Mark O'Shea highly recommends the following books:
The Song Of The Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions (1996)
Why have island ecosystems always suffered such high rates of extinction ? In our age, with all the world's landscapes, from Tasmania to the Amazon to Yellowstone, now being carved into islandlike fragments by human activity, the implications of this question are more urgent than ever. Over the past eight years, David Quammen has followed the threads of island biogeography on a globe-encircling journey of discovery.
Mark's review: pending
Monster of God: The Man-eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind (2003)
Great and terrible flesh-eating beasts have always shared the landscape with humans. Now, of course, as humans spread and despoil the planet, predators may only survive on the glass barriers and chain-link fences. David Quammen is no armchair evolutionary theorist, and, in "The Song of Dodo", everything he writes about he has experienced first-hand. In this book, he examines the fate of lions in India's Gir forest, salt water crocodiles in northern Australia, brown bears in the mountains of Romania and Siberian tigers. He is equally intrigued by the traditional relationship between the great predators and the people who live among them, and weaves into his story the fears and myths that have haunted humankind for millennia.
Mark's review: pending
The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers (2008)
When Bryan Christy began to investigate the world of reptile smuggling, he had no idea what he would be in for. In the course of his research, he was bitten between the eyes by a blood python, chased by a mother alligator, and sprayed by a bird-eating tarantula. But perhaps more dangerous was coming face to face with Michael J. Van Nostrand, owner of Strictly Reptiles, a thriving family business in Hollywood, Florida. Van Nostrand imports as many as 300,000 iguanas each year (over half the total of America's most popular imported reptile), as well as hundreds of thousands of snakes, lizards, frogs, spiders and scorpions. Van Nostrand was suspected of being a reptile smuggler by Special Agent Chip Bepler of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who devoted years of his life in an obsessive quest to expose The Lizard King's cold-blooded crimes. How this cat-and-mouse game ended is engrossing and surprising.
Mark's review: click here to download the review from The Herptile 2009 34(1):17-19.
The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge (2008)
Joe Slowinsky is in the forefront of the herpetology field, and he has woken one morning with a hangover. He puts his hand in a bag of snakes, feels a bite on his finger and, in that moment, knows his life is over. He's been bitten by a krait, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. The Snake Catcher is the story of Joe Slowinsky, celebrated scientist and explorer. His career was fast and exciting and his last tragic expedition is a pulse-pounding struggle between man and nature. Here, Jamie James captures perfectly the life of a nature trailblazer.
Mark's review: click here to download the review from The Herptile 2008 33(4):141-144.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (2008)
It's December 1997, and a man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote village in Russia's Far East. The tiger isn't just killing people, it's annihilating them, and a team of men and their dogs must hunt it on foot through the forest in the brutal cold. As the trackers sift through the gruesome remains of the victims, they discover that these attacks aren't random: the tiger is apparently engaged in a vendetta. Injured, starving, and extremely dangerous, the tiger must be found before it strikes again. As he re-creates these extraordinary events, John Vaillant gives us an unforgettable portrait of this spectacularly beautiful and mysterious region. We meet the native tribes who for centuries have worshipped and lived alongside tigers, even sharing their kills with them. We witness the arrival of Russian settlers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, soldiers and hunters who greatly diminished the tiger populations. And we come to know their descendants, who, crushed by poverty, have turned to poaching and further upset the natural balance of the region. This ancient, tenuous relationship between man and predator is at the very heart of this remarkable book. Throughout we encounter surprising theories of how humans and tigers may have evolved to coexist, how we may have developed as scavengers rather than hunters, and how early Homo sapiens may have fit seamlessly into the tiger's ecosystem. Above all, we come to understand the endangered Siberian tiger, a highly intelligent super-predator that can grow to ten feet long, weigh more than six hundred pounds, and range daily over vast territories of forest and mountain. Beautifully written and deeply informative, The Tiger circles around three main characters: Vladimir Markov, a poacher killed by the tiger; Yuri Trush, the lead tracker; and the tiger himself. It is an absolutely gripping tale of man and nature that leads inexorably to a final showdown in a clearing deep in the taiga.
Mark's review: pending
Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science, and Survival in the Congo. (2010)
Harvard-educated herpetologist, Kate Jackson set up her tent in a pygmy village, and went to collect Central African snakes, lizards and frogs. This text describes her struggles to learn Central African customs, overcome labyrinthine bureaucracy there, fit cobras into small backpacks and convince locals that she is a scientist and not a witch.