Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Books for the Nature Geeks

I occasionally review bird books on my Charm of Finches blog. I recently received some review copies of other books from Princeton University Press. They aren't bird books, so I thought they would be more suitable for some of the readers of this blog, as I know some of the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist follow.

I am a little behind on my reviews, so I am going to put three of them in this one post.

The first book is Bugs Rule! An Introduction to the World of Insects, by Whitney Cranshaw and Richard Redak. This book was originally intended as a basic textbook for nonscience people taking a course in entomology. However, you don't have to sign up for a college course to get, read and enjoy this book. This book is about insects and arthropods (spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes and crustaceans.)

This book is not a field guide, but as a way to get a good general grounding in bugs, it would certainly be a nice supplement to a field guide. Lots of wonderful pictures (830 color photos and additional drawings) help illustrate the information in the text.

Although written as a textbook, there is nothing dry about the writing, if you have any interest in the subject at all. When I originally got the book, I thought it might be a nice giveaway at the local Texas Master Naturalist meeting, but after reading the book, you other Master Naturalists will just have to get your own copy. This beautiful hardback book sells for $55 from Princeton University Press, so it isn't cheap. It is $50.17 from Amazon/$34.09 for your Kindle. But if you have a bug lover on your gift list, you could be a hero with this book.

Another book I have spent hours pouring over is The Kingdom of Fungi by Jens H. Petersen. I have always been fascinated by the fungi and their role as decomposers. For what appears to be such a simple plant is so much more than it appears. Over 800 gorgeous pictures in this book drive home just how beautiful these often overlooked plants are. There isn't a lot of text, but what text there is conveys a lot of interesting information. Even if you didn't have a fascination with fungi, you could enjoy the photographs--they're exquisite. If you also have an interest in this little known family of plants, then you'll spend hours, just like me looking and relooking at the pictures. The book does lead you through some basic taxonomy. Although it is not a field guide, again I can see where this book would help you use your field guide more effectively. You can purchase this book for $29.95 from Princeton University Press or for $19.59 from Amazon.

Another excellent book for you naturalists out there is The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees (2nd Ed.) by David More and John White. This is an awesome resource for identifying trees, although it is way too big and heavy to carry into the field. This comprehensive book catalogs nearly 2,000 tree species in North America and Europe. With some 5,000 illustrations, there are enough illustrations of leaves, twigs, fruit, bark, etc., to help guide even the least knowledgeable among us (like me.) I have trouble identifying trees outside of the few species I have gotten to know through frequent exposure.  I don't do well with most field guides identifying trees. This one has a lot more detail to help compare similar species. In addition to the usual information found in a field guide, however, this book has more information about the origins of the trees and various cultivars. This would be a fine addition to not only a naturalist's library, but that of a gardener. This book is available from Princeton University Press for $49.95 and from Amazon for $38.40.

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