Bookshelf: Summer Reading

Natural History, July/August 1998 | Go to article overview

Bookshelf: Summer Reading


Swallow Summer

By Charles R. Brown (University of Nebraska Press, 1998; $16.95; illus.)

Charles Brown began his ongoing study of cliff swallows in 1981 in southwestern Nebraska, where the birds return in May from their wintering grounds in Argentina. All summer he, his wife, and several student assistants net and observe the birds, sometimes wading in mud up to their knees. In this chronicle of his fifteenth field season, Brown conveys his fascination with these swallows.

Inside the Dzanga Sangha Rain Forest

Compiled by Francesca Lyman Workman Publishing Co., 1998; $12.95; illus.)

During a recent expedition to the Central African Republic's Dzanga-Sangha rainforest, a team from the American Museum of Natural History collected materials for a rainforest exhibition in the new Hall of Biodiversity. Photographs, draw-ings, and journal entries from six Museum scientists, artists, and filmmakers tell the story of the exhibition for young adults.

The Passionate Observer

By Jean Henri Fabre (Chronicle Books, 1998; $21. 95; illus.)

"It is no easy matter to acquire a laboratory in the open fields, when harassed by a terrible anxiety about one's daily bread," wrote nineteenth-century French entomologist Jean Henri Fabre. But once he retired, Fabre-described by Victor Hugo as "the insects' Homer"-wasted no time generating ten volumes of musings on his native Provence. The selection represented in this volume reveals his keen observations and enthusiastic appreciation of natural history.

About This Life

By Barry Lopez (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998; $24)

Lopez, in this new collection of essays, is fluent on a range of subjects-from eating the flesh of blue lobster in the Galapagos Islands to watching wolves in the high Arctic. The reader learns that Lopez had every intention of becoming an aeronautical engineer in college until he heard Robert Fitzgerald read his translation of the Odyssey. "History, quest, longing, metered prose, moral consternation, and fantastic image all came together in that room," Lopez says. From that moment, he decided to be a writer.

Wind

By Jan DeBlieu (Houghton Mifflin, 1998; $24)

Although primarily about the science of wind-the "flow of air" that has shaped lifeDeBlieu's book is also a personal and poetic portrait of this natural force. The relation of wind to the Coriolis effect, ocean currents and waves, and bird migrations is explained with simplicity and clarity.

Being There

By Daniel Bradburd (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998; $32.50, $15.95 paperback; illus.)

Ethnographer Bradburd and his wife spent 1973-74 among the Komachi pastoralists of southern Iran. Bradburd enhances his memoir of the period by interweaving accounts of four nineteenth-century Western travelers.

North Alaska Chronicle

By John Martin Campbell (Museum of New Mexico Press, 1998; $45, $29.95 paperback; illus.)

Anthropologist Campbell persuaded Simon Paneak, a Nunamiut Eskimo, to illustrate and annotate a history of his people. These ninetyseven drawings from 1968-69 document abandoned traditions, including styles of clothing, the caribou tents and moss houses that served as dwellings, and even a legend about hunting the woolly mammoth.

The Camel's Nose

By Knut Schmidt-Nielsen (Island Press [A Shearwater Book 1998; $24. …

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