Sunday, March 3, 2019

New Book Recommendations

I've been enjoying these new books, and I thought they might interest you, too.

192 pages, 10 x 12 inches, hardback. Publisher: Yale University Press
The catalog that accompanies the current exhibition in Milwaukee includes over a hundred color reproductions of the French academic master's work, including many detailed, full-bleed closeups that let you survey the paint surface. The exhibition of nearly 50 major paintings covers his whole career, from his early historically inspired works to his later paintings of Italian children and angels. The text by Tanya Paul, Stanton Thomas, and four others focuses on Bouguereau's popularity, his standing with critics, and what drove American collectors to prize his works. Unlike the catalog from the 1984 exhibition, the text doesn't really look into his teaching principles and painting methods.

End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals
256 pages, 8.3 x 10.3 inches
Dinosaurs get a lot of attention, but the large mammals and birds that flourished in the last few million years were just as amazing. There were 9-foot-tall flightless birds, gorilla-size lemurs, and massive sloths. Except for a few familiar survivors like elephants, giraffes, bison and moose, these megafauna or giant animals are all extinct. Until recently, it was assumed that they were all killed off by human hunters, but the actual story may be more complex. The author is Ross MacPhee, a paleomammalogist from the American Museum of Natural History, who has conducted over 50 expeditions to nearly every corner of the globe. He explores all the competing extinction theories and explains how we've learned about paleoenvironments and phylogenetics. The book is amply illustrated with new paintings by Peter Schouten, along with photos and diagrams.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
416 pages, 8.9 x 6.2 inches 
Steve Brusatte is a young American paleontologist who has been involved with many key new discoveries in this current golden age of dinosaur science. He starts his account with the rise of the dinosaurs as unimpressive small creatures living at the fringes of Triassic environments that were dominated by other, bigger creatures. He then tells what happened as dinosaurs came to dominate world ecosystems, culminating with famous types like the Tyrannosaurus rex (one of Brusatte's specialties). He ends his story by examining various extinction theories that explain how all but the birds were wiped out. Woven through this well-written scientific account are his personal stories of discovery and collaboration with other scientists. This book will appeal not just to dinosaur fanatics but to any general reader.

352 pages, 10.5 x 12 inches This unique picture book features over 300 images of animals taken from many different cultures and from eras ranging from the ancient world to the present. The images tell the story of animals and our response to them, and will prove stimulating and inspiring to any visually driven person. The book's promo copy gives a sense of the scope: "From the first cave paintings, extraordinary medieval bestiaries and exquisite scientific illustration, to iconic paintings, contemporary artworks and the incredible technological advancements that will shape our futures together, the huge range of works reflects the beauty and variety of animals themselves - including butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, frogs, tigers, dogs, jellyfish, spiders and elephants, to name a few."

Illustrator, writer, and concept artist Simon Stålenhag has produced three stunning volumes of visual science fiction, and they're all inspiring and well executed. The first two, Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood, describe an alternate 1980s universe where big research firms have built mysterious giant robots and underground facilities that for the most part aren't working anymore. Things start to get weird as some teenage kids begin exploring them. Stålenhag's most recent book, The Electric State, tells a separate story set in the USA, about a woman and her companion robot crossing post-apocalyptic landscapes trying to solve a mystery. For the most part the illustrations are set in mysterious twilight or fog.

How to Read Water: Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea
Author Tristan Gooley is a world explorer, pilot, and sailor. Throughout his explorations he has made  many fascinating observations about the behavior of water. His book is divided into chapters such as "rivers and streams," "the color of water," "reading waves," and "water at night." He concentrates on both commonplace and exotic observations. The book is full of well-written explanations that deepen your appreciation of the earth's universal material. The book resembles the kind of observations you might have read in my own book, Color and Light, or the classic in the field of backyard science, M. Minnaert's The Nature of Light and Colour in the Open Air.


ferrelli said...

What a great bunch of books! I can see spending time reading the last 2–Having spent some great times sailing on the Great Lakes and a little time in the Caribbean I’d like to see how my experiences stack up next to what Tristen Godley has to say. And what teenager wouldn’t enjoy the books by Simon Stalenhag? Thanks for posting all of these. You always have something to say that I find interesting and intriguing.

Steve said...

Thanks for these recommendations, James. The title of the water book brings to mind the Polynesian sailors who could find tiny islands across hundreds of miles of open ocean, partly through celestial navigation but largely through reading the swells.

Pat Rock said...

I went to the Bouguereau exhibition this weekend and bought the catalog. Even sprang for the hardback.

Both are incredible.