Book Recommendations

I’m about to finish The Birds at My Table by Darryl Jones and then I’ll read The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte and Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. What books are y’all reading or have really enjoyed reading? I’m looking to expand my library and add to the list of books I want to read next.

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Two books that I’ve enjoyed recently are Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb.

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The Secret Life of Flies is an entertaining and educational read.

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Right now I’m reading ‘The Plight of the Living Dead,’ a book notionally about mind-controlling parasites, but I would honestly struggle to recommend it.

However, there are some nature/ecology books I can highly recommend;

Dinosaurs, how they lived and evolved by Darren Naish & Paul Barrett. Published by the CSIRO, this provides a great overview of Dinosaur Taxonomy, Anatomy, Ethology, and Evolution. It’s rather brief and broad, but still good.

Animal Weapons by Douglas Emlen focuses on how animals evolved and use ‘weapons’ in both interspecies and conspecific competition.

The Tiger by John Vaillant is one of my all-time favourite books, and utterly unique. On the face, it is about a team of wildlife trackers working for the Russian government who track and kill a man-eating tiger, but that aspect makes about 20% of the book by page. The rest is filled in by everything from Tiger Ethology & Ecology to the Social & Economic history of the region the story takes place in, far-east Siberia. All this fascinating History and Biology is woven well into the short narrative of tiger-hunting so that it never feels out of place, and the narrative is itself written as a police whodunit, although we always know it was the tiger - narrative tension is built around if there will be another victim, and if so who it will be. It’s a book that really has everything and, against the old adage, does everything well.

Taking one side-step from Nature and Ecology leads me to another favourite i have to mention; Behave, by Robert Sapolsky. On the face of it, this is a book about explaining the biology of human behaviour, but it pulls a bit of a trick there, and as an animal lover, it’s one i’m fond of. It turns out, most Behavioural Biology has been studied in animals, so really it’s a book about the biology of animal behaviour – and what that teaches us about the biology of our own. It covers everything from Neuroscience through genetics though cultural & biological evolution.

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Reaktion Books has a whole series of species specific monographs that tend to be good, and generally not overwhelming in length.

Any of the Collins New Naturalist library tend to be good reads, they are a a little UK / Europe in orientation.

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As a general classic, it’s definitely worth finding a copy of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.

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A Sand County Almanac is one of my favorite books. We read it in a wildlife management class at Auburn and then do a project where we keep a journal like Aldo Leopold.

This is old stuff and possibly more easily found in the used book stores or libraries - thouroughly enjoyed the writings of Stephen Jay Gould (September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002). For those who don’t know him or forgot about him, he was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. Collections of the 300 popular essays in Natural History magazine come to mind.

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I recommend “Messages from Islands: A Global Biodiversity Tour” by the ecologist Ilkka Hanski.

Also “Field Notes on Science and Nature” by Canfield et al gives interesting views on how different people make notes and observations.

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I recommend The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean. Great read for anyone interested in Florida Orchids!

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Anything by David Quammen. Another older writer I really like is Edwin Way Teale. You can probably find his books in your local library.

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If it’s OK to stray from nature and biology a bit … A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a great book about understanding the universe. It’s a layman’s intro to, chemistry, physics, quantum physics, astronomy, and much more. He is a very entertaining author. He also wrote a A Walk in the Woods about the Appalachian Trail (it’s more about people, but, there’s some nature in there). It was sooooooo much better than the movie.

And as long as I’m straying… The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan about where food comes from, or can come from. There is a little random biology and ecology in there, too.

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Agree with the Bill Bryson recommendations too! But for another great Michael Pollan I’d recommend: The Botany of Desire. Got me really intrigued by plant viruses that humans have bred into things like tulips.

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