Hart, Michael H. & Clarie L. Parkinson. The Newton Awards: A History of Genius in Science and Technology. Washington Summit. Sept. 2013. 524p. index. ISBN 9781593680121. pap. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781593680138. $14. REF
In this edifying tour of the great scientific achievements of the Western world, Hart (The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History) and Parkinson (Breakthroughs: A Chronology of Great Achievements in Science and Mathematics) canvass the history of science from Johannes Kepler’s discovery of the laws of planetary motion at the beginning of the 17th century to the cloning of Dolly in 1996. Imagining a more expansive version of the Nobel Prizes, the authors have given out 140 awards to worthy recipients in all branches of mathematics and the natural sciences. The chronologically arranged entries each average three pages in length and highlight a winner by providing biographical material as well as scientific background and the legacy of the person’s innovation. Criteria for selection included the importance of the achievement, its practical applications, and the degree to which the innovation struck the authors as a “brilliant achievement.” Award winners are primarily the usual suspects, including Isaac Newton, Antoine Lavoisier, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Wernher von Braun, though others are less well known, such as the discoverer of the cholera vaccine, Waldemar Haffkine, and the inventor of the piano, Bartolomeo Cristofori. Appendixes highlight “Other Noteworthy Achievements” as well as offer a breakdown of awards by field, nationality, and age. VERDICT Novel in theme, packed with interesting details, and written in engaging prose, this volume is recommended for readers working on reports and those who have a general interest in the history of science.
Stephenson, Tom & Scott Whittle. The Warbler Guide. Princeton Univ. 2013. 560p. photos. index. ISBN 9780691154824. $29.95. REF
Little yellow birds with high-pitched melodies migrate every spring to confound many birders trying to identify them. Avid birders Stephenson (articles in Birder and Bird Watcher’s Digest) and Whittle (photographer) pull together every distinguishing characteristic in this guide. The first 100 pages cover generalities of what to look and listen for, while the bulk of the material presents species individually, offering diagrams and bullet points that highlight major distinctions, multiple color photographs with views from every angle, comparison species, aging and sexing, a distribution and migration map, and sonograms for the species and similar sounding nonwarblers—in all, each species is covered in six densely packed pages. The “visual finders” pages may enjoy the book’s heaviest use. The “Face Quick Finder,” for example, presents side views of the heads of 80 species, displayed across a spread. Similar spreads depict views from other angles, as well as seasonal and geographic distinctions. Some “finders” cover sonograms, graphing songs, and chip and flight calls of various warblers, distinguished by pitch and quality of sound. Those unfamiliar with visualizing sound this way may be aided by comparing audio and sonograms of the same species; The Guide’s Song and Call Companion is available for $5.99 at macaulaylibrary.org/guide/the-warbler-guide; free audio can be found at allaboutbirds.org/guide/search. The work closes with brief descriptions of similar nonwarblers, hybrid warblers, an eight-photo quiz and review, pictorial and narrative descriptions of various warbler species in flight, a taxonomy tree, a table of measurements, silhouettes, a table of habitat and behavior, a glossary, a list of resources, and an index by common and genus species names. Additional material can be found at thewarblerguide.com, which unfortunately is not the URL listed in the guide. Some will find this title too bulky to carry into the field, but dedicated birders will happily tote it along for the wealth of information contained or buy the ebook. VERDICT This is the book to get for warbler identification. Highly recommended for public libraries with bird-watching patrons and academic libraries with ornithology classes.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. 2d. ed. Gale. 5 vols. 2013. 3800p. ed. by Thomas Riggs. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781558628526. $767; ebk. ISBN 9781558628533. REF
The first edition of this five-volume work appeared in 2000 and received a warm reception from reference book reviewers. As well it should, as the set contained 2,700 well-written and thoroughly researched, signed articles covering a plethora of fads and fashions in this country, from ABBA to ZZ Top. This reviewer is pleased to state that an already very good reference set has been elevated to a great one. Some of the more notable improvements include 300 new entries, expanded/updated original articles (essay-length pieces are now broken down into more manageable sections with the addition of subheadings), color photographs largely replacing formerly all black-and-white shots, inclusion of cross-references and expanded bibliographies, both of which appear at the end of each entry. What hasn’t changed is the intentional focus on 20th- and early 21st-century music, books, film, television, clothing, and so on that is reflective of the temper of the times. This emphasis has remained constant because “popular culture,” construed in terms of consumerism and mass marketing, is a hallmark of our modern era, whereas centuries past saw a folk culture in which stories, songs, dance, etc. were created by individuals and passed down from generation to generation. Also carried over from the original set are such helpful special features as an introductory essay, “The Art of Everyday Life” (updated by author Jim Cullen), a supplemental reading list, a general index, and a “time-frame” index, which lists entries decade by decade. VERDICT Whether the question involves The A-Team television show, breast implants, Coca-Cola, or myriad other aspects of high and lowbrow culture, the interesting and informative answer may surely be found within these pages. Strongly recommended for purchase by all public and academic libraries.
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Miller’s Antiques Encyclopedia: New Edition. 4th ed. Mitchell Beazley: Octopus Pub. Group, dist. by Hachette. 2013. 592p. ed. by Judith Miller. photos. index. ISBN 9781845337698. $50. REF
LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS
Similes Dictionary. 2d ed. Visible Ink. 2013. 640p. ed. by Elyse Sommer. index. ISBN 9781578594337. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781578594696. REF
Grudzinski, Ted. Musical Terms: An International Thesaurus. rev. ed. Winequest. 2013. 494p. ISBN 9780985282479. pap. $35. REF
Stewart, Ian C. & Justin P. Lomont. The Handy Chemistry Answer Book. Visible Ink. Sept. 2013. 400p. illus. ISBN 9781578594580. pap. $21.95; ebk. ISBN 9781578594573. REF
The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History. Oxford Univ. (Encyclopedias of American History). 2 vols. 2013. 1550p. ed. by Paul S. Boyer. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199764358. $295. REF