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review 2017-07-03 08:33
Tales From The Underground by David W. Wolfe
Tales From The Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life - David W. Wolfe

TITLE:  Tales from the Underground:  A Natural History of Subterranean Life

 

AUTHOR:  David W. Wolfe

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2002

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780738206790

 

The subterranean is not one world but many.  It is filled with many unique habitats, and the occupants of these habitats range in size from the microscopic bacteria to the easily visible earth worms and burrowing animals.  Tales from the Underground is not intended as a comprehensive treatment of the subject of soil ecology.  The author's goal is to introduce the reader to a few of the most intriguing creatures on the underground and to the sometimes equally intriguing scientists and explorers who have studied them.   With the many interesting creatures and scientists discussed in this book, I feel the author has achieved his goals.

This book takes a look at the Earth's most ancient life forms, the extremophiles; bacterium; fungi; earthworms; the dual nature of soils with regards to deadly plant and animal diseases; the tragic history of human interactions with prairie dogs, burrowing owls and the black-footed ferret.  This book also explores the impact of human activities on the soil resources important to our food security and the potential for using soil microbes for intermediation of damaged soil.  The author also takes a look at the various hypothesis that try to explain the origin of life in which dirt or soil play a role e.g. the "clay-gene" theory in which clay crystals act as a catalyst and gene precursors.

The author states that he hopes that as more of us become aware of the life beneath our feet, we will be inclined to work together to maintain the biological integrity of the underground, an preserve some of what we find there for future generations.


"With each new subterranean discovery, it becomes more apparent that the niche occupied by Homo sapiens is more fragile and much less central than we once thought."


This book contains diagrams where relevant and a decent reference section.  However, the author tends to select too many examples and creatures from the U.S.A, which is a bit annoying, since there is an entire planet full of underground creatures and humans that interact with them.  The book is well written without excessive biographical detail and a fair amount of detailed information on each topic.  I believe this book would be easy to understand for the general reader.  Tales of the Underground provides an enjoyable look at some of the interesting underground citizens.

 

 

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review 2017-06-19 15:01
Restless Creatures by Matt Wilkinson
Restless Creatures - Matt Wilkinson

Matt Wilkinsons takes a fascinating look at movement.  This is a rather novel perspective of the now commonly boring subject of evolution that injects new life and ideas into the subject.  The author manages to discuss topics and provide examples that I haven't come across before in other popular science books.  As a bonus, the author also assumes his readers have some intelligence and doesn't insult us by simplifying things too much.  Restless Creatures covers all sorts of creatures, from the large to the smallest, and also includes plants which one wouldn't expect to be included in a book on movement.  The writing is beautiful, descriptive, non-biographical (thank you!!) and the author has a way with words that adds humorous twists to old perspectives.  I found this book enjoyable to read and I learned new things!

 

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review 2017-06-02 07:53
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
I Contain Multitudes - Ed Yong

I Contain Multitudes is an enjoyable and informative book that takes a look at how microbes live, where microbes live and their interactions with other species, including humans.  This book contains many interesting scientific findings and microbial interactions - such as worms that don't have a mouth and don't need to eat; parasitic wasps with antibiotic antennae goo; viruses inside bacteria inside a bug; bacteria that influence which bugs get to breed; the effects of your microbial ecosystem in sickness and in health; as well as a whole lot of other fascinating stuff.

The author has a personable writing style without turning into a semi-biography.  He manages to explain scientific concepts without simplifying them too much or bogging the reader down with technical terminology.  The beginning of the book is a bit disjointed in terms of story telling, but then gets better as the author goes along.  I do wish Ed Yong had included more details about some of the topics discussed, but that was probably out of the scope for a popular science book like this.


Other Recommended Books about Microbes:

- March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen by John L. Ingraham


- The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David R. Montgomery


- Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer


- The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today by Rob Dunn


- This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society by Kathleen McAuliffe


- Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry by Christie Wilcox


- The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise Of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by Michael Shnayerson, Mark J. Plotkin


- Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna


- Spillover: Emerging Diseases, Animal Hosts, and the Future of Human Health by David Quammen

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review 2017-05-24 15:23
A Dog in the Cave: Coevolution and the Wolves Who Made Us Human - Kay Frydenborg

This is a beautifully written book that describes the current research on dog and human co-evolution.  "A Dog in a Cave" covers such interesting topics as paleontology, dog evolution, genetics and social behaviour and interactions of dogs, wolves and humans.  This book is meant for intelligent younger readers but can also be enjoyed by adults.  The author assumes her readers are intelligent and doesn't insult them by simplifying everything into baby language.  This book doesn't go into a great deal of scientific detail but is well-written and concepts superbly explained (better than most science writer/journalists for adults).  The block sections explaining important concepts are also a nice idea.  The colour photographs make this a lovely book to look at too.  This book includes a glossary, notes, selected bibliography, internet resources and an index for anyone wanting more information on specific topics.

This book would make a lovely gift for a dog-loving child, teenager or adult that isn't a zoologist.



Recommended related book:


Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World by Richard C. Francis

 

 

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review 2017-05-02 07:19
How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do (Science for Gardeners) - Linda Chalker-Scott

This is a good beginner book for any gardener (no matter how inexperienced or experienced) to read.  The author discusses the science behind plant growth and gardening techniques in an accessible manner that does not require a biology degree.  She also explains the workings (or lack thereof) behind some gardening myths.  This book explains how plants work - it is NOT a plant identification guide.

 

A more detailed book that explains how plants work is: Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon (third edition).

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