservationists and all nature lovers.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in the birds of the Philippines!

2) McDermott, Paul D. et al.. Eye of the Explorer: Views of the Northern Pacific Railroad Survey, 1853-54. 2010. Mountain Press Publishing Company. Hardbound: 210 pages. Price: $50.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: In the 1850s, Congress authorized and funded five railroad surveys to determine the most practical route for a transcontinental railroad through the western frontier. The northernmost survey, headed by Maj. Isaac Stevens, was the most successful, both scientifically and geographically. Along with the data assembled by numerous scientists and surveyors was the work of two artists, John Mix Stanley and Gustavus Sohon. Their illustrations graphically documented the physical and cultural geography of the northern Great Plains and Pacific Northwest, with a particular eye for Native American life. Eye of the Explorer: Views of the Northern Pacific Railroad Survey reproduces all seventy of the lithographs that appeared with Stevens’s final congressional report, published in 1860, as well as twelve of the lovely watercolor images from which the final prints were prepared.
     These views depict landscapes of undisturbed wilderness, scenes from the explorers’ journey, and glimpses of settlements in the initial throes of development. The accompanying text tells the story of the survey party’s adventures, struggles, and day-to-day activities, and describes each image’s historical, geographical, and geological importance. Liberally scattered throughout are quotations from the report. Dozens of detailed maps, illustrations, and historical photos further illuminate this engaging history.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone interested in the history of the western United States.