1) Brown, Nancy Marie. Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them. 2015. St. Martin's Press. Hardbound: 280 pages. Price: $26.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the early 1800's, on a Hebridean beach in Scotland, the sea exposed an ancient treasure cache: 93 chessmen carved from walrus ivory. Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks, the Lewis Chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world. Harry played Wizard's Chess with them in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Housed at the British Museum, they are among its most visited and beloved objects.
Questions abounded: Who carved them? Where? Nancy Marie Brown's Ivory Vikings explores these mysteries by connecting medieval Icelandic sagas with modern archaeology, art history, forensics, and the history of board games. In the process, Ivory Vikings presents a vivid history of the 400 years when the Vikings ruled the North Atlantic, and the sea-road connected countries and islands we think of as far apart and culturally distinct: Norway and Scotland, Ireland and Iceland, and Greenland and North America. The story of the Lewis chessmen explains the economic lure behind the Viking voyages to the west in the 800s and 900s. And finally, it brings from the shadows an extraordinarily talented woman artist of the twelfth century: Margret the Adroit of Iceland.
2) Haltman, Kenneth (introduction). The Butterflies of North America: Titian Peale's Lost Manuscript. 2015. Abrams. Hardbound: 256 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The American artist and naturalist Titian Ramsay Peale II (1799–1885) had a passion for butterflies, and throughout his long life he wrote and illustrated an ambitious and comprehensive manuscript. The book, along with a companion volume on caterpillars, was never published, and it resides today in the Rare Book Collection of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Now Peale’s color plates, lovingly prepared for the printer by the artist more than 100 years ago, will be published for the first time in this beautiful volume. At last, Peale’s life work, equivalent in scope and beauty to Audubon’s Birds of North America, will be available to a wide audience. The book includes a foreword by Ellen V. Futter and text by Kenneth Haltman and David A. Grimaldi that describes the art and science Peale brought to his extraordinary work.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in historical lepidopterology of North America!
3) O'Connor, M.R.. Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things. 2015. St. Martin's Press. Hardbound: 266 pages. Price: $25.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In a world dominated by people and rapid climate change, species large and small are increasingly vulnerable to extinction. In Resurrection Science, journalist M. R. O'Connor explores the extreme measures scientists are taking to try and save them, from captive breeding and genetic management to de-extinction. Paradoxically, the more we intervene to save species, the less wild they often become. In stories of sixteenth-century galleon excavations, panther-tracking in Florida swamps, ancient African rainforests, Neanderthal tool-making, and cryogenic DNA banks, O'Connor investigates the philosophical questions of an age in which we "play god" with earth's biodiversity.
Each chapter in this beautifully written book focuses on a unique species--from the charismatic northern white rhinoceros to the infamous passenger pigeon--and the people entwined in the animals' fates. Incorporating natural history and evolutionary biology with conversations with eminent ethicists, O'Connor's narrative goes to the heart of the human enterprise: What should we preserve of wilderness as we hurtle toward a future in which technology is present in nearly every aspect of our lives? How can we co-exist with species when our existence and their survival appear to be pitted against one another?