Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

 

 

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books - Wild Animals

 

 

 

Short List of Best Recommended Books on African Animals

African ElephantsAfrican Elephants
Reinhard Kunkel

Few wildlife photographers have worked in such close proximity with their subjects as Reinhard Kunkel. His close observation and decades of familiarity with these majestic animals are on display in the amazing photographs in this book. The 120 color plates capture elephants in all aspects of their daily lives: eating, bathing, mating, traveling, socializing, playing and fighting. A gorgeous volume. 1999, Harry N. Abrams


On this EarthOn this Earth: Photographs from East Africa
Nick Brandt

Nick Brandt depicts the animals of East Africa with an intimacy and artistry unmatched by other photographers who choose wildlife as their subject. He creates these majestic sepia and blue-tone photos contrasting moments of quintessential stillness with bursts of dramatic action by engaging with these creatures on an exceptionally intimate level, without the customary use of a telephoto lens. Evocative of classical art, from dignified portraits to sweeping natural tableaux, Brandt's images artfully and simply capture animals in their natural states of being. On This Earth is a gorgeous portfolio of some of the last wild animals and a heartfelt elegy to a vanishing world. 2005, Chronicle Books

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Ants and Butterflies - The Insects

Adventures Among AntsAdventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions
Mark W. Moffett

Entomologist Moffett, who has been described as the “Indiana Jones of entomology,” takes the reader along as he travels the world in search of ants. Ants are found on every continent except Antarctica and in virtually every climate. They are masters at exploiting an abundant niche -- the cracks, crevices, gaps, hollows, and other interstices of the environment. Studying ants has led him to India and the marauder ant, which has workers of three sizes, the largest being 500 times the size of the smallest; in Nigeria, he watches army ants on raids; weaver ants in Australia, Asia, and Africa use their larvae’s ability to spin silk to bind leaves together to make a nest. Copiously illustrated with photographs by the author. 2011, University of California Press


Life in the UndergrowthLife in the Undergrowth
David Attenborough

This wonderful exploration of invertebrates exceeds the requirements for a great nature book through the strength of its photographs and the quality of its prose. It traces the broad history of the development of the vast invertebrate world which constitutes by far the greatest numbers of both species and individuals on earth. 2006, Princeton University Press

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Birds and Bird Identification

The Birds of HeavenThe Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes
Peter Matthiessen

National Book Award winner Peter Matthiessen, a self-professed "craniac," has been studying birds most of his life, but his pursuit of cranes is closer to a spiritual quest than a naturalist's exercise. These majestic, mythic and notoriously shy birds, capable of soaring at heights of 20,000 feet, are often fond of remote and rugged places. Matthiessen's search for cranes has taken him to hidden corners of Siberia, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Sudan, and Australia. Matthiessen observes that the cranes serve as an ecological warning: "Perhaps more than any other living creatures, they evoke the retreating wilderness, the vanishing horizons of clean water, earth, and air upon which their species - and ours too - must ultimately depend for survival." 2001, North Point Press


The Life of Birds (3 - DVD set)The Life of Birds (3 DVD Set)

The definitive series on the most colorful, popular and perfectly adapted creatures on earth, The Life of Birds traverses the globe, covering 42 countries and examining over 300 different species. Pushing filming technology to the limits, new behavior is brought to the screen in staggering detail. Infrared cameras find oilbirds deep in pitch-black caves; ultra-slowmotion film unravels the complexities of bird flight; and ultraviolet cameras reveal the world from a bird's point of view. Ten hours viewing time. 2002, BBC Warner

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Elephants

African ElephantsAfrican Elephants
Reinhard Kunkel

Few wildlife photographers have worked in such close proximity with their subjects as Reinhard Kunkel. His close observation and decades of familiarity with these majestic animals are on display in the amazing photographs in this book. The 120 color plates capture elephants in all aspects of their daily lives: eating, bathing, mating, traveling, socializing, playing and fighting. A gorgeous volume. 1999, Harry N. Abrams


Elephant Memories

Nature and Environmental Book Review

Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family
Cynthia Moss

Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya is home ground to some 600 elephants; this herd has been relatively free from human interference and was a major focus for field study. Moss follows one extended family through 13 years of good times and bad times, observing details of their daily lives. This captivating story of an animal family covers mating, migration, social behavior, births and deaths. The final chapter addresses the problems of elephant control and conservation. 2000, University of Chicago Press

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Endangered Animals

The Exultant ArkThe Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure
Jonathan Peter Balcombe

This visually stunning book celebrates the full range of animal experience with dramatic portraits of animal pleasure ranging from the charismatic and familiar to the obscure and bizarre. These photographs, windows onto the inner lives of pleasure seekers, show two polar bears engaged in a bout of wrestling, hoary marmots taking time for a friendly chase, Japanese macaques enjoying a soak in a hot spring, a young bull elk sticking out his tongue to catch snowflakes, and many other rewarding moments. Author Jonathan Balcombe interprets the images within the scientific context of what is known about animal behavior. 2011, University of California Press


ListedListed: Dispatches from America's Endangered Species Act
Joe Roman

More than a general history of endangered species protection, Listed is a tale of threatened species in the wild—from the whooping crane and North Atlantic right whale to the purple bankclimber, a freshwater mussel tangled up in a water war with Atlanta—and the people working to save them. Employing methods from the new field of ecological economics, Roman challenges the widely held belief that protecting biodiversity is too costly. And with engaging directness, he explains how preserving biodiversity can help economies and communities thrive. Above all, he shows why the extinction of species matters to us personally—to our health and safety, our prosperity, and our joy in nature. 2011, Harvard University Press


No Way Home

Nature and Environmental Book Review

No Way Home: The Decline of the World's Great Animal Migrations
David S. Wilcove

Today's migratory travelers face unprecedented dangers. Skyscrapers and cell towers lure birds and bats to untimely deaths; fences and farms block herds of antelop;, salmon are caught en route between ocean and rive;, breeding and wintering grounds are paved over or plowed under; and global warming disrupts the synchronized schedules of predators and prey. Wilcove writes, "Protecting the abundance of migration is key to protecting the glory of migration." This book offers powerful inspiration to preserve those glorious journeys. 2007, Island Press

 


Planet Earth and The Blue Planet Seas of LifePlanet Earth & The Blue Planet Seas of Life (Special Collector's Edition - 10 DVD Set)
Alastair Fothergill, producer

BBC natural history producer Alastair Fothergill spent the last ten years producing two of the most stunningly beautiful series ever created. Seas of Life is the definitive exploration of the marine world, chronicling the mysteries of the deep, coastline populations, sea mammals, tidal and climatic influences, and the complete biological system that revolves around the world's oceans. Planet Earth uses high definition photography and revolutionary ultra-high speed cameras to produce the ultimate portrait of our planet - capturing rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet's best loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. Sixteen hours of viewing time, including many extra features. 2007, BBC Warner

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Frogs - The Amphibians

Nature's Fading ChorusNature's Fading Chorus: Classis and Contemporary Writings on Amphibians
Robert Michael Pyle and Gordon Miller

Naturalists in every age have been intrigued by frogs, toads, and salamanders. Nature's Fading Chorus presents an anthology of writings on amphibians drawn from the entire Western natural history tradition, beginning with Aristotle's Inquiry Concerning Animals written in the fourth century B.C.E., and continuing through recent scientific accounts of the relatively sudden - and alarming - global declines and deformities in amphibian species. The offerings not only reveal much about amphibian life, but also provide fascinating insight into the worldviews of the many writers, scientists, and naturalists who have delved into the subject. 2000, Island Press

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Grizzlies, Pandas, Polar Bears - The Bears

In the Company of Wild BearsIn the Company of Wild Bears: A Celebration of Backcountry Grizzlies and Black Bears
Howard Smith and Michael H. Francis

Author Smith delivers a loving tribute to the Ursidae family that will delight animal enthusiasts, combining accounts of his true-life encounters with bears across North America with no-nonsense sidebars that dispense useful information for people interested in seeing bears firsthand. (One tip: "Play dead if touched by a grizzly. Fight back if touched by a black bear.") This lavishly illustrated book is a fascinating compendium of bear information. 2006, The Lyons Press


The World of the Polar BearThe World of the Polar Bear
Norbert Rosing

In this stunning new book, German photographer Rosing has produced the best collection of images of polar bears and their arctic habitat ever assembled in one place. Following the bears through the four seasons, the author shows a cub's first tentative steps outside the snow cave in which he was born. Summer finds the bears stranded on shore as Hudson Bay melts, and they turn to whatever food they can find. In autumn, the bears gather around Churchill, waiting for the freeze and incidentally providing great opportunities for capturing play behavior on film. When winter finally freezes the bay, the bears reenter their true element, crisscrossing the frozen sea ice. Stark beauty, with breath-taking images! 2006, Firefly Books

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Lions and Tigers - The Wild Cats

PredatorPredator: Life and Death in the African Bush
Mark Ross and David Reesor

Based on years of observation in the field the authors present a photo-heavy volume that takes a measured look at five African predators: leopards, cheetas, lions, hyenas, and crocodiles. Each section begins with a "day in the life" vignette, followed by detailed discussions of each species' ecology, including mating, birthing and rearing young, hunting patterns, family structures, and preferences for habitat and prey, using clear prose and striking photography. 2007, Harry N. Abrams


The Snow LeopardThe Snow Leopard
Peter Matthiessen

First published in 1978, The Snow Leopard recounts writer Matthiessen's journey with zoologist George Schaller to the heart of the Himalayan region of Dolpo, "the last enclave of pure Tibetan culture on earth." They were in search of one of the world's most elusive big cats, the snow leopard of high Asia, a creature so rarely spotted as to be nearly mythical. Guiding his readers through steep-walled canyons and over tall mountains, Matthiessen offers a narrative that is shot through with metaphor and mysticism as the arduous search for the snow leopard becomes a vehicle for his reflections on all manner of matters of life and death. Thus The Snow Leopard evolves from an exquisite book of natural history and travel into a grand, Buddhist-tinged parable of our search for meaning. After all their searching, they never found the snow leopard. At the end, Schaller muses, "We've seen so much, maybe its better if there's some things we don't see."
National Book Award 1979 and 1980
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist 1978

2008, Penguin Classics

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Monkeys and Gorillas - The Primates

Bonobo: The Forgotten ApeBonobo: The Forgotten Ape
Frans B. M. de Waal and Frans Lanting

Bonobos are intriguing primates who - though similar in appearance to chimpanzees - behave rather differently. While chimpanzees hunt, fight, and politic like mad, bonobos are peaceful, often ambisexual, and matriarchal. Their most striking idiosyncrasy is their readiness to use sex as a social lubricant. Any tension within a bonobo group is normally resolved by a quick orgy in which they all have sex with one another, in all positions and combinations. de Waal and Lanting provide an excellent framework for understanding these fascinating creatures. 1998, University of California Press


Great ApesGreat Apes (DVD)

Over the past 100 years, humans discovered and nearly destroyed the gorilla. Great Apes details how a few gifted people changed the world's perception of gorillas. Archival footage and beautiful cinematography reveal the unique relationship between pioneers of animal understanding and the wild animals sharing 98 percent of their DNA with humans. Film exerpts profile the work of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Adrian De Shriver. 2006, PBS

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Penguins and Polar Bears - The Arctic and Antarctic Animals

March of the Penguins DVDMarch of the Penguins (DVD)
Luc Jacquet, director

This wildlife classic captures the life cycle of Emperor penguins in Antarctica. The film focuses on a colony of hundreds of Emperors as they return, in a single-file overland march of 70 miles or more, to their frozen breeding ground, far inland from the oceans where they thrive. We see the intensity of the penguins' breeding cycle, and their treacherous task of protecting eggs and hatchlings in temperatures as low as 128 degrees below zero. A marvel of wildlife cinematography, showing us a wild and beautiful world and the incredible survival skills of these animals. 2005, Warner


Vanishing WorldVanishing World: The Endangered Arctic
Fredrik Granath and Mireille de la Lez

Vanishing World is an unprecedented visual record of life in the Arctic. This book is both a celebration of the wildlife that inhabits this harsh and unforgiving climate and the cautionary tale of global warming. Set against a dramatic landscape of ice floes and ragged mountains, readers will see the polar bears, foxes, seals, walruses and reindeers who now struggle to live in this vulnerable climate. A moving book. 2007, Harry N. Abrams

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Rainforest Animals

RainforestRainforest
Thomas Marent

In this evocative work of dazzling photographs, each inhabitant of the rainforest becomes memorable for its clever camouflage, ingenious coexistence with the other species of this fragile world, or even its sheer size, in the case of the 42-inch wide Rafflesia flower. An invaluable survey of the rainforest's abundance and diversity of life. 2010, DK Publishing

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Sea Creatures

The Blue Planet and Seas of Life DVD setThe Blue Planet and Seas of Life (5-DVD Special Edition)

Winner of 2 Emmy Awards, The Blue Planet is the definitive exploration of the marine world, chronicling the mysteries of the deep in ways never before imagined. Six and one-half hours of viewing time includes 80 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. 2007, BBC Warner


Song for the Blue OceanSong for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas
Carl Safina

In this lyrical and heartfelt account of the North Atlantic Blue Tuna and Pacific Salmon, Safina describes how populations have fallen by more than 90% in just the last few decades - the result of changing global temperatures, overfishing, pollution, and inland watershed destruction. Safina argues that we must extend our sense of biological community to ocean animals before it is too late.  1999, Owl Books


Voyage of the TurtleVoyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur
Carl Safina

MacArthur fellow Safina presents an impassioned account of the plight of ocean-dwelling turtles, especially the largest, the leatherback -- "the closest thing we have to a living dinosaur." Leatherbacks, which can weigh over a ton, range across the oceans to nesting sites on beaches along the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards. Human activities threaten these turtles with extinction: poaching, longline fishing nets in which the turtles can drown and depletion of the turtles' food supply due to overfishing and global warming. Safina's eloquent book is a battle cry in the struggle for the survival of one of the world's most beautiful and endangered creatures. 2007, Holt

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Snakes and Turtles - The Reptiles

The Atlas of Snakes of the WorldThe Atlas of Snakes of the World
John Coborn

This 591-page compendium of everything known about snakes includes snake evolution, classification, and general biology; interaction of snakes and humans; information for the pet owner; reproduction and propagation facts. But the bulk of the book is a heavily illustrated survey of the world's snakes: pit vipers, sea snakes, cobras, mambas, kraits, coral snakes, pythons and boas, rattlesnakes, and many other species. 1991, TFH Publications


The Earth MovedThe Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms
Amy Steward

In this fascinating book, readers are taken on a journey underground to see the impact worms have on humans and on our planet. Referring often to Charles Darwin's The Formation ofVegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations of Their Habits, Stewart educates on the vital role these creatures play in growing crops, how they can neutralize the effects of nuclear waste on soil, and their ability to regenerate new body parts. An avid gardener, the author begins with the worms crawling through her own backyard before visiting them in such destinations as an endangered redwood forest in California, a sewage-treatment plant in San Francisco, a nature preserve in Minnesota, and The Giant Worm Museum in Australia (which is shaped like a 325-foot-long worm). 2005, Algonquin Books

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Whales and Dolphins

Eye of the WhaleEye of the Whale: Epic Passage from Baja to Siberia
Dick Russell

Thrilling whale watchers, stumping scientists and reminding environmentalists of the fragility of our ecological balance, the mysterious, massive gray whale takes an epic and emotional place in our hearts and minds. Here environmental journalist Russell makes a passionate argument for the protection of California gray whales.  Russell follows their yearly 5000-mile swim from the warm lagoons in Baja where they give birth up the Pacific coast of North America to the shallow and comparably chilly feeding grounds of Chirikof Basin in the Bering Sea. Along the way, he tells the harrowing tale of the gray's near extinction due to commercial whaling and the many real threats to the species from predators and human commercial development, while also detailing the work of marine biologists and environmentalists. 2004, Island Press


The Grandest of LivesThe Grandest of Lives: eye to Eye with Whales
Douglas H. Chadwick

In this compelling book wildlife biologist Chadwick records what he has learned and observed of five whale species, including the humpback, described by Melville as "the most gamesome and light-hearted of all the whales"; the bottlenose, an exceptionally intelligent whale that can dive to great depths; and the orca, misnamed the "killer" whale, a very social whale that does not attack humans. Whales have such a complex assortment of lifestyles, cultures and social relationships, it's hard to avoid anthropomorphizing them, especially since they seem to be as curious about humans as humans are about them. Chadwick makes a powerful case for increased efforts to preserve the whales’ underwater environment. 2008, Sierra Club/Counterpoint

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Short List of Best Recommended Books on Wolves

The Last Wild Wolves

Nature and Environmental Book Review

The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts of the Rain Forest
Ian McAllister

Award-winning writer and photographer McAllister draws from his intimate observations of more than 40 wolf packs along the rugged coastline of British Columbia over a 17 year period in this first-ever documentation of their fascinating, complex way of life. In a compelling narrative with more than 100 stunning photographs, McAllister captures these majestic animals fishing for salmon, stalking the seals, playing on the beach, and raising their families. 2007, University of California Press

 


Of Wolves and MenOf Wolves and Men
Barry Lopez

In this essential book about Canis lupus, first published in 1978, Barry Lopez writes, "The wolf exerts a powerful influence on the human imagination. It takes your stare and turns it back on you." Of Wolves and Men is a careful study of the way that wolves and humans have interacted over centuries, and the way that the wolf has become so central to our thinking about animals. Drawing on considerable personal experience with wolves and on an astonishing range of literature, Lopez argues for the necessity of wolves in the world, which would be much poorer without their howl. 1979, Scribner

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