Friday, July 26, 2013

Trash animals, a birding Scot, and Hooker's lily.

There are many intriguing books on the new book shelf and it is a perfect day to check one out and head outdoors for a fair-weather read.

Trash animals: how we live with nature's filthy, feral, invasive, and unwanted species will get you thinking about the bias we humans have toward certain non-human animals.  Why should the pigeon be so denigrated while we admire the flight and cunning of the eagle?  Why is the panda valued more highly than prairie dogs?  Are we threatened by our lack of power to control the unwanted?  The essayists challenge us to "reimagine our ethics of engagement" with the maligned creatures considered in each chapter.

Alexander Wilson: the Scot who founded American ornithology is both biography and ornithological treasure.  What fun reading!  On his travels to sell subscriptions for his treatise American Ornithology, Wilson casually dropped by the White House back door, asking to see President Jefferson.  He was granted admittance, and the two men spent hours together discussing birds and science.  The President bought a subscription and was instrumental in encouraging many others to support Wilson.  American Ornithology was the first major scientific work published in America.  The Wilson Bulletin takes its name from Alexander Wilson; official publication of the Wilson Ornithological Chapter of the Agassiz Association, it was edited and published for 32 years by Lynds Jones, professor of zoology at Oberlin College.

The Flower of Empire reads like a suspense novel, telling the story of the giant Amazonian water lily (Victoria regia) and the race to make it bloom for Queen Victoria.  Sir William Jackson Hooker is central to this story, as director of the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, and the cast of Dukes with botanic interests is remarkable.

There are plenty of other new books to capture your imagination.  Take a look!

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