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A Natural History of Conifers Hardcover – May 15, 2008
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“Not since Rachel Carson has the public been graced with a scientist that writes with the interest of a novelist. Anyone with a curiosity about the early history of plant life on our planet will relish this book.”
“If you want to find out more about Conifers, then [this book] by the naturally acclaimed expert, Aljos Farjon, will sate your curiosity, your thirst for knowledge and your enthusiasm for those exciting plants that make up this group.”
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Some of the high points of this text: (1) There a many photos of species where it is difficult to find good photographs; most notably of the Southern hemisphere species. It is almost worth keeping the book on my shelves just for the "tree porn". (2) Again, it is really the Southern species where this book really provides new details. If you are looking for a work that discusses the new finds in Indo-China or New Caledonia this is a book not to be missed.
Where I was disappointed: (1) Most notably, this book is in dire need of editorial coherence. It reads mostly like a collection of magazine articles that have been very lightly reshaped into a thematic structure. This book really would have benefited from a more disciplined analytic structure. (2) I really wanted to see more sustained discussion of the evolutionary linkages of the conifers--especially in reference to Northern hemisphere species. There's bits and pieces here (even chapters with titles that look like they will provide the sustained analysis that I'm looking for) but the discussions are just so scattered as to be frustrating.
In short, this is the type of book that you can open up at almost any point and start reading--and that's not necessarily a good thing. Again, I really wanted to like this book more than I did.
There is a wealth of fascinating information here, and the author is an affable guide taking us along on numerous exciting quests. The stories of discovery of new-to-science conifers like Wollemia and Xanthocyparis add spice to the overall conifer story, as do travels to New Caledonia and other venues of remarkable trees. But not everything is equally well done. Some chapters are densely academic, heavy going for amateurs lacking technical credentials. A preoccupation with numerical measures of diversity, and an emphasis on extinct groups may not appeal to many.
Mistakes or faux pas are fairly common, and range from the trivial to the profound.Read more ›
Farjon doesn't dumb down the science and doesn't apologize for it (excepting a brief mea culpa in the preface, which also includes Farjon's philosophy on the craft of writing popular science, so don't skip the preface!) Any botanist will enjoy this book just as much as an amateur ecologist, weekend hiker, or little old lady in suburbia with pine trees in her yard. The scientists will find many morsels to whet the appetite for further study while the amateur will walk through a door to the wonders of conifer natural history, perhaps referring back to the book after every new hike through the woods.
There are 34 chapters - some of them as short as just a couple pages. This brevity makes the text an easy, casual read. Each chapter is headed with an anecdote from the author's life or human history. The first 20 or so chapters deal with the typical science common to any natural history - evolution, physiology, systematic, ecology. There follows a section on geography (often lacking in popular works), then several chapters about human interaction with conifers which segues nicely into the final section about conservation. A glossary and a reference section close the book. As I desperately try to find something negative to say here, I guess I wished only that the references would have been more numerous, but that is truly a nit-picky complaint.
Timber Press did their usual bang-up job of production with gr eat binding and paper, beautiful jacket, and stunning photos.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An excellent book for the botanist interested in conifers and their relationships with other organisms - interesting and well written by a most knowledgeable author.Published 20 months ago by Dr J Swarbrick
As a plant nerd, I love succulents for their easy care and maintenance. This book is great for identification and care.Published on July 14, 2013 by elizabeth
I bought this book through my interest in paleobotany.I have read Beck's classic on gymnosperm evolution so this did not add much from this point of view nor fossil wise. Read morePublished on January 9, 2010 by Green Man
This is an excellent book, well-written and well-illustrated - the fascinating story of the rise and decline of conifers through the ages.Published on November 9, 2009 by Mr. Donald Simpson
I'm an avid gardener relying on mostly Conifers and Japanese Maples for my landscaping. What I really like about this book is the way technical subjects are handled that allow... Read morePublished on May 7, 2009 by Rev. David Hicks