Wednesday, August 22, 2012
1) Hudson, W.H.. Adventures Among Birds. 1913 (reprinted 2012). Collins. Hardbound: 253 pages. Price: GPB 20 (about $31.76 U.S.).
SUMMARY: The Collins Nature Library is a new series of classic British nature writing – reissues of long-lost seminal works. The titles have been chosen by one of Britain’s best known and highly-acclaimed nature writers, Robert Macfarlane, who has also written new introductions that put these classics into a modern context.
Adventures Among Birds is almost a manifesto for the life of birds. Hudson's experience of different forms of birdlife is prodigious, and he weaves a thousand small anecdotes together into a rallying call against indifference to the beauty of birds.
From childhood memories of his first caged bird and his growing passion for them, slowly growing throughout his adolescence in Argentina, to the beauty of the diversity of birdlife in England, Hudson's delight at this particular aspect of nature is palpable.
It is in his protests against the hunting of birds for sport that his love for birds is most clearly shown. Their behaviour towards one another convinces Hudson of their friendship, and his powers of observation paint a picture of interaction and emotion between birds that is almost human.
Adventures Among Birds is a collection of detailed little pictures of the feathered world and why it matters. Told with an unrelenting passion for its subject, Hudson's book is sure to draw you in with its countless beautiful descriptions in miniature.
RECOMMENDATION: Here's your chance to own this classic on British ornithology.
2) Montgomery, David R.. The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood. 2012. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 302 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S. SUMMARY: How the mystery of the Bible's greatest story shaped geology: a MacArthur Fellow presents a surprising perspective on Noah's Flood.
In Tibet, geologist David R. Montgomery heard a local story about a great flood that bore a striking similarity to Noah’s Flood. Intrigued, Montgomery began investigating the world’s flood stories and—drawing from historic works by theologians, natural philosophers, and scientists—discovered the counterintuitive role Noah’s Flood played in the development of both geology and creationism. Steno, the grandfather of geology, even invoked the Flood in laying geology’s founding principles based on his observations of northern Italian landscapes. Centuries later, the founders of modern creationism based their irrational view of a global flood on a perceptive critique of geology. With an explorer’s eye and a refreshing approach to both faith and science, Montgomery takes readers on a journey across landscapes and cultures. In the process we discover the illusive nature of truth, whether viewed through the lens of science or religion, and how it changed through history and continues changing, even today.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting take on flood geology and its relevance to Human society.
3) Parry, James. The Mating Lives of Birds. 2012. The MIT Press/ New Holland Publishers (UK). Hardbound: 160 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S./ GBP: 19.99. SUMMARY: Birdsong may seem to us to be the purest expression of joy, but in fact when a male bird bursts into melodious song, he is warning off other males and advertising his availability to females. He may also engage in spectacular displays of plumage, dance-like movements, or even acrobatics (tree-based or aerial)--all as part of courtship. The female, meanwhile, assesses his vocalization, plumage, and territory before accepting him as a mate. The Mating Lives of Birds offers an engaging and lavishly illustrated account of this most captivating phenomenon in the natural world: bird courtship and display. It explains how birds’ reproduction strategies have evolved, and describes bird monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, promiscuity, and communal living arrangements. It shows us dancing cranes, somersaulting hummingbirds, drumming ducks, and the outrageously extravagant plumage of birds of paradise. It describes group territorial displays, jousting males, and phalarope role reversal (with the female sporting brighter plumage)--not to mention elaborate nest decoration and the presentation of food offerings.
The book’s fascinating account of the mating behavior of bird species from around the world is illustrated by 140 vividly detailed color images. Birdwatchers will find The Mating Lives of Birds to be an essential addition to their libraries.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction on the subject.