Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books



Penguins and Polar Bears - The Arctic and Antarctic Animals

The Arctic and Antarctic regions comprise the most severe environments anywhere on Earth. Yet both regions are filled with animals, from microscopic sea life to the largest of the whales who visit the regions seasonally. Migrating birds and mammals make their way northward every spring to feast on the bounty of the brief Arctic summer. Penguins, sea mammals, albatrosses and other pelagic birds make their way to Antarctica for summertime feeding and breeding and birthing.

These lives of these animals are fascinating as we see how well-adapted they are for life in these extreme environments. The recommended books in this section document these adaptations; the videos and photographic books provide stunning visual proof of the vibrancy and challenge of life in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Recommended Books and DVDs on Penguins and Polar Bears - The Arctic and Antarctic Animals

Arctic DreamsArctic Dreams
Barry Lopez

Lopez offers a thorough examination of this obscure world-its terrain, its wildlife, its history of Eskimo natives and intrepid explorers who have arrived on their icy shores. But what turns this marvelous work of natural history into a breathtaking study of profound originality is his unique meditation on how the landscape can shape our imagination, desires, and dreams. Its prose as hauntingly pure as the land it describes, Arctic Dreams is nothing less than an indelible classic of modern literature.
Barry Lopez has created a “passionate paean to the Arctic and its cycles of light and darkness, its species of ice, its creatures and waters…” New York Times Book Review
National Book Award 1986
National Book Critics Circle Award 1986

2001, Vintage

BBC Atlas of the Natural World Western Hemisphere and anarctica DVDBBC Atlas of the Natural World
Western Hemisphere and Anarctica (6 DVD Set)

Learn of the natural history of Central America in the 4-part Spirits of the Jaguar; see the eye-opening ecological history of North America in Land of the Eagle (4 parts); enjoy the dazzling nature photography in the 4-part series Wild South America; and tour Antartica is the 6-part series Life in the Freezer. 18 hours viewing time. 2006, BBC Warner

Being CaribouBeing Caribou (DVD)

This compelling film shows environmentalist Leanne Allison and husband wildlife biologist Karsten Heuer, as they follow the Porcupine caribou herd on its five-month, 1000-mile annual trek from the central Yukon to coastal Alaska and back. They follow the herd through a wild and remote landscape, skiing across mountains, swimming icy rivers and traveling through swarms of mosquitoes. They encounter grizzly bears, wolves and other wildlife as they experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the landscape. A film of beauty and courage. 2007, Reel Indies

Birds of the WorldBirds of the World
Myriam Baran-Marescot and Billes Martin

In this beautiful volume nature photographer Giles Martin offers a breathtaking collection of images of some of the world's most charasmatic birds, from Peru's Toco Toucan, to Australia's Blue-winged Kookaburra, to the U.S. Bald Eagle. Structured around 12 major themes that enable readers to better understand the evolution, migratory habits, and survival techniques of birds, as well as their place in the world, this thrilling and informative journey is as essential volume for animal and photography lovers alike. 2005, Harry N. Abrams

This Cold HeavenThis Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland
Gretel Ehrlich

Greenland, unlike its name, is 95 percent ice--a landscape of deep rock-walled fjords, glaciers, narwhal whales swimming among icebergs the size of football fields, walruses busting through shifting ice. Ehrlich traveled extensively there in all seasons, befriending the polar Inuit, who still dress in bear and seal skins, and hunt walrus, polar bears, and whales with harpoons. The only constant is weather and the perilous movements of ice, the only transport is dogsled, and the closest village may be a month and a half-long dogsled journey away. Ehrlich learns that the landscape of Greenland is "less a description of desolation than an ode to the beauty of impermanence." 2003, Vintage

Denali - Alaska's Great Wilderness (DVD)Denali - Alaska's Great Wilderness (DVD)

Nature photographer Bruce Reitherman lives beneath the Northern Lights for a year to capture the landscape and wildlife of this "living Eden" on film. He experiences 40-degree below zero weather, soars above jagged mountain peaks by ski-plane, and is chased into a tree by a grizzly bear. He highlights the animals of the park as they live their lives through the four seasons. 2005, PBS

Emperors of the Ice DVDEmperors of the Ice (DVD)

In the frozen wilderness of Antarctica, where oceans ice over and just staying alive is an achievement, one creature has perfected the art of survival - the Emperor penguin. Emperor penguins are sublimely built to conquer the cold, but in a world threatened by climate change, can they take the heat? Using Crittercam, scientists take a virtual ride under the ice with the Emperor penguin to study the impact of climate change on the penguin's world. 2007, National Geographic

End of the EarthEnd of the Earth: Expeditions to South Georgia and Antarctica
Peter Matthiessen

Brilliantly attuned to the transience of nature and painfully aware of the precariousness of a polar environment facing global warming, literary naturalist Peter Matthiessen provides an exquisite account of his voyage through the islands surrounding Antarctica. In lyrical prose, he describes the wildlife he encounters along with historical tales about the greatest pioneers and adventurers who preceded him. Matthiessen brings to life the waters of the richest whale feeding grounds in the world; the wandering albatross with its 11-foot wingspan arching through the sky; and the habits of every variety of seal, walrus, petrel, and penguin in the area. 2004, National Geographic

Icebound SummerIcebound Summer
Sally Carrighar

In Icebound Summer (1953), naturalist Carrighar recounts a summer she spent in the Arctic. Intense and brief, the season brings the seemingly frozen and lifeless tundra to life, as wildlife abounds. This edition is illustrated with numerous black-and-white drawings. 2000, The Derrydale Press

Life in the FreezerLife in the Freezer (DVD)

Antarctica is the wildest, coldest, most isolated continent on Earth; encrusted in 90% of the world's ice, its 5.4 million square miles are doubled each winter by the freezing of the seas. Though the average temperature at the South Pole is -56, this inhospitable landscape is home to a surprisingly rich variety of wildlife. The BBC camera teams braved mountainous seas, 100 mph blizzards, plummeting temperatures and glaciers the size of cathedrals to capture the majesty of Antarctica both on land and underwater. In this starkly beautiful landscape, they discover penguins by the millions, whales by the thousands, half the world's seal population and numberless seabirds. 2005, BBC Warner

March of the Penguins DVD
Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

March 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

Masters of the Arctic Ice DVDMasters of the Arctic Ice (DVD)

Journey to the top of the world to witness first-hand how the planet's changing climate is affecting the creatures that inhabit the icy Arctic. See how the quickly-melting Arctic ice affects the survival skills of ringed seals, polar bears, and narwhals. These Arctic creatures have become masters at negotiating the perils of this frozen world, but their dependence on the ice is also their greatest vulnerability. See how the resourceful creatures of the Arctic are learning to adapt -- from their own point of view. 2007, National Geographic

Vanishing World
Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

Vanishing 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

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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