Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide: Owls of North America by Frances Backhouse

Readers with an interest in owls will simply not find a better book than respected science and environmental writer Frances Backhouse’s Owls of North America (Firefly Books).

The book is large and handsome, suitable for coffee table adornment, but don’t let it spend too much time there. Backhouse hits just everything you’d want to see covered in a book of this nature: owls in history and mythology, their mating and flight habits, how they communicate, see rest.

A large chunk of the book is given over to profiles of 23 species of owls, intended to help owl buffs identify and observe their own neighborhood owls.

“From ancient myth to Harry Potter, owls hold an enduring place in the human imagination,” Backhouse writes. “In some cultures they are revered, in others, feared. And for every superstition that associates owls with good fortune, a dozen more link them to mortality, sickness or evil. A small sample of the hundreds of legends, beliefs and customs that invoke owls gives a sense of the prominent and diverse roles in which these birds have been cast.”

Owls of North America will be a fabulous gift for the naturalist of curious child on your list.

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