Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some Great Books - Just in Time For Christmas!

Christmas is just around the corner, and I'm guessing that some of you are not quite done with your holiday shopping, so I thought I would compile a list of some of my favorite animal and nature related books for you!  Check them out, I GUARANTEE you will like at least ONE of them!  Also, these aren't necessarily in order from favorite to least favorite, especially more towards the bottom.  Enjoy!

1.  Raptor Red - This fantastic novel by esteemed paleontologist Dr. Robert T. Bakker is unique, as far as I know, when it comes to the combination of accurate scientific information and a story told from the first-person viewpoint of a Utahraptor.  It might sound weird, to be sure, but don't judge it until you read it: this is one of the best books I have ever read!  I have only heard one person ever say that she didn't like it, but then I discovered that she had not read past the first chapter....oh well, fun isn't for everyone, I suppose!

2.  The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction - This is another one of my most favorite books.  Written by David Quammen, it explores islands from all over the world, as well as some from the past, too, and also discusses how island biogeography can be used today to help stop the extinction of mainland species.  Fans of the well-known Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs, and Steel) will certainly enjoy this book and, in fact, Quammen references Diamond throughout the book, as well as many other eminent scientists.  Quammen's quick but subtle wit helps to make this book a classic.

3.  ZooBorns - Any book in this series will do.  I swear, I can look at these books for days upon end without getting bored.  These books are what inspired our very own "Zoo Babies" feature, and provide hours of entertainment, while being cute and informative at the same time.  As a report from the Seattle Post Intelligence says, "ZooBorns pulls off the difficult task of being cute and interesting for people of all ages while also being informative. Many books seek this lofty goal but most fail."  Couldn't have said it better myself, which is why I copied and pasted that sentence from the ZooBorns website.

4.  Tasmanian Tiger - The Tragic Tale of How the World Lost Its Most Mysterious Predator - This excellent, albeit sad, chronicle of the downfall of the Tasmanian Tiger, or Thylacine, is an absolute must-have for any nature fan out there.  Written by David Owen who, along with David Pemberton, wrote the similar book entitled Tasmanian Devil: A Unique and Threatened Animal (a book which I also highly recommend), both books are excellent reads.

5.  Dinosaur Odyssey - I believe that, on this blog, this book has been referenced more than any other and, in fact, I have built several posts around it, including our POST ABOUT ODDLY NAMED CREATURES, as well as our POST ABOUT WHAT REALLY KILLED THE DINOSAURS.  Written by Dr. Scott D. Sampson (or "Dr. Scott" to Dinosaur Train fans: yes, he is an actual paleontologist!), this book chronicles all of the essentials for anyone interested in dinosaurs, including their origin, their extinction, what makes a dinosaur a dinosaur, and so much more.  Definitely a top-pick!

6.  Chasing Kangaroos - Written by kangaroo expert Tim Flannery, this book talks all about the authors adventures with kangaroos across Australia and New Guinea, and talks about the evolution of kangaroos as well.  He delves into other aspects of Australia's history that have affected the kangaroos as well, including dingos, the arrival of humans, and the Ice Age, amongst other things.  Be sure to read about the ever-fascinating carnivorous kangaroo, Propleopus, one of my all-time favorite animals!

7.  Gorgon - Similar to Chasing Kangaroos in the style of writing, this book talks a great deal about the causes and effects of the great and mysterious Permian Extinction.  Written by the esteemed paleontologist Peter D. Ward, this book talks about the vast and dangerous Karoo Desert in South Africa, and also talks about the political events that were going on at the time, such as Apartheid.  An incredibly interesting, funny, but sometimes sad, book, Gorgon is an excellent read.

8.  Penguins: Past and Present, Here and There - Written by the late and highly-esteemed mammalian paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, this book, though a bit dated, still seems to be one of the best extinct penguin books you can find.

9.  The Dinosaur Heresies - Another book by Dr. Bakker, this book, like the penguin one above, is also a bit dated, but nevertheless highly informative.  As we have talked about IN A PREVIOUS POST, Dr. Bakker and his mentor, John Ostrom, were highly instrumental in bringing about the so-called Dinosaur Rennaisance, an event that turned the long-standing idea of dinosaurs being slow, sluggish, and stupid on its head.  This book primarily talks about the various aspects of this idea, and is really quite interesting!

10.  Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-To-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages - Written by esteemed paleontologist Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, chock-full of excellent illustrations by the talented paleoartist Luis V. Rey, and equipped with "contributions by thirty-three of the world's leading paleontologists," this book is fantastic for people of all ages, and takes in the dinosaurs as a whole.  Fantastic book!

11.  Cheetah (Big Cat Diary) - If you aren't a fan of Big Cat Diary, well then GET ON THE TRAIN!  AMAZING SHOW!  THE SOAP OPERA OF THE SERENGETI!  But seriously, though, this FANTASTIC (and yes, I am quoting Jonathan Scott when I say that) show comes with several companion books, of which the cheetah one is easily my favorite.  Written by Mr. Scott and his wife, Angela Scott, this book has tons of amazing photographs and talks all about both cheetahs in general, as well as the specific cats on the show.

12.  Life of Mammals - Written by one of my personal heroes, Sir David Attenborough, this book is a companion book to the popular TV show by the same name.  The book has so many color photographs, and will introduce you hundreds of mammals from around the globe, many of which you probably have never heard of: I know I haven't heard of them all!

13.  Alex and Me - Written by famous scientist Dr. Irene Pepperberg, this book chronicles her work with the famous African gray parrot named Alex: one of my most favorite books, this book is a fascinating glimpse into the minds of those supposedly mindless automatons.  

14.  Planet Dinosaur - Just like Life of Mammals, this book is also a companion book to the TV show of the same name.  Many of the dinosaur-related topics that we have discussed on this blog I first learned from Planet Dinosaur, including the dwarf dinosaurs of HaČ›eg Island and the fact that Spinosaurus probably ate fish.  But be warned: when they tell you that Sinornithosaurus had a poisonous bite, just remember that this has been proven almost completely wrong.  

15.  The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives - This book goes into the various big cats from around the world and across time, and talks about various aspects of their fascinating anatomy.  Written by Mauricio Anton and Alan Turner.

16.  Tideland Treasure - Written by Todd Ballantine, this book is a compilation of the years of newspaper spots that he did.  Kind of hard to describe, but its almost like a comic.  Just buy the book to find out about what I am talking about, as well as learn all about the east coast of the United States!

17.  Forest Cats of North America - Written by Jerry Kobalenko (what a great last name!), this excellent book talks about the bobcat, Canadian lynx, and the mountian lion, and is quite entertaining: I got it at The Living Desert and read it all in one day, quite a good book!  It's where I got the information regarding the Canadian lynx/snowshoe hare population fluctuations from, back in our post about Propleopus.  

18.  Life-Size Dinosaurs - Should be pretty self explanatory!  Written by David Bergen.   

So let me know if you live near me and are interested in borrowing any of these books!  I have most of them and the ones that I don't currently have I will most likely be getting soon (boy that sounds ominous doesn't it).  Let me know!

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