The women and men who rehabilitate and care for wildlife are a unique and interesting tribe. They doThis is a gorgeous, remarkable, outstanding book.
The women and men who rehabilitate and care for wildlife are a unique and interesting tribe. They do the often tedious, thankless, exhausting jobs that we all like to imagine we'd like to do. They're fascinating people. Sadly (for us) very few of them are also gifted writers. Terry Masear is one of the few who excels in both worlds. The result is this jewel of a book offering a glimpse into the world of hummingbird rescue.
Masear is a wonderful writer, and this book is one of the most beautiful, and most enjoyable, I have read this year. Often, when a rehabber writes a book, they focus on the sweeping challenges they face, dwell on the logistics of care or diagnoses, or drown you in an unorganized spate of natural history facts. Those are all interesting, of course, but they're not what you would ask Masear (or any rescuer) about if you got her all to yourself over dinner. You'd want to hear the stories. This book is full of stories, and stories told well. She gives you the quotidian details of her life, the humor and the heartbreak, and (best of all) anecdotes about the personalities of the hummingbirds.
Not just a tale of hummingbirds, this is also a song of hope for the condition of humans, and our ability to share the planet with non-human denizens. It's full of fascinating facts, turning you into a walking, talking, probably annoying-your-friends stream of very cool things to know and share. (Did you know hummingbirds eat fruit flies and have to have protein to thrive? Did you know that to get a hummingbird out of the fire station, all you have to do is pull the trucks into the driveway? Did you know that there are 330 species of hummingbirds?? Did you know a mother will run her feet along a fledgling's back to encourage it to leave the nest? Me, neither!)
I have already made a list of the people I know who need this book. It is not a short list. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
(Also: This book rehabilitated the name Gabriel for me, which, after Dorothy Dunnett, I didn't think anything could do.)...more
Lyanda Lynn Haupt wrote this book as a new mother, observing birds that live near her, and thinking about what thI love finding new favorite authors.
Lyanda Lynn Haupt wrote this book as a new mother, observing birds that live near her, and thinking about what they mean--to her, to science, and to the world as a biosphere.
I'm a new mother, who just moved to a house on three acres of woods and streams and little clearings, and I find I spent a LOT of time watching birds at our feeders.
Haupt is an evocative, perspicacious author, and this book is a joy to read. She has humor, goodwill, and a love of both humanity and the natural world. Her innate optimism, balanced by her depth of knowledge, makes her an ideal observer and writer of natural history. This book offers a blends of information, philosophy, anecdotes, and insights that is intoxicating. It's the kind of book that makes you keep reading excerpts to your family and friends.
I highly recommend this book, and can't wait to read her others. ...more
War of the Whales is a book without parallel. My only complaints about it are about the narration of the audiobook, not about the book itself.
It's eaWar of the Whales is a book without parallel. My only complaints about it are about the narration of the audiobook, not about the book itself.
It's easy to believe that, in the fight for the planet, there are Good Guys (all of whom we like and approve of) and Bad Guys (all of whom we hate and despise). Sadly, that's not the way the world works. It's also not the way this book works. It would be so easy to paint this as a black and white issue of the Big Bad Navy and the good, innocent whales. And there is that aspect to the story, but Horwitz does massive amounts of research, and manages to flesh out all sides of this debate.
I know people in the Navy, whom I admire and respect. They believe in hard work, duty, sacrifice, and patriotism. I believe that they all want to protect the oceans. I am less trusting of the Navy as an overarching, enormous, well-funded organization. It's important to draw that distinction (as Horwitz does in the book).
The issue is sound. Whales and dolphins perceive the world very differently from the way we do. They have extraordinarily sensitive hearing. Many species can communicate across tens, hundreds, even thousands, of miles. We know very little about their abilities and vulnerabilities in this area.
On the other hand, there are bad humans on the planet. Some of them may be thinking about (or even planning) to attack innocent civilians at any moment. One of the way that the world's navies guard against, and prevent, this is by keeping an eye on ship and submarine movements, something that gets harder every year. Navies of the world (including the United States Navy) are solving this by using active sonar to scan for threats. They have to practice with these techniques so that they know how to use them if and when a clear and present danger arises. The problem is that this active sonar 1) may be hurting, or killing, thousands of whales and dolphins and 2) some of this testing is taking place in some of the most sensitive, diverse, ostensibly protected areas in the ocean (Hawaii, Monterey, the Caribbean).
Horwitz takes a fascinating look at the issue, beginning with a mass stranding of beaked whales on the Bahamas in 2000. The scientist who reported the stranding, Kenneth Balcomb, is a retired Navy sonar specialist, which makes him the perfect central character for this story. Horwitz follows the lawsuits, media coverage, public opinion shifts, inter-agency politics, and conservation actions that ensue. It sounds dry, but it's more engrossing than a Tom Clancy novel.
Incredibly well researched, impeccably written, this is a gem of a book. I highly recommend it to anyone, not just those interested in cetaceans or national defense.
My only complaints, as I said, were with the narration. The narrator kept saying "mink" whale rather than "minke," and it just drove me up the wall. ...more
The study was publIn November, I stumbled across this intriguing blog post about the first canine fMRI study and I immediately needed to know more.
The study was published in PLOS ONE, which means you can go read it, but I wanted to know the backstory.
Happily, the lead scientist anticipated this reaction and published a book. This book tells the story of the circumstances that lead to dogs being trained to sit in an MRI machine while awake. It's fascinating as a behind-the-scenes look at the way science proceeds, but it's also interesting because it tells the story that doesn't fit into the scientific paper: the triumph of training the dogs and the impetus behind the questions.
It's well-written, makes a quick read, and is an encouraging look into the future. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in how dogs (or animals) think, or in how humans interact with animals....more
This is the kind of book that your friends can't wait for you to finish, so that they can get some peace. Because you can't stop texting, emailing, caThis is the kind of book that your friends can't wait for you to finish, so that they can get some peace. Because you can't stop texting, emailing, calling, and interrupting conversations to share the newest, coolest thing this book told you. It is so cool that you physically cannot stop yourself sharing and trying to talk other people into reading it immediately.
It's that good.
It should be required reading for anyone interested in conservation science, especially anyone interested in conservation genetics.
It's a fascinating adventure story. There are mysteries bundled up in each chapter. The writing is witty and well-done. You're left with the feeling that you should maybe see if O'Brien is free to attend your next dinner party. Or camping expedition.
The science is just knock-your-socks off cool. I kept running across the names of people I knew or had heard of, and then I'd have to put down the book for another round of running around to tell everyone else in reach about it.
Sometimes a book slots itself right into your psyche as if you'd been saving a seat for it.
This book is that kind of book.
David Powell is the aquaristSometimes a book slots itself right into your psyche as if you'd been saving a seat for it.
This book is that kind of book.
David Powell is the aquarist who started the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Of course, he did much more than that. He's a legend in the fields of diving, collecting, managing, and exhibiting fish and sea critters.
The book is delightfully written. You can easily imagine, on the strength of this book, inviting Powell to every dinner party you will ever throw. It's funny, smart, educational, and just fun to read. Plus, there is a whole section on the quirky intelligence and charm of mola molas.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. Possibly the best nonfiction book I've read in a year....more
The problem with an natural history museum like the American Museum of Natural History is one of scale. You buy your ticket (which is not cheap) and tThe problem with an natural history museum like the American Museum of Natural History is one of scale. You buy your ticket (which is not cheap) and then you face halls and halls and halls of amazing, cool, historic, and one-of-a-kind artifacts. For the first few, you are properly amazed, marveling at the history around, fitting new pieces of information together in unexpected ways in your head.
The problem is that it's too much. There's no way to take it all in. Your poor human senses and brain are overwhelmed. You'd need six months, at least, to get a sense of the scope of everything and to be properly awed. But you have one afternoon. And, because you bought your ticket and hold museums in such high esteem, you force yourself through halls and exhibits long after the point that your brain has checked out. Your brain becomes the bored six year old you once were. Oh, look, another massively old, immensely historic, unique bit of human history. Another masterpiece. Yet another stunning jewel. Another piece of rock that has seen more millions of years than I can even imagine. Yet another ancient skull from somewhere in the human lineage. It begins to all just wash over you until you flee, in a cloud of guilt and exhaustion, feeling that you really didn't get the most out of your museum experience.
That's the problem this book faces and, to some degree, the problem it sets out to solve. Writing a full, comprehensive history of a museum is a mammoth task. That's why it's so rarely been done. There's just too much raw material, too many jaw-dropping stories, too much there there.
That being said, A Gathering of Wonders does an excellent job, within its scope. It's a wonderful romp through the halls of AMNH and a cherry picking of its most famous stories and personalities. The book is engrossing. It makes you want to move to the museum, and study one new object every day, learn one new discipline a month.
It's a wonderful tasting: you get a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing. It's perfect for rambling reading. I highly recommend this book....more