Whether your summer leisure time is spent on the beach, in the mountains, or on the back porch, a good book is a great companion. Here are a few recent titles that I recommend.
The only work of fiction on the list, "Anthill: A Novel by E.O. Wilson" (2010, W.W. Norton & Co., $24.95), is the semi-autobiographical tale of boy who grows up in the Deep South and becomes an internationally acclaimed naturalist. Wilson is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and professor emeritus of entomology at Harvard University, so I was anxious to see how he'd handle a work of fiction. The quarter of the book devoted to the natural history of mound ants and how their lives parallel those of humans is excellent. The human aspects of the story are ordinary.
"Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur" by Sy Montgomery (2010, Free Press, $25) recounts a series of encounters the author has had with various birds. The title is self-explanatory.
"The Eagle Watchers: Observing and Conserving Raptors Around the World," edited by Ruth E. Tingay and Todd E. Katzner (2010, Cornell University Press, $29.95), contains the tales of 29 eagle researchers from around the world. Kaztner, director of conservation and field research at Pittsburgh's National Aviary, includes his work with eastern imperial eagles in Kazakhstan.
"The Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America" (2010, Houghton Mifflin, $19.95) is the latest edition of Roger Tory Peterson's classic field guide to birds. This sixth edition finally includes a thumbnail range map on the facing page of each species account, so it can now be considered among the best field guides on the market.
"Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming" by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (2010, Bloomsbury Press, $27) is the disturbing tale of how some scientists sell their souls to advance political and economic agendas.
"Being with Animals: Why We are Obsessed with the Furry, Scaly, Feathered Creatures Who Populate Our World" by Barbara J. King (2010, Doubleday, $24.99) is an anthropologist's view of how and why most humans love animals.