Recommended reading

I love books. On this page, I’ll recommend some books I’ve enjoyed or found useful. I’ll keep it relevant by only including natural history related stuff, and will update the list from time to time.

Nightjars and their Allies by D.T Holyoak

This really is the bible of Nightjar reference books. Published in 2001 it is nearly 20 years old now, so there has been plenty of research undertaken since, but it gives highly detailed accounts of 118 species. It’s been out of print for quite a while, and if you’re lucky enough to track one down, you can expect to pay a small fortune for it, but it’s well worth it.

Nightjars, Potoos, Frogmouths, Oilbird and Owlet-nightjars by Nigel Cleere

If Holyoak’s book is the ultimate academical reference on the caprimulgiformes and their allies, then this is easily the ultimate identification guide, or simply just a beautiful collection of images of all 135 known species, even if the only birds available for study are museum corpses, or even, as in the case of the Nechisar Nightjar, a single wing, removed from a decomposing bird by its finders. A stunning book.

Tracking The Highland Tiger by Marianne Taylor

This book alternates chapters on biology, taxonomy, history, mythology, conservation, etc with accounts of the authors own trips to Scotland in pursuit of the Scottish Wildcat. The authors own attempts to see this most elusive of mammals often mirrored some of my own efforts and I was often able to pinpoint the exact places she described. This book takes an optimistic and hopeful stance towards the fortunes of this critically endangered species.

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

It’s hard to persuade anyone that a book based around obsessive flytiers (those who tie flies for fly-fishing) is a must-read, but it really is, and no, I have absolutely no interest in fishing either! It’s actually the story of the theft of large numbers of specimens such as quetzals and birds of paradise from the Tring Natural History Museum in 2009, and the detective work undertaken by the author to trace some of the specimens that are still missing.

The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw

A stunningly illustrated book on bird anatomy. The birds are shown in lifelike positions and engaged in behaviour typical of the species: an underwater view of the skeleton of a swimming loon, the musculature of a porpoising penguin, and an unfeathered sparrowhawk plucking its prey. As much a work of art as it is a source of learning.

Horn by Peter Kuhnert

I picked this book up in Kruger National Park, South Africa, which is also the setting for the book. HORN is the fast-paced story of the rhino poaching scourge in Kruger National Park. Vietnam syndicates are enticing the impoverished African locals to risk their lives for a few dollars, while they make millions. The South African government appoints Eduardo Ruiz to head the Kruger anti-poaching unit. The rhino holds a powerful lure for the anti-poaching patrol, a London journalist, a Hong Kong society lady, a syndicate boss, and an Interpol agent who are all chasing the horn; on the living beast or as a powdered placebo.

Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist

Mel and Fiona Sunquist have spent more than a decade gathering information about cats from every available source, including scientific papers, descriptions of hunts, archeological findings, observations by naturalists and travelers, government reports and organisation newsletters. Combining it with their own experiences observing wild cats around the world, the Sunquists have created the most comprehensive reference on felids available.

Few and Far Between by Charlie Elder

An account of the authors quest to track down a predetermined list of 25 of the rarest species to be found in the British Isles. I’ve seen a decent amount of them myself so there’s a degree of enjoyment to be had simply from reading someone else’s shared experience, but really it’s the funny and self-deprecating writing style of Charlie Elder that makes this book so entertaining. I also recommend ‘While Flocks Last’ by the same author.

Wildcat Haven by Mike Tomkies

I have long held a fascination with the Scottish Wildcat and, having spent a lot of time looking for, and eventually finding, my own cats, I have come to know the area that Tomkies describes in this book quite well. It’s a beautiful part of the world, and one that would be that bit less special without the knowledge that these amazing predators are inhabiting it, albeit in extremely precarious numbers. Any of Tomkies’ books are worth a read.

Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker

This one obviously appeals to my own listing tendencies, though they’re not as extreme as Stryker’s! In 2015, Noah Stryker set himself the goal of setting a record for seeing as many of the world’s 10,000 or so birds as possible in a year, managing 6,042 of them.

British Moths Second Edition by Chris Manley

Identifying moths is often hard enough at the best of times. Often enjoyable and occasionally very frustrating. This book is a superb guide to help along the way with 2147 species all with colour photographs. It still doesn’t make the process of identification easy all the time – I don’t think any book could – but it is a huge help and I wouldn’t be without it.

Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life

I regularly read George Monbiot’s articles and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything he’s written that I don’t agree with. This book has arguably done more for the recent interest in rewilding than any other. To quote Thom Yorke on Feral, ” In order to change our world you have to be able to see a better one.”