A layman needs a good guide when on tour of a new territory, whether that be a museum, a literary genre, or a country's heritage. In David Pearson's and Les Beletsky's 485 page ECUADOR and its GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, they present a book that is as good a guide as a layman could hope for, not just for exploring Ecuador or its Galapagos Islands, but for getting to know much of the fauna of Amazonian Latin America. The text is professionally written, yet down to earth and not infrequently humorous. The famous entomologist J. Henri Fabre once wrote, "Others again have reproached me with my style, which has not the solemnity, nay, better, the dryness of the schools. They fear lest a page that is read without fatigue should not always be the expression of the truth. Were I to take their word for it, we are profound only on condition of being obscure." This approach to scientific writing - being informative without being pedantic - allows writers like Pearson and Beletsky to fill the reader's heart with wonder while still often bringing a smile to his/her face.
With Ecuador being one of the most biologically diverse countries on earth, it is impossible to create a book that is both comprehensive and brief. The authors have gone for middle ground, covering the portion of Ecuadorian wildlife that is of interest and/or likely to be spotted by the ecotraveller to Ecuador. There are 96 color plates (with 5-6 animals illustrated on each one), several pages of color photographs, an excellent chapter - with maps - of Ecuador's National Parks and Bioreserves, a section on Ecuador's geography and habitats (e.g., Lowland Wet Forest, Mangrove and Coastal Vegetation) along with drawings illustrating several major plants in these regions, and 200 pages of animal descriptions under the headings 'Amphibians', 'Reptiles', 'Birds', 'Mammals', 'Insects & Other Arthropods', and 'Galapagos Wildlife'.
As an Ecuadorian resident, I have found this guide to be an excellent aid to identifying and understanding the natural history of the country. The book was both informative and fun to read, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about this wonderful area of the world.