Birdbooker Report 291-292

20 October 2013 by GrrlScientist, posted in Birdbooker Report

SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts.


“Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin.
Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.)

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

~ Arnold Lobel [1933-1987] author of many popular children's books.

Compiled by Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen, the Birdbooker Report is a weekly report that has been published online for years, listing the wide variety of nature, natural history, ecology, animal behaviour, science and history books that have been newly released or republished in North America and in the UK. The books listed here were received by Ian during the previous week, courtesy of various publishing houses.

New and Recent Titles:

Olsen, Klaus Malling and Hans Larsson. Skuas and Jaegers: A Guide to the Skuas and Jaegers of the World. 1997 (reprinted 2013). Helm. Hardbound: 190 pages. Price: $86.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Skuas (and jaegers) are a fascinating and ­popular group of seabirds that make up a subfamily of just seven species. They can be ­divided into two main groups: the larger species of Catharacta skuas which are mainly found in the southern hemisphere (with Great Skua breeding­ in the north), and the three Stercorarius species (also known as jaegers) which breed in the ­northern hemisphere. Both northern and southern skuas breed at high latitudes and several ­species are long-distance migrants, ­performing spectacular migrations through most of the world's oceans, ­sometimes even flying overland.
The individual plumage variation in some species is enormous, creating one of the most puzzling yet fascinating challenges in modern field identification. This is the first complete identification guide to the skuas of the world. It is designed to enable species ­identification and correct ­ageing, and the information presented is based on years of study in the field, detailed
examination of photographs and ­museum skins, and ­extensive research of the ­relevant literature.
The comprehensive text is accompanied by twelve exquisite colour plates by Hans Larsson, illustrating a wide range of plumages. In ­addition, there are eight pages of colour ­photographs and numerous black and white photographs and drawings that show key ­identification ­features. With this book, the seabird enthusiast­ should at last be able to ­identify almost every skua encountered, whether on a seawatch or at sea.
IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in these species.

Scheiber, Isabella B.R. et al. (editors). The Social Life of Greylag Geese: Patterns, Mechanisms and Evolutionary Function in an Avian Model System. 2013. Cambridge University Press. Hardbound: 237 pages. Price: $99.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The flock of greylag geese established by Konrad Lorenz in Austria in 1973 has become an influential model animal system and one of the few worldwide with complete life-history data spanning several decades. Based on the unique records of nearly 1000 free-living greylag geese, this is a synthesis of more than 20 years of behavioural research. It provides a comprehensive overview of a complex bird society, placing it in an evolutionary framework and drawing on a range of approaches, including behavioural (personality, aggression, pair bonding and clan formation), physiological, cognitive and genetic. With contributions from leading researchers, the chapters provide valuable insight into historic and recent research on the social behaviour of geese. All aspects of goose and bird sociality are discussed in the context of parallels with mammalian social organisation, making this a fascinating resource for anyone interested in integrative approaches to vertebrate social systems.
This book features:

  • Synthesises more than 20 years of published and unpublished data collected from a renowned animal model system, providing an overview of historic and recent research on goose social behaviour
  • Leaders in the field address animal behaviour from a variety of perspectives, including evolutionary, physiological and cognitive approaches
  • The data is complemented by anecdotal evidence from the past 20 years, making this a fascinating resource for anyone interested in integrative approaches to vertebrate social systems

IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in this species.

Shrubb, Michael. Feasting, Fowling and Feathers: A History of the Exploitation of Wild Birds. 2013. T & A D Poyser. Hardbound: 264 pages. Price: $86.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The way wild birds have been exploited over the centuries forms the focus of this remarkable new book by Michael Shrubb. It looks at the use of birds as food, for feathers and skins, for eggs, as cage birds, as specimens and for hunting, focusing on Britain, northern Europe and the North Atlantic. Never before has a book brought the huge amount of information on these topics in the academic literature together under one cover.
Introductory chapters on what was taken, when, why and its impact are followed by a number of sections looking in detail at important bird groups. Along with discussions of broader themes of exploitation, the book is packed with amazing facts. For example, we learn:

  • why Grey Herons were so important in medieval falconry
  • why the Black Death was good news for bustards
  • why Napoleon is to blame for the scarcity of Quail in Britain today
  • when tame plover stew was all the rage

The book concludes with discussions of the cage bird and plumage trades, both now consigned to the annals of history, in Britain at any rate. As well as summarising and condensing the material into a readable and entertaining account, Shrubb goes back to the original sources. This has allowed him to shed new and surprising light on the biogeography of a number of British birds.
IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in this topic or that collect the Poyser monograph series.

Titus, Alan L. and Mark A. Loewen (editors). At the Top of the Grand Staircase: The Late Cretaceous of Southern Utah. 2013. Indiana University Press. Hardbound: 634 pages. Price: $85.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah is the location of one of the best-known terrestrial records for the late Cretaceous. A major effort in the new century has documented over 2,000 new vertebrate fossil sites, provided new radiometric dates, and identified five new genera of ceratopsids, two new species of hadrosaur, a probable new genus of hypsilophodontid, new pachycephalosaurs and ankylosaurs, several kinds of theropods (including a new genus of oviraptor and a new tyrannosaur), plus the most complete specimen of a Late Cretaceous therizinosaur ever collected from North America, and much more. At the Top of the Grand Staircase: The Late Cretaceous of Southern Utah documents this major stepping stone toward a synthesis of the ecology and evolution of the Late Cretaceous ecosystems of western North America.
IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in this subject.

Gilbert, Elizabeth. The Signature of All Things. 2013. Viking. Hardbound 501 pages. Price: $28.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker, a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henrys brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her fathers money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.
Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilberts wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.
IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: If you enjoyed the author's other books, you should enjoy this one.

Lieberman, Daniel E.. The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease. 2013. Pantheon. Hardbound: 461 pages. Price: $27.95 [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman—chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and a leader in the field—gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years, even as it shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern world is occasioning this paradox: greater longevity but increased chronic disease.
The Story of the Human Body brilliantly illuminates as never before the major transformations that contributed key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering, leading to our superlative endurance athleticism; the development of a very large brain; and the incipience of cultural proficiencies. Lieberman also elucidates how cultural evolution differs from biological evolution, and how our bodies were further transformed during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.
While these ongoing changes have brought about many benefits, they have also created conditions to which our bodies are not entirely adapted, Lieberman argues, resulting in the growing incidence of obesity and new but avoidable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Lieberman proposes that many of these chronic illnesses persist and in some cases are intensifying because of “dysevolution,” a pernicious dynamic whereby only the symptoms rather than the causes of these maladies are treated. And finally—provocatively—he advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment.
IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: An interesting overview of Human evolution.

VanderMeer, Jeff. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. 2013. Abrams. Paperback: 332 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US].
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts information needed to improve as a writer. Aimed at aspiring and intermediate-level writers, Wonderbook includes helpful sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names in fantasy today, such as George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few.
IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: An interesting illustrated approach to writing fiction.

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Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen is an avid book collector who is especially well-known to the publishing world. Mr Paulsen collects newly-published books about nature, animals and birds, science, and history, and he also collects children's books on these topics. Mr Paulsen writes brief synopses about these books on his website, The Birdbooker Report.

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