Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books



Snakes and Turtles - The Reptiles

These recommended books describe the rich diversity of reptile life worldwide, and include volumes on snakes, turtles – and the lowly earthworm. Note: we’ve just been apprised of the fact that earthworms are NOT reptiles (nor amphibians either), but annelids, segmented worms. We beg forbearance from those more biologically literate – but we want to include The Earth Moved, Amy Steward’s fascinating book on earthworms, and this seemed the best section for it!

It turns out that this would not be nearly so green a world without the untiring efforts of earthworms. Charles Darwin (1881) wrote: “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.” Scientists estimate that poor soils may support 250,000 worms per acre, while fertile farmland may have up to 1,750,000 worms per acre!

Back to the “true” reptiles: The Atlas of Snakes of the World is an amazing guide to everything known about snakes, and includes wonderful illustrations. Check it out.

Recommended Books and DVDs on Snakes and Turtles - The Reptiles

The Atlas of Snakes of the World
Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

The 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 Moved
Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

The 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

Lonesome GeorgeLonesome George: The Life and Loves of the World's Most Famous Tortoise
Henry Nicholls

The Galapagos Islands are the home of giant tortoises, for which the islands are named. 9 different types of tortoises evolved in isolation on separate islands in the archipelago. The tortoises of the most northerly island, Pinta, were supposed to have been extinct since 1906, but in 1971 a biologist discovered a single, lone tortoise. Lonesome George, as he was later christened, was captured and transported to the tortoise-breeding center at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz. Further searches of Pinta turned up no more tortoises, and it appears that Lonesome George was the last of his kind. Science writer Nicholls tells the story of Lonesome George, of his rise to conservation poster boy, and of his status as a tourist attraction. 2007, Macmillan

Search for the Great Turtle MotherSearch for the Great Turtle Mother
Jack Rudloe

A rotating rock that exercises a directing force over the migration of sea turtles is the legendary Turtle Mother of Rudloe's quest. Accounts by Central American coastal inhabitants, fishermen, and academicians explain that Turtle Mother folklore provided a conservation ethic that guided early inhabitants to harvest turtles at a sustainable rate in contrast with current destructive practices. Travels through warring countries, confrontations with hostile poachers, and other hair-raising adventures are interwoven with the natural history of the sea turtle. This captivating book leaves the reader with a fresh perspective on the condition of marine turtles and the people who depend on them. 2003, Great Outdoors Publishing

Singing the Turtles to SeaSinging the Turtles to Sea: The Comcáac (Seri) Art and Science of Reptiles
Gary Paul Nabhan

Singing the Turtles to Sea vividly describes the desert of Sonora, Mexico, its phantasmagoric landforms, and its equally fantastic animals. This book contains important new information on the origins, biogeography, and conservation status of marine and desert reptiles in this region. Nabhan also discusses the significance of reptiles in Seri folklore, natural history, language, medicine, and art. This book is a magnificent ethnobiology that also succeeds in linking the importance of preserving ecological diversity with issues such as endangered languages and human rights. Singing the Turtles to Sea ultimately points the way toward a more hopeful future for the native cultures and animals of the Sonoran desert and for the preservation of indigenous cultures and species around the world. 2003, University of California Press

SnakesSnakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature
Harry W. Greene

Herpetologist Greene offers life histories of cobras and adders, rattlers and constrictors, showing the astonishing variety in what is, all in all, a fairly simple form. He discusses snake locomotion, adaptation, coloration, nomenclature, mimicry, and habits; all the while peppering his scientific prose with personal notes on encounters with sometimes testy subjects around the world. Magnificent photographs enrich this anecdotal and scholarly narrative. 1997, University of California Press

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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