As promised to a reader who inquired as to what books I would recommend to any naturalist, regardless of where on the planet they may live or study, I offer the following list of books that I consider as highly beneficial to anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of natural history. The list is, of course, woefully incomplete, and I most heartily welcome comments as to what other titles should be added to it. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
When I was at university, I had the privilege of studying under the direction of one of the century’s great scholars of religious history, Dr. Richard Rohrbaugh. Professor Rohrbaugh specialized is the analysis of the early Christian period through the paradigm of socio-cultural anthropology. For all the things I learned from him I shall never be able to sufficiently thank or repay him, but of these myriad things, one of the first – and the one he turned to again and again – was the art of what he called “crap detection.” Keep reading…
They were special books – you could tell that just from the fact that they were kept in an unique set of shelves all by themselves in my middle school’s library. And of course by their size – they were so large that the set of shelves in which they were kept had a slanted reading stand atop it just to hold them in place while they were being used. No student could check one of them out; they always remained in the library so the librarian could keep them under close supervision. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
Whenever I read an article about global climate change, it seems as though the focus is always forward – “what are we going to do?” However as an amateur historian of natural history, my mind tends to work better when asking questions not of the future but of the past.
A printed field guide to bird vocalizations? It’s an interesting idea, to be sure. Indeed, at first glance I thought it was a bit… well, daft. However after spending a little more time looking through an advance copy…
Just what exactly is it about Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species that caused – and indeed, continues to cause – so many Americans to lose their minds at the very thought of people reading it? (We’ll put aside the question of whether such people actually read it themselves, as experience has taught me that they generally haven’t.) But what of those Americans who didn’t recoil from it and who read it for themselves?
When I first learned about the publication of Brooke Borel’s The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking back in late 2016, I thought “This is THE book for our time.” However now, having learned about the forthcoming publication of a second edition of Scott L. Montgomery’s The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science, I’m in a bit of a quandary.
Written by Paul Waring and Martin Townsend, and illustrated by Richard Lewington, this forthcoming third edition of the “Field Guide to Moths of Great Britain and Ireland” promises to be fully revised, updated, and restructured.
Every so often, a report is made through one of the better international news agencies of a large, very public destruction of a cache of elephant ivory. These spectacles are generally intended to draw attention to the illegal trade in the substance, as well as to draw attention to the dwindling number of elephants in the world.
As luck would have it, the grade school I attended had just that year reduced its size from a kindergarten through sixth grade school to a kindergarten through fourth grade school as the result of a then new “middle school” being opened as part of a nineteen-seventies progressive restructuring that took in the fifth and sixth grade students from our grade school as well as two other grade schools in the area. As a result of this, my school ended up with a number of no longer needed classrooms – one of which was a biology lab.
I’ll save the story of what we discovered one day in the storage closet in that lab for another time; however for the purpose of this essay, what we discovered on the tables during a teacher-sent errand into this now-abandoned lab were microscopes – old-fashioned but perfectly serviceable microscopes, both compound and dissecting styles. None of the remaining teachers at the school had any use for them, so for the better part of that year they simply sat collecting dust in the usually locked lab.
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
“But I am aiming for a bigger audience than students of life sciences. Reading the Origin can teach anyone at any level important lessons about the structure of science and the meaning of the word theory. […] Reading the Origin can also highlight the role that that evolutionary theory played in shaping the future development of science.”
The CBC’s 24 December episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald is entirely dedicated to interviews with authors of recent science-themed books. While not exactly natural history proper, the conversations are indeed interesting. The authors appearing are David Grinspoon, author of Earth in Human Hands; Shaping Our Planet’s Future, Melba Kurman, who along with […]