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Wim Jacobs "ishpuini" (Belgium)
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Peat Smoke and Spirit: A Portrait of Islay and Its Whiskies
Peat Smoke and Spirit: A Portrait of Islay and Its Whiskies
by Andrew Jefford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything is in here, 4 Sep 2013
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Do you love Islay whisky and want to know more about the distilleries and the context of the island? This is the book to read. A lot of information, well researched with lots of details, so not a quick read. Good thing it's very well written.

Every distillery open at the time of writing is reviewed in detail. The chapters on the distilleries are intersected with chapters on all others aspects of the island, making for anything but a monotonous reading experience.

I read the book after a two day visit to Islay, visiting 4 distilleries in that short time. It felt like repeating the visit but staying much longer. After the last page I felt I knew the place like home...


Zoo Quest to Madagascar
Zoo Quest to Madagascar
by Sir David Attenborough
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars The early years, 4 Sep 2013
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This book is a great read with lots of information on Madagascar's natural history, although much of it has been refined by more recent research. Many things the Attenborough describes as mysteries have been solved since.

It's essentially a diary of Attenborough's trip to Madagascar for his 1961 Zoo Quest TV-series on the island, and it served as a companion to the series, which is evident in the chapters following the episodes. It can be read on its own perfectly though.

To me, the book really earns the 4 stars thanks to Attenborough's revisiting the island 50 years later in 2011 to film a stellar three part documentary. The beauty of those images and the rich information stand in stark contrast with the naive portrayal 50 years earlier, showing the enormous evolution of knowledge since. This contrast makes it so much fun to read!!


Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird
Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird
by Tim Birkhead
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating subject matter, 30 April 2013
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The book doesn't tell you what it's like to actually be a bird, as some seem to believe the subtitle promises. However, it clearly explains why this is not possible.

What the author does very well, is give details on how the different senses are used by various species to enhance their lives in an often unique way. For me the book was full of little details I could never have imagined and that will make me look at birds in a very different way from now on.

It's a fascinating subject matter with a lot of research work still to be done. I am looking forward to the advances in the field, and hope the author will be able to follow up this book with a sequel some day.


Guide to the Mammals of Madagascar
Guide to the Mammals of Madagascar
by Nick Garbutt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great for reading up on Madagascar's mammals while there, 8 April 2013
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I took this book along on a 4 week trip to Madagascar, and while it's not really a field guide (slightly too large and too cumbersome to access quickly), it's a great book to read after a good day of exploring Madagascar's nature. It provided substantial added value in my experience of watching the 15 odd species of lemurs that I was lucky to observe in the wild.

But the book is about much more than just the lemurs. It also treats Madagascar's other equally unique mammal species with similar detail. Whether you stumble across a tenrec along a path at night, spot a rat on a canyon floor, see fruit bats in a cave on a river bank, or catch a glimpse of some mongoose fleeing in the shrubbery, Nick Garbutt provides all information you need to ID the species and find out about their lives.

A special note for the excellent pictures that illustrate the book, the vast majority taken by the author himself, which must have been a enormous though thoroughly enjoyable (I'm jealous ;-) ) work.


Madagascar: 10 (Bradt Travel Guides)
Madagascar: 10 (Bradt Travel Guides)
by Hilary Bradt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Best Madagascar travel guides for English speakers, 8 April 2013
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Great book in the excellent tradition of Bradt. I loved the many anecdotes that are included. This edition is obviously inspired by the love the authors have for the island.

In order to have the most practical information at hand while not on an organized trip, it's best complimented by the Guide Routard however, provided one reads French. If I would have had to choose I would probably have preferred the Routard, but still I was happy to have both along while traveling this beautiful island as some of the places got a better treatment in the Bradt and some in the Routard. Most of the time the Routard won...

OTOH, the Bradt esp outshines the Routard on the subject of natural history.


Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Rodrigues, Seychelles and the Comoros
Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Rodrigues, Seychelles and the Comoros
by Ian Sinclair
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Madagascar bird guide, 8 April 2013
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I took this guide with me on a 4 week trip to Madagascar and found it a great help in IDing the many birds I saw. It's a good book to use and not too big to carry along. The illustrated table of contents is a great help for quick access.

One note though: on a number plates some of the numbers on the text page don't match all numbers with the illustrations. It's limited to a handful species only, and careful reading of the text brings out the mismatches, but it gives the book a rushed feel and doesn't inspire 100% confidence in the contents when one only finds out about this in the field. A shame. Hence only 4 out of 5 stars.


1421 : The Year China Discovered the World
1421 : The Year China Discovered the World
by Gavin Menzies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The only book I could never finish, 7 April 2009
I have a basic principle, to read every book I start from cover to cover before drawing any conclusions. I have read many hundreds of books that way (I didn't count so it could be over a thousand), including quite a few academic volumes.

This book is the exception. The beginning was fun, esp the comparisons of medieval England with the goings on at the contemporary Chinese court. But once Menzies starts into his theory things start to become highly speculative. As with many pseudo science books, a few vague unsupported claims are made upon which the reasoning is founded, the conclusions of which later serve to support the initial assumptions. Reasoning in circles in other words, and not even well done or well written... I couldn't bear it and put the book away after the first half. To date this is the only book that made me do this.

However, I'm sure a lot a lovers of pseudo science will love this. Just beware this book belongs in that category...


Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places)
Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places)
by Michael D. Coe
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good companion, 21 Nov 2007
I read Coe's book on the Maya when visiting the Mayan sites in Guatemala, and I liked it very much. So it was only normal that I would get his book on the Angkor civilization when visiting Cambodia. I read it throughout the three week trip and it offered important background during the visits. Though not going in the utmost detail I found it covered most aspects well enough and as such it enhanced my visits very much (though I didn't take it with me on the sites themselves, its being slightly too heavy for that made it stay in the hotel mostly).


Zambia: Safari in Style
Zambia: Safari in Style
by David Rogers
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zambia at its best, 11 Jan 2007
Having travelled to Zambia twice, I can safely say that this book gives the best view possible of the immense natural wealth of the country. David Rogers captures unique wildlife images and manages to show off the spirit of upmarket safari experiences possible in Zambia.

I met David on one of his photographic workshops in one of Robin Popes camps (Nkwali) and must say that the book clearly shows the enthousiasm David has for Africa and its natural heritage.

A great book by a great person!


Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture
Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture
by Chris Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £37.50

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive read, 2 Aug 2001
Blood Relations is a fascinating account of a possible way culture may have arisen. It is a ground breaking study in as much that it re-evaluates women's role in the cultural evolution proces, rather than see everything from a uniform (male oriented) point of view. At the same time it does not yield to feminist propaganda, and retains its objectivity throughout.
Perhaps exagerating the uniformous interpretation of the various myths discussed at the end of the book, Chris Knight does voice a lot a thought provoking ideas. The sheer volume and encyclopedic qualities of the work allow for sound evaluation of the proposed thesis.
Not one for the summer holidays, nor one for the unprepared, but this tough read is certainly one to at least make you re-evaluate culture and its origins. Much more so than most popular science titles. Unfortunately you will have to read these as well if you do not yet have the required background.
If the origin of culture is your quest, than this book is an absolute must!!


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