When I studied field biology in Texas, our first assignment was to trace the borders the biotic regions of Texas on a large road map of the state. WeWhen I studied field biology in Texas, our first assignment was to trace the borders the biotic regions of Texas on a large road map of the state. We then studied the characteristics of each region. Throughout the class, everything we learned about various plant and animal species was grounded in the knowledge of the habitats in which they were found.
Since moving to the UK, I have spent a lot of my time outdoors identifying plants and animals (often to the annoyance of my walking companions). Some of the keys and field guides I've used have been excellent. Nevertheless, I've often felt a bit at sea without having some sort of guide to the habitats in which I found those species.
Ben Avaris' Plants and Habitats turns out to be the book I've been looking for. It is a remarkably concise introduction to the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) plant communities. It is also an incredibly easy-to-use field guide to 700 of the most common plant species in the UK. After a couple of outings, I feel I can safely say that this is the most straightforward field guide I have ever used. Not only are the plants described in terms of the habitats in which you're likely to find them, but they are grouped with plants of similar appearance, rather than phylogenetically.
I highly recommend this book for any budding plant or field biology geek. ...more
This is book is a redesign change from much of the nonsense that gets written about health and fitness. It is one of the best fitness books I've everThis is book is a redesign change from much of the nonsense that gets written about health and fitness. It is one of the best fitness books I've ever read. So many books on health and fitness fall into the category of what I call “one true way” books, which espouse a single way to be healthy. Usually these books are trying to sell you something beyond the book.
Cardio or Weights is different. It is organised as a series of questions about health and fitness. Each question is answered based on recent research. In some cases, there is a clear answer. In many cases, though, there isn't. When the research isn't clear, Hutchinson says so. When different people with different fitness goals should do different things, Hutchinson says so.
If you know what your fitness goals are, and want to determine how best to reach those goals, this is the book for you. If you want someone else to decide what your goals should be and how you should reach them, this is probably not the book for you. ...more
I originally purchased The Wild Places a year and a half ago as a Kindle Daily Deal. I started reading it during my commute on a whim after I'd finishI originally purchased The Wild Places a year and a half ago as a Kindle Daily Deal. I started reading it during my commute on a whim after I'd finished another book and was looking for something else to read. It quickly became clear that this was a book I'd need to read as a physical book.
Robert Macfarlane is an extraordinary writer. He manages to write very lyrical prose without going over the top. He writes take-your-breath-away sentences that enhance, rather than detract from, his more straightforward prose.
The Wild Places chronicles his search for wild places in the British Isles, where some believe there are no wild places left. As Macfarlane seeks out and visits these wild places, he examines our relationship with the places. Almost everywhere he goes, there is evidence or stores of the people who have been there before him. At the same time, he starts to see the wild in the most unlikely of places, appearing in the cracks, crevices and forgotten spaces of our built environment.
In the end, his journey fundamentally changes his idea of what a "wild place" is.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I'll certainly be reading Macfarlane's other books....more
I really enjoyed this book. While this book is essentially several extended blog posts strung together, Frauenfelder is a capable writer. He knows howI really enjoyed this book. While this book is essentially several extended blog posts strung together, Frauenfelder is a capable writer. He knows how to take his various DIY projects and spin them into an entertaining story.
He's also remarkably humble and honest. One of the central themes of the book is that the best way to learn is to make mistakes. And Frauenfelder has made some doozies, from moving his entire family a tropical island to inadvertently killing his much-beloved chickens.
I suspect if you've spent any amount of time working with your hands, Frauenfelder will come off as what he is and admits to being: a bumbling amateur. This book probably isn't for you.
But if you—like me—have spent much of your adult life working at a computer and would like to try a few things you don't have the first clue how to do, this book is fantastic. It will inspire you to try something new get it terribly wrong and learn from your mistakes....more
This is an exploration of what define consciousness. A small crew of clones has been sent into space and been given the challenge to create a consciouThis is an exploration of what define consciousness. A small crew of clones has been sent into space and been given the challenge to create a conscious entity.
Most of the book is taken up with philosophical dialogue between the various characters. While the dialogue is interesting from a philosophical point of view, it's fairly stilted. The characters are one-dimensional and not very believable and there is virtually no character development. Perhaps this because the characters are clones who have been conditioned to behave in prescribed ways. (In fairness, many of them are aware of and try to overcome this conditioning, but without success).
In the end, the characters are little more than a way of exploring different viewpoints about what constitutes consciousness.
While I certainly found the discussions interesting, I wouldn't say that I actually enjoyed the book....more
This is a whistle-stop tour of the planets of the solar system. It's not a comprehensive guide. Instead, it focuses on interesting aspects of the scieThis is a whistle-stop tour of the planets of the solar system. It's not a comprehensive guide. Instead, it focuses on interesting aspects of the science and history of each of the nine planets (plus the Earth's moon).
Dava Sobel's prose is a pleasure to read. The narratives she spins for each planet, while sometimes a bit silly, are always compelling. ...more
This is a book of two intertwined parts. The author has a background as an academic, but now prefers to work as a motorcycle mechanic. This book refleThis is a book of two intertwined parts. The author has a background as an academic, but now prefers to work as a motorcycle mechanic. This book reflects this.
The tone of the book changes quickly from the academic language of a PhD thesis to engaging narratives of his work as a mechanic.
Much of the first 50 pages felt like a slog. Most of those pages are dedicated to setting up his argument in the stilted language of academia. It's worth persevering, though.
While the ideas he puts forward of learning by getting wrong, the value of mentorship, the satisfaction of seeing you work in use and thinking with your hands aren't ground breaking, the stories he uses to support these ideas make for great reading.
I very much support his call for reinstating shop class, but I also believe that the much of what he describes can be found outside of the the traditional trades. Many of his stories were familiar to me not because I have a mechanical background, but because of my background in software design and development. ...more