natural history recommendations

I’ve previously recommended the Five Books site as a good place to go if you’re looking for expert-recommended books on a given topic.  The site used to be weak on biology, but it’s remedied that with a new Natural History Museum Collection site, where they ask UK museum scientists to each recommend five books and discuss them.  It’s not just a list, but includes a long interview with each scientist. I’m scheduled to contribute one on evolution sometime soon.

The latest lists/interviews include:

Phil Richardson on bats,

Jonathan Elphick on birds (note that he recommends a book I hadn’t known about, The Hill of Summer, by J. A. Baker, author of the classic The Peregrine),

Paul Barrett on dinosaurs,

Richard Fortey on paleontology (note his comments on Steve Gould’s Wonderful Life.  He recommends a book on trilobites, but I think Fortey’s own book on trilobites is fantastic),

Johnathan Silvertown on plants,

and Caroline Smith on meteorites.

Also see Tom Clarke’s selections in “Being Inspired by Science“. (I recommend Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez.)

h/t: Matthew Cobb


  1. Dominic
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    The Hill of Summer plus Baker’s diary are in the UK edition of The Peregrine – I think I mentioned it in a comment on the book when you wrote about it, but I suppose you cannot read all comments or you would never do owt else!

    I heard Richard Fortey interviewed at the RS & he was very good.

  2. Mike from Ottawa
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Bloody Richard Fortey recommending Whittington’s book, which is supposed to be excellent, but happens to be completely unavailable! Can’t complain too much, though, as it was Fortey’s Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution (bought in a bookshop on a stopover at Heathrow) that got me interested in trilobites, to my great subsequent joy. Unfortunately, there’s really no comprehensive book on trilobites out there to rival many on dinosaurs (including the one Fortey recommended) or like Unwin’s superb Pterosaurs: From Deep Time.

  3. JBlilie
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    The Log of the Sea of Cortez is a classic on many measures. It’s one of my favorite travel books for one thing. It’s my favorite book by Steinbeck (though I love his fiction too.)

    Everyone should read the whole thing (the “Hanson Sea Cow” story splits my sides every time I read it!) but if you don’t have a lot of time, at least read the introductory “About Doc Ricketts.” A classic portrait of a genuine character.

  4. TheBrummell
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I read Richard Fortey’s Dry Store Room No. 1 not long ago, and I really like his writing style. Wonderful stuff, I’m going to have to both look up his other books and pick up the 5 he recommends here. Thanks for putting this up.

  5. sgo
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m a bit late in replying, but thanks for mentioning the Five Books site! And I was glad to see Fortey recommending books. They’re a bit expensive though …

    I’ve read most of the books he wrote btw, and can really recommend “Life”. And “Trilobite!” indeed.

    I also looked around for “The Peregrine” after reading about it here, and then noticed that a complete works is being issued. Won’t be available until June next year though …

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