A bee-eater consumes some 200 bees a day to survive. The tailorbird uses its beak and spider webs to sew leaves together for its nest. In owls, one ear is higher and bigger than the other to sharpen hearing. Collectively, a bird’s feathers weigh more than all its bones. And in the next few decades, one of every nine species of bird may go extinct. These are just some of the facts Colin Tudge has gathered in his capacious, enthusiastic study, The Bird (Crown, $30). He shows how birds nest and mate and he explains the difference between calls and songs. He includes lessons in taxonomy and surveys the 31 orders into which the world’s 10,500 species of birds are organized. He explains what little we understand about migration, and describes scientific debates over the relationship between birds and dinosaurs and how birds think. He lays out the arguments for seeing birds in a spirit of Darwinian competitiveness as opposed to one of mutually beneficial cooperation. As he did in The Tree, Tudge assembles a huge amount of information into a compelling narrative.

The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307342058
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Broadway Books - September 7th, 2010

Ten years in the making, Asterios Polyp (Pantheon, $29.95) has everything literary fiction has: compelling plot, complex characters, ideas, social critique, symbolism, allusions—plus great images.  David Mazzucchelli’s colors are brilliant and, with his versatile lines, styles, and fonts, signal a scene’s emotional frequency, flesh out character, heighten drama, distinguish dream from reality, and deepen all kinds of resonances. As for the plot, it’s a late-coming-of-age tale, a love story, an odyssey. Asterios is of the anti-hero tradition, yet he’s oddly affecting despite being arrogant, pedantic, and so inflexible that his dialogue balloons are always sharp rectangles. When he loses everything—wife, career, possessions—and hops a bus for wherever, he starts to put the pieces back together. Many of these pieces come from classical myths (Castor and Pollux, Polyphemus, Orpheus), offering yet more interpretive fun.

Asterios Polyp (Pantheon Graphic Library) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307377326
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon - July 7th, 2009

Christopher McDougall’s fast-paced look at running, Born To Run (Knopf, $24.95), is part adventure, part anthropology, and part physiology; it’s stuffed with amazing characters, incredible feats, and wow moments. Wondering why he couldn’t run without getting hurt, McDougall investigated the superhumans who run ultramarathons of 50 and 100 miles through blazing deserts, up mountains, and against horses. Some of these extreme athletes party as hard as they run; not discipline but spirit is their secret. This is also the key to the elusive Tarahumara, a cave-dwelling people of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Natural ultramarathoners, these Indians run as a way of life. Despite traversing rocky, cactus-ridden terrain in thin-soled sandals, the Tarahumara are seldom injured, and McDougall’s research concludes that today’s high-tech running shoes cause rather than prevent injuries by not letting the foot work the way it was designed to. If you’re a runner, this book will have you craving more than the occasional 10K. If you’re not a runner, you’ll want to see what you’re missing.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307266309
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - May 5th, 2009

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307279187
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Vintage - March 29th, 2011