Book reviews of the most recent Struik Nature titles.

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"Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value". Louis L'Amour

 

 

 

I have been very lucky to have these 10 titles arrive at my office during the pandemic. The courier company driver and I are now on first name terms and when I answer the intercom he will say with a laugh “Another book delivery for you David”! Struik Nature is the publisher of choice when I look for books on natural history of any sort to add to my library. Many thanks to all at Struik Nature for making our interactions such a pleasure.

 

 

It is possibly the largest book to land on my desk in the past year! This spectacular tome should be a prerequisite for any nature lover that has an interest in all things that creep, crawl and fly. Full of stunning photographs and interesting facts, it includes all nine biomes found in South Africa as well as Freshwater Habitats, Caves, Coastal Zones and Urban Environment. The authors have made certain that no stone has been left unturned (pun intended) and they have also included an appendix that includes Southern African Insect Orders. Buyers would be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive volume on this subject. If I have any ‘complaint’ it is the fact that it is such a large book and as such is not really a field guide. It is certainly a reference work that should be on a shelf where it can be used on a regular basis. Well done to all concerned with the production of this magnificent work.

 

 

The author sees himself as an amateur butterfly enthusiast and if this work is anything to go by, I believe that he is underestimating his skill set. This is the seminal butterfly book for both amateur and professional field guide alike. It features many live specimens in their natural environment together with colour-coding at subfamily level and a quick reference to butterfly groups on the inside front cover. I have visited a butterfly farm in Zanzibar, but I am uncertain if such an attraction is to be found in South Africa. If not, then this book is the ideal tool to fill that niche. As a reference work, this Field Guide offers up-to-date common and alternative names and is ideal for stopping arguments and clarifying questions.

 

 

When the original atom bomb was tested on Bikini Atoll on 1st July 1946, they thought that every population on the island would be obliterated, but they were wrong. Going onto the island once it was safe enough for humans, they found that all the insects were alive and going about their daily business as if nothing had occurred. And that is just one way to prove that insects can not only survive nuclear fallout, but they survive to this day in some of the harshest and most diverse ecosystems in the world. The book covers 1500 South African species and groups. From the most common to the most economically viable and the most interesting. Colourful plates with the relevant information as well as quick guides on both the front and back inner covers make this book easy to navigate and use.

 

 

A trip along this long underutilized coastline has been on my bucket list for the longest time. I considered cycling it with a friend, which did not happen as we could not find a cycling sponsor. I even considered doing it in a Tuk-tuk, until I discovered that the top speed of THAT mode of transport is 25kph. Hence that did not happen either. But with this book as an aid to planning a trip, I hope that I will finally get to meet and enjoy the hospitality of the local West-Coasters. Not your average “where-to-stay-and-what-to-do” type book, it delves into the heart of each of the towns along the way, from Melkbosstrand to the Orange River. To quote the blurb on the back of the book .” The magic and mystery of the West Coast captured here promise to stir curiosity and awaken the wanderlust of all readers”. And I can only second that.

 

 

So many kilometres and so little time. Reading this book made me want to throw on a backpack and head of into the wild blue yonder with the authors. The book covers 59 guided hikes in 18 different parks and reserves in South Africa. From short walks to wilderness trails and multi-day outings, the books covers them all. Accurate at the time of going to print, the book includes information like cost, group size booking details and recommended season.

 

 

One of my favourite animals and I had to wait for 53 years to get my first sighting of one in the wild. Which is better than the author, who has yet to spend time with a free-roaming wild Pangolin. The most trafficked animal in the world for a variety of reasons, this scaley mammal has now become to focus of police sting operations and the endeavours of a variety of people and organizations who are fighting to save the Pangolin from extinction.

I got to chat with the author and you can watch the interview via this link: https://youtu.be/DE10H3ObCco

 

 

I was lucky enough to interview Doug Newman about this book and you can watch it via this link… https://youtu.be/tuiptFjuXo4

LBJ’s are the bain of every birder, amateur or professional and in this book, Doug has set out some easy rules to try and help you accurately identify these ‘annoying’ species.

 

 

Many years ago I interviewed Vincent about a book on Frogs that he co-authored. Little did I know that he was such a fountain of knowledge on the Magaliesberg and the Cradle of Humankind. I suppose my favourite image in the book is that of Prof. Philip Tobias, with his nose rubbed to a shiny finish by the thousands of visitors who pass by annually. Knowing how proud the Professor was of his appearance, I am not certain if he would be happy with the current state of his nose. The image can be found on page 98.

There is also an interesting chapter on the building of the iconic dam wall at Hartbeespoort as well as well researched chapters on a variety of topics. From the birth of a Planet to the Boers and the British and most things in between that pertain to the area.

 

 

Do you remember the song by Max Bygraves entitled “What noise annoys an oyster”? If not, don’t stress as this book will not give you the answer. However, it will enable you to answer the Puzzle of the Pronk and interesting facts about the Brant’s Whistling Rat. (Nope, I did not know that they existed either. Instead of using photographs (although some do feature) the book uses illustrations by Penny Meakin to explain salient points to the reader.

 

 

I started this posting with the largest book and I will end it with the smallest to cross my desk. This is a ‘proper’ pocket guide and once we are allowed to travel internationally without restrictions, I am hoping to field test this book in Zambia! High definition images to help with identification, coupled with enough information about the species featured to answer any questions that might crop up on a bushwalk or a game drive.

 

 

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