I receive a fair number of books to review each week, so I thought I should do what several magazines and other publications do; list those books that have arrived in my mailbox so you know that this is the pool of books from which I will be reading and reviewing on my blog.
Lost Land of the Dodo: An Ecological History of Mauritius, Reunion & Rodrigues by Anthony Sheke and Julian Hume (New Haven and London: Yale University Press; 2008).
Table of Contents:
- Geography of the Mascarenes
- First contact
- The pristine islands
- Where did the Dodo come from?
- Early settlement
- United under France
- A century of sugar
- The limits to growth
- A miraculous survival
- Practical conservation on Mauritius and Rordrogues
A brief glance through the beautiful book reveals that it is filled with maps and artwork depicting hundreds of extinct birds; parrots, flightless rails, ducks, and other wildlife. This book documents the tragic ecological disaster that humans create where ever they go, especially when they settle on an island or archipelago.
The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America’s Most Iconic Birds by Paul Bannick (Seattle: The Mountaineers Books; 2008).
- Pacific Coast Urban and Suburban Habitats
- Northwestern Maritime Forests
- Western Dry Mountain Forests
- Western Oak Woodlands
- Grasslands and Shrub-Steppe
- Southern Pine Forests
- Eastern Suburban and Urban Habitats
- Northeastern Forests
- Boreal Forest
- Arctic Tundra
A quick look through this book: it is filled with maps and stunning photography of birds — mostly woodpeckers and owls and their habitats, as the name implies. If you never read one word in this book (and that would be a tragedy; it’s well-written), you will still be delighted and amazed by the images, most of which fill up the entire page (and the book and its pages are oversized), although a few images fill both pages (which sadly, means there is a seam down the middle where the pages are bound into the book).
A Guide to the Birds of East Africa: A Novel by Douglas Drayson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin; 2008).
I have read bits and pieces of this sweet and funny novel set in East Africa, and loved it (now I need to sit down and read it from cover to cover). It is about a quiet and shy man, Mr. Malik, who has secretly in love with the beautiful Rose Mbikwa for three years. In the book, Mr. Malik is working up the courage to ask Rose to the annual Nairobi Hunt Club Ball, a major event, when an old school chum pops up and also wishes to ask Rose to the same ball. Since the object of Mr. Malik’s affection leads weekly birding walks, these two men engage in a competition to identify the greatest number of birds in one week’s time. The prize? The winner gets the priviledge of asking Rose to the ball. Each chapter is named for a bird species. This book is published by my favorite publisher.
The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow (NYC: Pantheon Press; 2008).
Table of Contents:
- Chapter 1: Peering through the eyepiece of randomness
The hidden role of chance … when human beings can be out-performed by a rat.
- Chapter 2: The laws of truths and half-truths
The basic principles of probability and how they are abused … why a good story is often less likely to be true than a flimsy explanation.
- Chapter 3: Finding your way through a space of possibilities
A framework for thinking about random situations … from a gambler in plague-ridden Italy to Let’s Make a Deal.
- Chapter 4: Tracking the pathway to success
How to count the number of ways in which events can happen and why it matters … the mathematical meaning of expectation.
- Chapter 5: The dueling laws of large and small numbers
The extent to which probabilities are reflected in the results we observe … Zeno’s Paradox, the concept of limits, and beating the casino at roulette.
- Chapter 6: False positives and false fallacies
How to adjust expectations in light of past events or new knowledge … mistakes in conditional probability from medical screening to the OJ Simpson trial and the prosecutor’s fallacy.
- Chapter 7: Measurement and the Law of Errors
The meaning and lack of meaning in measurements … the bell curve and wine ratings, political polls, grades, and the position of planets.
- Chapter 8: The order in chaos
How large numbers can wash out the disorder of randomness … or why 200,000,000 drivers form a creature of habit.
- Chapter 9: Illusions of patterns and patterns of illusions
Why we are fooled by the regularities in chance events … can a million consecutive zeroes or the success of Wall Street gurus be random?
- Chapter 10: The Drunkard’s Walk
Why chance is a more fundamental conception than causality … Bruce Willis, Bill Gates, and the normal accident theory of life.
I have long awaited this book, and contacted every one I know (including the author’s brother, who is a Seattle Bird Pal of mine) who could help me get a review copy, so you can bet this is a high priority on my must-read and review list!