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A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) Paperback – December 22, 1999

4.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Paperback, December 22, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An indispensable guide for any desert visitor."--"Sunset Magazine

From the Inside Flap

"This fine book offers one-stop shopping for authoritative answers to all your questions about a most wonderful place, the Sonoran Desert. Bees, birds, beetles, biodiversity, all right here in one place in accessible prose. Who can ask for more than that?"—John Alcock, author of In a Desert Garden

"Definitive and delightful—a fabulous compendium of facts and experiences written by the most knowledgable scholars in the field. This encyclopedic guide will make desert rats out of those who aren't already."—Ann H. Zwinger, author of Run, River, Run

"Once in a generation, a guide to understanding a major North American landscape comes along. This book is such a touchstone, sure to become a classic. The emphasis here is on biodiversity, mutualism, co-evolution, and, especially, ethno-relationships—the long history of connection between desert peoples and their homeland, on both sides of the border. This book gives desert dwellers everything they need to develop the crucial awareness, to say, 'This is a remarkable place, filled with astonishing creatures and processes. We must act now, with fierceness and tenderness, or it will be gone.'"—Stephen Trimble, author of The Sagebrush Ocean
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 628 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press/ASDM Press (December 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520219805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520219809
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

An extraordinary book on an extraordinary place, A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert is well written for both the layperson and expert alike. Each of the diverse chapters is written by the expert(s) on those subjects, who not only know their subjects well, but also write clearly and enthusiastically. Chapters cover the expected topics -- geology, climate, human cultures, plants, and animals -- and the unexpected -- the uniqueness of the desert's air and light and its "deep" history. The Sonoran Desert is enthralling, and this book will heighten your awareness of the desert's beauty and complexity and will provide you with information on where to visit and what to expect during each of the Sonoran Desert's five seasons.
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This is the ideal book to take along on trips to the Sonora Desert. Whether it is the Cailfornian , including Baja, Arizonian(it actually covers five states) or Mexican portions of the vast and diverse Sonara Desert, the details and complexities of this eco system are truly amazing. This book is an indespensible guide to all facets of this immense gift, including the many plants and animals that inhabit this harsh yet bountiful environment. It is a book to read before, as well as after the trips to the desert. Since it is so diverse and vast , covering some 100, 000 sq.mi., the amount of information given is quite a bit but done in such a mannner that one can easily navigate the text to the desired area of interest Inevitably one will stray into an area of new found interest. The little known facts are a lay persons path to knowledge about what the heck they just saw or are about to see. The black and white illustrations for the plants and animals you will or did encounter are excellent and extremely helpful for identification. There is a section with color photographs as well to further illustrate the beauty of the Sonora Desert. With contributions by some thirty five different experts in their pespective field this book is the ultimate guide. Do not hesitate to buy this book if you are visting the Sonora Desert as it will prove to be a valuble reference tool that can be used over and over. Since there is so much to learn about the Sonora Desert and it's inhabitants, this book can be read anytime, anywhere since it is nearly impossible to experience it all. Recommended for the tourist, naturalist or anyone interested in learning more about the 2000 species of plants, 550 species of verbrates and thousands of unknown invertebrate species who make the Sonora Desert home. This is truly fascinating material that only nature can provide so don't hesitate to purchase this book.
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I grew up in the Sonoran Desert, in the ultra hot (and humid!) city of Yuma, Arizona. During my time there I visited the Californian and northern Baja Californian sections of this huge hyperarid land. I eventually moved to the less humid (if less hyperarid in terms of rainfall) city of Tucson, where I explored a considerable part of the eastern Arizonan part of the desert, as well as taking trips into the desert in southern Baja California and Sonora itself. This is a fascinating land and one with great surprises, such as a fauna of fish and aquatic insects, desert crusts of cyanobacteria, tropical birds, army and leaf-cutting ants and strange plants.

Now Steven J. Phillips and Patricia Comus of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum have edited a neat guide to the area in "A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert". The various sections contain numerous bits of information, many of which were new to me despite about 25 years of wandering in the Sonoran Desert. The discussions of the structure and history of the desert are particularly informative. This book should be in the bookshelf, and indeed in the knapsack (despite its size), of all travelers in this fantastic desert.

I have to admit that I know five of the authors- namely Steve Prchal, Renee Lizotte, Gary Paul Nabhan, Carl A. Olson and Thomas Van Devender- excellent writers all- but I can also say that it is a worthwhile book based just on the work of writers whom I've never met and so I can claim some non-bias.

To add to this praise I have a few very minor quibbles. I wish that there had been more reference sections- certainly there are several books on the identification of desert plants, birds, mammals and fish!
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Subjects are thoroughly covered and the information is written in a friendly and interesting manner. If you have a question about the Sonoran Desert, you will most likely find the answer here. Among other surprises, this book offered my first look at the "creeping devil cactus" - how interesting! I'd never even heard of it before. "A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert" is a book you will turn to for detailed information that can be trusted as well as entertainment. Very nice photographs and illustrations. A great book for a nature lover, even if the Sonoran Desert holds no particular interest to them.
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This is one of the best natural history books I've ever read. The incorporation of a variety of expert authors makes it a gem. I can pick it up anytime, open to any page, and enjoy myself. A great companion on any trip to the Sonoran Desert, to pick up where the field guides leave off.
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