Birdbooker Report 323

2 June 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.

Featured Title:

  1. Vinicombe, Keith, Alan Harris, and Laurel Tucker. The Helm Guide to Bird Identification. 2014. Helm/Bloomsbury. Paperback: 369 pages. Price: $42.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This book covers difficult identification issues by looking at tricky species pairs or groups of birds, and comparing and contrasting their respective features. Designed as a field companion, it supplements the standard field guides and provides much additional information. As well as detailed texts, the books include extensive illustrations of all relevant ages and plummages of the species concerned.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: I see this book as a supplement to the Birds of Europe published by Collins/Princeton University Press. Birders on BOTH sides of the Atlantic Ocean will find this book useful!

New and Recent Titles:

  1. Foley, Charles et al. A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania. 2014. Princeton University Press/WILDGuides. Paperback: 320 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Home to the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania offers some of the finest big game watching in the world, from elephants and rhinos to chimpanzees and lions. This field guide covers all the larger mammals of Tanzania, including marine mammals and some newly discovered species. Detailed accounts are provided for more than 135 species, along with color photos, color illustrations of marine mammals, and distribution maps. Accounts for land species give information on identification, subspecies, similar species, ecology, behavior, distribution, conservation status, and where best to see each species. The guide also features plates with side-by-side photographic comparisons of species that are easily confused, as well as first-time-ever species checklists for every national park. This book features:

    • The definitive, most up-to-date field guide to the larger mammals of Tanzania, including marine mammals
    • Features detailed species accounts and numerous color photos throughout
    • Provides tips on where to see each species
    • Includes species checklists for every national park

    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in the mammals of Tanzania will want this book.

  2. Evans, Arthur V. Beetles of Eastern North America. 2014. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 560 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Beetles of Eastern North America is a landmark book -- the most comprehensive full-color guide to the remarkably diverse and beautiful beetles of the United States and Canada east of the Mississippi River. It is the first color-illustrated guide to cover 1,406 species in all 115 families that occur in the region -- and the first new in-depth guide to the region in more than forty years. Lavishly illustrated with over 1,500 stunning color images by some of the best insect photographers in North America, the book features an engaging and authoritative text by noted beetle expert Arthur Evans.
    Extensive introductory sections provide essential information on beetle anatomy, reproduction, development, natural history, behavior, and conservation. Also included are tips on where and when to find beetles; how to photograph, collect, and rear beetles; and how to contribute to research. Each family and species account presents concise and easy-to-understand information on identification, natural history, collecting, and geographic range. Organized by family, the book also includes an illustrated key to the most common beetle families, with 31 drawings that aid identification, and features current information on distribution, biology, and taxonomy not found in other guides.
    An unmatched guide to the rich variety of eastern North American beetles, this is an essential book for amateur naturalists, nature photographers, insect enthusiasts, students, and professional entomologists and other biologists.
    This book includes:

    • Provides the only comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible full-color treatment of the region's beetles
    • Covers 1,406 species in all 115 families east of the Mississippi River
    • Features more than 1,500 stunning color images from top photographers
    • Presents concise information on identification, natural history, collecting, and geographic range for each species and family
    • Includes an illustrated key to the most common beetle families

    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: This well illustrated guide is a MUST have for anyone with an interest in the beetles of the region.

  3. Schilthuizen, Menno. Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves. 2014. Viking. Hardbound: 245 pages. Price: $28.95 U.S. [Amazon UK/audio download UK; Amazon US/kindle US/audible audio edition US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: What's the easiest way to tell species apart? Check their genitals. Researching private parts was long considered taboo, but scientists are now beginning to understand that the wild diversity of sex organs across species can tell us a lot about evolution.
    Menno Schilthuizen invites readers to join him as he uncovers the ways the shapes and functions of genitalia have been molded by complex Darwinian struggles: penises that have lost their spines but evolved appendages to displace sperm; female orgasms that select or reject semen from males, in turn subtly modifying the females genital shape. We learn why spiders masturbate into miniature webs, discover she dungflies that store sperm from attractive males in their bellies, and see how, when it comes to outlandish appendages and bizarre behaviors, humans are downright boring.
    Natures Nether Regions joyfully demonstrates that the more we learn about the multiform private parts of animals, the more we understand our own unique place in the great diversity of life.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: An introduction to a topic that most people don't spend much time thinking about!
  4. Tolkien, J.R.R. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 425 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.
    From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel’s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.
    But the commentary in this book includes also much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, he expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf "snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup"; but he rebuts the notion that this is "a mere treasure story", "just another dragon tale". He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is "the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history" that raises it to another level. "The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The ‘treasure’ is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination."
    Sellic spell, a "marvellous tale", is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the "historical legends" of the Northern kingdoms.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: Fans of Tolkien's work or of Beowulf should enjoy this book.

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

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