1) Winkler, David W., Shawn M. Billerman, and Irby J. Lovette. Bird Families of the World: An Invitation to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds. 2015. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 599 pages. Price: about $94.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Here in one volume is a synopsis of the diversity of all birds. Scheduled for publication in 2015, between the two volumes of the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, this volume distills the voluminous detail of the 17-volume Handbook of Birds of the World into a single book. Based on the latest systematic research and summarizing what is known about the life history and biology of each group, this volume will be the best single-volume entry to avian diversity available. Whether you are a birder with an interest in global bird diversity, or a professional ornithologist wishing to update and fill-in your comprehensive knowledge of avian diversity, this volume will be a valuable addition to your library.
An interest in birds is a life-enriching pursuit; the sheer diversity of birds means there are always stunning new species to see and novel facets of their lives to explore. Yet the grand diversity of birds is also a challenge, as it is easy to become disoriented amidst a group that contains more than 10,000 species that vary in nearly all of their most conspicuous attributes. Learning avian diversity requires a mental map to help us organize our experiences and observations. The scientific classification of birds provides exactly this framework, grouping together into Orders and Families birds that are most closely related to one another, and thereby linking species that share distinguishing traits. For those interested in learning about the tremendous diversity of birds world-wide, the best way to start is to learn the families, and this volume is a guide and invitation to do so.
This book has been designed to serve both as a text for ornithology courses and as a resource for serious bird enthusiasts of all levels. Technical terminology is much reduced, and all scientific terms used are defined in a glossary. Introductory material describes the scope and concepts behind the classification used and gives suggestions about how best to use the book. The bulk of the volume is a family-by-family account of the birds of the world. For each family there is a distribution map with the breeding, non-breeding and year-round ranges of each family, a short text “teaser” to invite the reader to learn more, standardized descriptions of the appearance, relationships and similar species to each family’s members, their life history and conservation status. Each account includes a review of recent ideas about the relationships of the family to other families and relationships within it. The work is liberally illustrated by photographs from bird enthusiasts around the globe as well as paintings of one species from each of the genera in each family. It will be a beautiful and serviceable guide.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview to bird families. Would be a useful companion volume to the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World set.
2) Wootton, David. The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution. 2015. Harper. Hardbound: 769 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: We live in a world made by science. How and when did this happen? The Invention of Science tells the story of the extraordinary intellectual and cultural revolution that gave birth to modern science, and mounts a major challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy of its history.
Before 1492, all significant knowledge was believed to be already available; there was no concept of progress, as people looked to the past, not the future, for understanding. David Wootton argues that the discovery of America demonstrated that new knowledge was possible: indeed, it introduced the very concept of discovery and opened the way to the invention of science.
The first crucial discovery was Tycho Brahe’s nova of 1572: proof that there could be change in the heavens. The invention of the telescope in 1608 rendered the old astronomy obsolete. Evangelista Torricelli’s experiment with the vacuum in 1643 led directly to the triumph of the experimental method in the Royal Society of Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton. By 1750, Newtonianism was being celebrated throughout Europe.
This new science did not consist simply of new discoveries or methods. It relied on a new understanding of what knowledge may be, and with this came a fresh language: discovery, progress, fact, experiment, hypothesis, theory, laws of nature. Although almost all these terms existed before 1492, their meanings were radically transformed, and they became tools to think scientifically. Now we all speak this language of science that was invented during the Scientific Revolution.
This revolution had its martyrs (Bruno, Galileo), its heroes (Kepler, Boyle), its propagandists (Voltaire, Diderot), and its patient laborers (Gilbert, Hooke). The new culture led to a new rationalism, killing off alchemy, astrology, and the belief in witchcraft. It also led to the invention of the steam engine and to the first Industrial Revolution. Wootton’s landmark work changes our understanding of how this great transformation came about, and of what science is.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of science.