This month we're tackling our kind of ABCs — Amazing Africa, Birds & Beasts and Costa Rica (The Book of Barely Imagined Beings really is an alphabet book), along with a modest nod to May Day, the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest (Hail Britannia) and a new reason to read or re-read Midnight's Children. We close with a fond farewell to dearly departed authors.
P.S. For those of you in New York, the celebrated Jan Morris, who was at Everest base camp on 29 May 1953, will be on stage in conversation with Don George on May 8 in a benefit for the American Himalayan Foundation. More, including ticket information, on the Longitude Blog.
1. NEW & NOTEWORTHY: WHALES, DINOS AND OTHER BEASTS
Some creatures, whales and dinosaurs included, engage the imagination and not just of children. We've even got a Birds & Beasts reading list at Longitude. Bryant Austin's project to portray minke, humpback, sperm and other whales at full size captures the mystery and fascination of these great beasts. A gallery artist (his installations are obviously huge!), Austin just published his first book, featured below. You'll find more great nature photography throughout the newsletter.
An aquanaut of the first order, Bryant Austin creates high resolution portraits of the great whales at full-scale. With nothing more than a Hasselblad, a snorkel and an idea, the California-native traveled to meet the whales in Tonga, the Great Barrier Reef and Dominica in the West Indies. Remarkably, none of his photographs are taken from more than six-feet; the largest print in the 12 x 15 book is a full five-foot-wide fold out (reproduced at 1:6) and the eye-to-eye photos are presented at full scale. Austin's installation is at the Museum of Monterey through August, and his work is on permanent display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Wunderpus photogenicus and other weird and, well, wonderful sea creatures feature prominently in Caspar Henderson's captivating alphabet book of evolutionary marvels. Henderson reveals all in terrific illustrations and amazing photographs, pithy quotes and salient points about ecology or simple amazement at the natural world. Best of all: unlike medieval bestiaries, all these creatures are real!
Baneberries, bloodroot, columbine, trillium, trout-lily and wild ginger are among the 35 wildflowers featured in Carol Gracie's coffee-table worthy celebration. If, like us, you've been toiling in the dirt the past few weeks, we also suggest Rick Darke's The American Woodland Garden and Barbara Damrosch's 100% organic The Garden Primer.
Feathered or at least fuzzy, colorful and quick on their feet, much of what we now know about dinosaurs is new! Dino-obsessed science writer Brian Switek takes us along on a cross-country odyssey ("On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs") visiting museums, paleontologists, laboratories and fossil sites across America.
2. NEW IN PAPER: MADAGASCAR, BIRDING, PHOTOGRAPHY, GALAPAGOS
This new edition of Art Wolfe's elegant how-to manual showcases 250 photographs, with insightful commentary by Martha Hill, a former photo editor at Audubon magazine, and digital-imaging expert Tim Grey.
As captivated by the Malagasy people as by the astoundingly strange wildlife and genuinely bizarre plants, Peter Tyson interweaves his travels with history of Madagascar, stories of his time with a team of researchers and his encounters the people and customs of the island. Uncommonly informative, the book includes a glossary, notes and an index. Many thanks to Hilary and the team at Bradt Guide for returning this marvelous book to print! Bradt also publishes Madagascar Wildlife and the Bradt Guide Madagascar, now in its 10 edition (Hilary's advice on culture is invaluable). Both are in our Essential Reading Madagascar package.
This colorful slim guide devotes a full page to each of 160 species of iconic or commonly encountered North American birds from the House Wren to Bald Eagle. Jonathan Alderfer, who contributed paintings and co-authored both this guide (with Laura Erickson) and the sixth edition of the National Geographic Guide to the Birds of North America, is also the author of the coffee-table worthy, captivating Bird Watcher's Bible. Take your pick.
Privileged college boys, returned from a bloody war, and left-wing journalists head into confrontation in the heart of New York City on May Day at the end of World War I in this little-known novella by F. Scott Fitzgerald, included in this collection of tales set in 1920s America.
Back in stock! The mysterious goings-on of colorful early settlers including dentist Dr. Friedrich Ritter, Baroness Wagner Eloise von Wagner de Bosquet and her three lovers, and sturdy Margaret Wittmer and her family, take center stage in John Trehorne's riveting, real-life tale of murder in paradise. Anybody interested in working on the screen play?
Crowned Best of the Booker Prize winners in 2008, Salman Rushdie's greatest novel — a madcap, comic take on the birth of modern India in all its splendid and unexpected manifestations — has now been made into a movie by his friend Deepa Mehta. Opening nationwide this month. Adapted and narrated by Rushdie.
3. AMAZING AFRICA: FRANS LANTING, MICHAEL POLIZA, JONATHAN KINGDON
People, wildlife, landscapes and the diversity of Africa are on display in this uncommon constellation of illustrated books, including artist and wildlife biologist Jonathan Kingdon's Magnus Opus, the definitive, six-volume monograph on the ecology and evolution, morphology and fossil history of 1,160 species of African mammal, representing the work of 350 authors. Intrigued? Kingdon, who looks a bit like Santa, introduces the book on YouTube.
Published in conjunction with UNESCO, Pascal Maitre's collection of 147 double-page color photographs highlights the diversity of people, traditions and living conditions across Africa. Reflecting his work over the last 30 years, the stunning images have in common both emotional power and a rich color-saturated hue (he often shot in Kodachrome).
A Longitude favorite, Frans Lanting's classic portrait of the wildlife and habitats of the Okavango is back in print in a handsome hardcover. Covering the extraordinary wetlands, Kalahari, elephants and the people of the region. The art publisher Taschen has also reprinted Lanting's Penguin (ANT117, $14.99) and Jungles (AMZ65, $19.99), both in paper. Now, if only Madagascar: A World Out of Time, which won Lanting Wildlife Photgorapher of the Year in 1991, would reappear!
Seven weeks from Hamburg to Cape Town in a fire-red Agusta A109 helicopter, Michael Poliza and his pilots traversed the continent for this collection of 200 double-page, aerial photographs. Some taken from as low as 100 feet and most shot from directly overhead, the photographs give perspective to the landscapes, herds of wildlife, cities and villages from Egypt and Ethiopia to the plains of Kenya and Tanzania, shores of Mozambique, wildlife of Botswana and marvels of Okavango and the Namib desert. Poliza has published a series of photography books on Africa, including Classic Africa, South Africa and Kenya.
With 660 exquisite color paintings by artist, zoologist, contributor and co-editor Jonathan Kingdon, range maps and authoritative essays on the ecology and evolution, morphology and fossil history of every species of African mammal by a team of experts, this remarkable six-volume set was 15 years in the making. $800 until May 31, 20013, $900 thereafter.
4. CONQUERING EVEREST: THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY
"Well George, we've knocked the bastard off," Edmund Hillary is reported to have said to lead climber and photographer George Lowe as he bounded to meet them on the return from the summit on 29 May 1953.
Editor Huw Lewis-Jones brings together remarkable imagery and rare materials from the private archives of legendary climber and photographer George Lowe, a key member the triumphant British Everest Expedition. With a forward by Hillary (one of the last things he wrote), an epilogue by Jan Morris and tributes by legendary climbers, the book celebrates not just the man and but also the mountain. Lowe, who collaborated closely with Hew, died on March 20 of this year.
Published with the American Alpine Club, this stunning celebration of the allure of climbing and grandeur of the great peaks by climber Sandy Hill features images by nature photographers and adventurers spanning two centuries, Ansel Adams, Edmund Hillary, Bradford Washburn and Galen Rowell among them. Hill, one of the first women to reach the highest summits on all seven continents, and others provide concise essays but it is the 350 oversized, sumptuous photographs that will knock you over.
The Sarapiquí region is one of the most species-rich birding areas in the country, offering easy access to excellent birding sites in the Caribbean lowlands and foothills. The annual Christmas Bird Count organized by La Selva Biological Station, near Puerto Viejo in the northeast, has tallied more than 520 species of birds over the last 28 years.
Nearby Selva Verde and Rainforest Reserve has reported 210 species from its property alone — and many species of migrants are not even present in December when the count takes place! Just two hours from San Jose, Selva Verde is a terrific base to explore the region. Keel-billed Toucans, Great Green Macaws, Wood Thrushes, Grey-necked Wood Rails, Sunbitterns and Violet Crowned Woodnymphs are just a few of the birds that you might encounter at the Lodge, a stop on the Costa Rica Bird Route.
A scenic tropical river with its origins high on the northern slopes of Barva and Poás Volcanoes, the Sarapiquí River runs through the Costa Rican Bird Route. Navigable downstream from the town of Puerto Viejo, where passenger and local cargo vessels are usually gathered at the village dock, wildlife viewing trips can be arranged using these boats (if you're staying in one of the area lodges, it's easiest to let them set things up). These excursions take you slowly downstream to the confluence of the Sucio River (about 10 km.), before turning around. The trip normally takes between two and three hours (depending on water levels and how much you're seeing). Commonly observed wildlife includes: both Three-toed and Two-toed Sloths, Mantled Howler Monkeys, Southern River Otters, Black River Turtles, American Crocodiles, and a wide variety of birds. For those seeking more excitement, the Sarapiquí picks up gradient and becomes one of the finest rivers in Costa Rica for kayaking and whitewater rafting upstream from Puerto Viejo.
Including Pompeii, Nocera and Salerno, with an inset map of Capri at a scale of 1:35,000, this handy road map shows hiking trails, tracks, historic buildings and attractions. With travel information on the reverse.
German-born, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (7 May 1927 - 3 April 2013), though often mistaken as Indian (husband Mr. Cyrus S. H. Jhabvala is from Delhi), she had lived in New York since 1975. A screenwriter and frequent collaborator with the Merchant-Ivory film duo, Prawer Jhabvala won the Booker Prize for Heat and Dust. Her script for A Room With a View won an Oscar. Published in 2012, the stories in A Lovesong for India — set in India, England and New York City — fittingly meditate on the things that unite people across oceans, cultures and lifetimes.
Mountaineer and French national hero Maurice Herzog (15 January 1919 - 13 December 2012) was in 1950 the leader of the first expedition to climb not just Annapurna but any 8,000-meter peak. He went on to be the French minister of youth and sport in the 1960s, mayor of Chamonix for a time, a business man and member of the French Olympic Committee for 25 years. Conrad Anker provides the foreword for the 60th-anniversary edition of Maurice Herzog's classic account of the expedition, dictated from his hospital bed in Paris. The bestselling mountaineering book of all time, it is also a Longitude favorite. Ed Douglas writes in Herzog's obituary for guardian.co.uk, "He spent months in [the] hospital recovering from his injuries, plunged in a deep depression. Writing his book was not only cathartic but also sealed his reputation as a dynamic and courageous leader, and helped restore self-respect to postwar France."
Born in Lima Ohio, Donald Richie (17 April 1924 - 19 February 2013) all but adopted Japan as his homeland when he first arrived in 1947 with the US occupation forces. Author of 40 books, fiction and non-fiction, criticism and a commentator on Japanese film and culture (he was a regular contributor to the Japan Times). The Inland Sea, Richie's masterpiece, is much more than a travel account; it is a beautiful reflection on all things Japanese and Essential Reading for any traveler.
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