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review 2018-11-09 06:33
The Kingdom Fungi by Steven L. Stephenson
The Kingdom Fungi: The Biology of Mushrooms, Molds, and Lichens - Steven L. Stephenson

TITLE:  The Kingdom Fungi: The Biology of Mushrooms, Molds, and Lichens

 

AUTHOR:  Steven L. Stephenson

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2010

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780881928914

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DESCRIPTION:

"The ubiquitous fungi are little known and vastly underappreciated. Yet, without them we wouldn’t have bread, alcohol, cheese, tofu, or the unique flavors of mushrooms, morels, and truffles. We can’t survive without fungi.

The Kingdom Fungi provides a comprehensive look at the biology, structure, and morphological diversity of these necessary organisms. It sheds light on their ecologically important roles in nature, their fascinating relationships with people, plants, and animals, and their practical applications in the manufacture of food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. The book includes information about “true” fungi, fungus-like creatures (slime molds and water molds), and a group of “composite” organisms (lichens) that are more than just fungi. Particular attention is given to examples of fungi that might be found in the home and encountered in nature.

The Kingdom Fungi is a useful introductory text for naturalists, mycologists, and anyone who wants to become more familiar with, and more appreciative of, the fascinating world of fungi.
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This book is a scholarly text on the biology of mushrooms, molds and lichens.  I'm not quite sure who the target audience is supposed to be - the book is too technical for an introduction to the subject, but not enough detail is provided to make this an advanced text.  The subject is interesting and the multitude of colour photographs delightful to look at, but a few additional schematic diagrams to explain certain concepts would have been helpful.

 

OTHER BOOKS:

 -Mushrooms: A Natural and Cultural History by Nicholas P. Money
 -The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization by Nicholas P. Money
 -March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen by John L. Ingraham

 

 

 

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review 2018-10-23 06:04
Plagues and Peoples by William Hardy McNeill
Plagues and Peoples - William Hardy McNeill

TITLE:  Plagues and Peoples

 

AUTHOR:  William Hardy McNeill

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  1998, first published 1976

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780307773661

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DESCRIPTION:

"Upon its original publication, Plagues and Peoples was an immediate critical and popular success, offering a radically new interpretation of world history as seen through the extraordinary impact--political, demographic, ecological, and psychological--of disease on cultures. From the conquest of Mexico by smallpox as much as by the Spanish, to the bubonic plague in China, to the typhoid epidemic in Europe, the history of disease is the history of humankind. With the identification of AIDS in the early 1980s, another chapter has been added to this chronicle of events, which William McNeill explores in his new introduction to this updated editon.

Thought-provoking, well-researched, and compulsively readable, Plagues and Peoples is that rare book that is as fascinating as it is scholarly, as intriguing as it is enlightening. "A brilliantly conceptualized and challenging achievement" (Kirkus Reviews), it is essential reading, offering a new perspective on human history.
"

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This is an interesting and somewhat scholarly look at how people and diseases have interacted and evolved together over time, from "man the hunter" to "the ecological impact of medical science and organization since 1700".  McNeil examines macroparisitic and microparisitic effects on the growth of civilizations, focusing primarily on diseases and how epidemics have effected world history, the course of civilization and human evolution.

I found the sections where the author discusses the "living conditions" of diseases particularly interesting:  how a specific disease inhabited a certain enviornment, how it arrived and survived in that environment, and how those environments may have been altered by human impacts such as agricultural activities, population growth (or lack thereof), how the disease spread to other areas etc.  McNeill's comparison between human micro-parasites (bacteria, worms, viruses) and our macro-parasites (governments, armies ,raiders, plunderers) was a particularly thought-provoking and novel (to me) aspect of the book.

The book was originally published in 1976, so some details are a bit dated, but this doesn't detract from the overall thesis.  The writing style is also a bit "old-fashioned" if that sort of thing bothers you.  The author does, however, make use of historical sources that include as much of the globe as possible, so the spread between and effects of epidemics on Europe as well as of China, India, the Middle-East, the America's and Africa are discussed where possible (allowing for existing source material on these regions).

This is an interesting, fundamental and thought-provoking book about the interactions of humans and diseases and the course of human history.

 

 

 

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review 2018-10-20 14:21
Mushrooms by Nicholas P. Money
Mushrooms: A Natural and Cultural History - Nicholas P. Money

TITLE:  Mushrooms:  A Natural and Cutural History

 

AUTHOR:  Nicholas P. Money

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9781780237435

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DESCRIPTION:

"Mushrooms hold a peculiar place in our culture: we love them and despise them, fear them and misunderstand them. They can be downright delicious or deadly poisonous, cute as buttons or utterly grotesque. These strange organisms hold great symbolism in our myths and legends. In this book, Nicholas P. Money tells the utterly fascinating story of mushrooms and the ways we have interacted with these fungi throughout history. Whether they have populated the landscapes of fairytales, lent splendid umami to our dishes, or steered us into deep hallucinations, mushrooms have affected humanity from the earliest beginnings of our species.  
           
As Money explains, mushrooms are not self-contained organisms like animals and plants. Rather, they are the fruiting bodies of large—sometimes extremely large—colonies of mycelial threads that spread underground and permeate rotting vegetation. Because these colonies decompose organic matter, they are of extraordinary ecological value and have a huge effect on the health of the environment. From sustaining plant growth and spinning the carbon cycle to causing hay fever and affecting the weather, mushrooms affect just about everything we do. Money tells the stories of the eccentric pioneers of mycology, delights in culinary powerhouses like porcini and morels, and considers the value of medicinal mushrooms. This book takes us on a tour of the cultural and scientific importance of mushrooms, from the enchanted forests of folklore to the role of these fungi in sustaining life on earth."

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Mushrooms:  A Natural and Culturla History provides a lovely introduction to the world of mushrooms.  This book is about mushrooms in particular, not fungi in general.  This book is also not a field guide.  Each chapter covers a muchroom theme; from mushroom superstition, science, function, evolution, experts, parasites, growing, cooking, poisons, hallucinogens, and mushroom conservation etc.  The science is meticulous but not overwhelming and the anecdotes are relevant to the topic.   The book includes numerous colour photographs and other illustrations.  This was an enjoyable and interesting book about the various aspects of mushrooms.

 

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review 2018-10-05 10:39
Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung by Richard Jones
Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung - Richard Jones

TITLE:  Call of Nature:  The Secret Life of Dung

 

AUTHOR:  Richard Jones

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-78427-105-3

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DESCRIPTION:

"Journey through the digestive systems of humans, farm and wild animals, and meet some of nature's ultimate recyclers as they eat, breed in and compete for dung. The fall of bodily waste onto the ground is the start of a race against the clock as a multitude of dung-feeders and scavengers consume this rich food source. From the enigmatic dung-rolling beetles to bat guano and giant elephant droppings, dung creates a miniature ecosystem to be explored by the aspiring dung watcher.

The author completes the book with an identification guide to dung itself, so that you can identify the animal that left it behind. Pellets or pats? Scats, spraints, frass, guano, spoor learn your way around different species droppings. There's also a dung-feeder s identification guide that includes the species you re most likely to encounter on an exploration of the dung heap."

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Call of Nature is an informative, interesting, thought-provoking, well-researched and nicely illustrated book full of interesting facts by an author who is passionate about his subject.  The author's British sense of humour  and personal, relevant (but not long-winded ) anecdotes was entertaining and lightened up a book that revolves around dung and dung beetles.  Such topics as the ecological value of dung, the animal communities that make use of dung, a fond focus on dung beetles, and what happens if dung just lay around and didn't degrade (as happened in Australia), are covered in this book.  A useful identification guide to various types of animal dung and a guide to some critters that inhabit dung is also provided.  Not to mention the rather amusing scatalogical dictionary at the end. 

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review 2018-09-25 07:54
On the Wing by David E. Alexander
On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurus, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight - David E. Alexander

TITLE:  On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurus, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight

 

AUTHOR:  David E. Alexander

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2015

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780199996773

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DESCRIPTION:

"Ask anybody what superpower they wished to possess and odds are the answer just might be "the ability to fly." What is it about soaring through the air held up by the power of one's own body that has captivated humans for so long? David Alexander examines the evolution of flight in the only four animals to have evolved this ability: insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats. With an accessible writing style grounded in rigorous research, Alexander breaks new ground in a field that has previously been confined to specialists. While birds have received the majority of attention from flight researchers, Alexander pays equal attention to all four groups of flyers-something that no other book on the subject has done before now. In a streamlined and captivating way, David Alexander demonstrates the links between the tiny 2-mm thrip and the enormous albatross with the 12 feet wingspan used to cross oceans.

The book delves into the fossil record of flyers enough to satisfy the budding paleontologist, while also pleasing ornithologists and entomologists alike with its treatment of animal behavior, flapping mechanisms, and wing-origin theory. Alexander uses relatable examples to draw in readers even without a natural interest in birds, bees, and bats. He takes something that is so off-limits and unfamiliar to humans-the act of flying-and puts it in the context of experiences that many readers can relate to. Alexander guides readers through the anomalies of the flying world: hovering hummingbirds, unexpected gliders (squirrels, for instance), and the flyers that went extinct (pterosaurs). Alexander also delves into wing-origin theory and explores whether birds entered the skies from the trees down (as gliders) or from the ground up (as runners) and uses the latest fossil evidence to present readers with an answer.
"

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This is a clearly written, well researched and well illustrated book exploring the evolution of flight in insects, birds, bats and pterosaurs.

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