Birdbooker Report 303

13 January 2014 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:

  1. de Queiroz, Alan. The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life. 2014. Basic Books. Hardbound: 360 pages. Price: $27.99 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: How did related species wind up on lands separated by vast oceans? Scientists have long conjectured that plants and animals were scattered over the globe as passengers on drifting continents, but in The Monkey’s Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz shows that the latest evidence points to a more mysterious explanation. He describes how species as diverse as monkeys, frogs, and baobab trees made incredible long-distance ocean journeys: animals swam or rode natural rafts, seeds were carried on storm winds or in the plumage of seabirds, creating the map of life as we know it. Like Basin and Range and The Song of the Dodo, The Monkey’s Voyage combines lyrical prose with a profound exploration of deep history and the nature of scientific discovery.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in biogeography.
  2. Greenway, Alice. The Bird Skinner. 2014. Atlantic Monthly Press. Hardbound: 312 pages. Price: $25.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Alice Greenway’s new novel is a stunning successor to her Los Angeles Times Book Prize–winning debut about two young sisters growing up in the shadow of the Vietnam War. Inspired by the career of her grandfather -- noted ornithologist James C. Greenway Jr. -- The Bird Skinner is a wide-ranging story of lost love and rebirth, set on islands in Maine and the Solomons.
    Jim Kennoway was once an esteemed member of the ornithology department at the Museum of Natural History in New York, collecting and skinning birds as specimens. Slowing down from a hard-lived life and a recent leg amputation, Jim retreats to an island in Maine: to drink, smoke, and to be left alone. As a young man he worked for Naval Intelligence during World War II in the Solomon Islands. While spying on Japanese shipping from behind enemy lines, Jim befriended Tosca, a young islander who worked with him as a scout. Now, thirty years later, Tosca has sent his daughter Cadillac to stay with Jim in the weeks before she begins premedical studies at Yale. She arrives to Jim’s consternation, yet she will capture his heart and the hearts of everyone she meets, irrevocably changing their lives.
    Written in lush, lyrical prose -- rich in island detail, redolent of Maine in summer and of the Pacific -- The Bird Skinner is wise and wrenching, an unforgettable masterwork from an extraordinarily skillful novelist.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: For those that like ornithologically themed fiction.
  3. White, Clayton M., Tom J. Cade and James H. Enderson. Peregrine Falcons of the World. 2013. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 379 pages. Price: $30.00 U.S. (plus shipping). [Amazon US/NHBS US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Perhaps beginning near the end of the Pleistocene, Peregrines began to acquire a vast cosmopolitan distribution, and set the stage for fascinating structural, behavioral, and population distinctions related to where they lived. Those divergences were driven by the various demands of landscapes as different as one can find on earth, including Greenland tundra, South Pacific islands, Utah arid scrublands, the cold wind-swept Aleutians, and warm, moist Indonesian forests. Modern Peregrines reveal that geographic isolation may befall even a creature renowned for great speed and mobility.
    Peregrine Falcons of the World brings together the lifetime experiences of the authors with this splendid falcon in the field and in museums, hundreds of personal accounts by Peregrine observers worldwide, a vast literature on this falcon which is surely among the best-studied birds, scores of superb photographic images so generously supplied, and the matchless art of Andrew Ellis. The goal is to provide a feel for how Peregrines have responded to their varied world, and to earmark the many gaps in what we know. Oddly, Peregrines have not colonized many places, where by any reckoning, they should be.
    In recent times, roughly twenty subspecies of Peregrines were described. The historical reasons for these designations, and our current analyses are provided here. Some populations are very distinct in form and color, but sometimes they geographically overlap and intergrades appear. Each subspecies account also describes distribution, hunting and nesting habitats, migration and wintering ranges, estimated population sizes, and conservation aspects.
    In the end, present day Peregrines appear in at least a score of populations experiencing different degrees of isolation and enjoying different rates of divergence. The challenge of understanding their relationships is sometimes made greater by almost complete lack of information or specimens from vast regions where neighboring subspecies apparently come together because no obvious barrier exists. But the Peregrine Falcon will never lack for serious aficionados. Field people around the world add to the growing literature almost weekly so that someday a more complete appreciation is inevitable.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in this species!

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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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