Birdbooker Report 49-50: The Darwin Edition

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"One cannot have too many good bird books"
--Ralph Hoffmann, Birds of the Pacific States (1927).

The Birdbooker Report is a special weekly report of a wide variety of science, nature and behavior books that currently are, or soon will be available for purchase. This report is written by one of my Seattle birding pals and book collector, Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen, and is edited by me and published here for your information and enjoyment. Below the fold is this week's issue of The Birdbooker Report which lists ecology, environment, natural history and bird books that are (or will soon be) available for purchase.

This is a special issue devoted to Charles Darwin and evolution. On 12 February 2009, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. Below I have listed titles about Darwin and evolution that should be of interest to people of all ages.


  1. Coyne, Jerry A. Why Evolution Is True. 2009. Viking. Hardbound: 282 pages. Price:$27.95 U.S. [Amazon price: $18.45]. SUMMARY: The author lays out the scientific evidence from a variety of scientific fields collected over the last 150 years proving that Darwin's theories of evolution and natural selection are fact. This book is written for the general public, so they can clearly understand the evidence for evolution. GrrlScientist comment: Wow! This book looks absolutely fascinating! I MUST HAVE a review copy so I can read and review it on my blog!
  2. Miller, Kenneth R. Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul. 2008. Viking. Hardbound: 244 pages. Price: $25.95 U.S. [Amazon price: $16.35]. SUMMARY: Miller discusses how the attacks on evolution are only part of a broader assault on scientific reason. He argues this is a threat to our "scientific soul", the healthy skepticism and rational respect for truth that have fueled our scientific advances. GrrlScientist comments: my experience has been that those people who attacked evolution were also the ones who attacked my education, but I wasn't sure if this was only my own experience or a wider social phenomenon. This book looks to be a must-read for anyone who has to deal with this sort of animosity -- hopefully, I can also get a copy of this title to review on my blog.


  1. Heiligman, Deborah. Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith. 2008. Henry Holt. Hardbound: 268 pages. Price: $18.95 U.S. [Amazon price: $12.89]. SUMMARY: Heiligman's biography of Charles Darwin takes a personal look at the man behind evolutionary theory. She especially takes a look at what role his wife's religious beliefs would have on his scientific ideas. GrrlScientist comment: This looks like a wonderful book -- it's for teens? Why not for adults, too?
  2. Meyer, Carolyn. The True Adventures of Charley Darwin. 2009. Harcourt. Hardbound: 321 pages. Price: $17.00 U.S. [Amazon price: $11.56]. SUMMARY: This historical novel follows the life of Charles Darwin between the years 1818 to 1839. GrrlScientist comment: Yet another wonderful book that I'd like to read and review on my blog!


  1. Markle, Sandra. Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure. 2009. Chronicle Books. Hardbound: 45 pages. Price: $16.99 U.S. [Amazon price: $13.25]. SUMMARY: This book chronicles the animals Darwin saw during his lifetime, but mainly focusing on those species he found during his voyage on the HMS Beagle.
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  3. Wynne, Patricia J. The Evolution of the Horse. 2008. Dover Publications. Paperback: 32 pages. Price: $3.99 U.S. [Amazon price: $3.99]. SUMMARY: Ever known a child who wanted a pony? Give them this coloring book instead! GrrlScientist comment: Hrm. I've always wanted a horse and I doubt this book could possibly replace that desire. However, that said, this book looks absolutely fascinating for anyone, kids especially, who love horses and want to know more about them.
  4. Weaver, Anne H. The Voyage of the Beetle. 2007. University of New Mexico Press. Hardbound: 80 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S. [Amazon price: $11.53]. SUMMARY: Rosie the beetle befriends Charles Darwin and accompanies him on his around-the-world voyage.

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I think this is great that you have all of these books linked here in one place. Keep up the good work.

Author - Journey Home

I've been reading some Darwin books lately. I recently re-read David Quammen's The Song of the Dodo (a book I can't recommend highly enough, if you haven't read it), which isn't about Darwin per se, but has a longish section that recapitulates a lot of the Darwin/Wallace story, mostly from Wallace's perspective. Then I also read much (though not all) of Janet Brown's Charles Darwin (vol 2): The Power of Place. And finally, I just got done reading Quammen's most-recent book, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, which (again) I can't recommend highly enough.

It's true: I've got something of a man-crush on David Quammen.

I was hoping to see The Reluctant Mr. Darwin make this list, and was kind of surprised not to see it. It's very much worth checking out: a short(ish) biographical essay focusing specifically on the part of Darwin's life from his return from the Beagle until publication of The Origin of Species, with special attention given to understanding Darwin's motivations for holding off for so long on publishing, and his response to the reactions that his discovery touched off when he finally did publish.