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Spiders and Their Kin: A Fully Illustrated, Authoritative and Easy-to-Use Guide (A Golden Guide from St. Martin's Press) 1st Edition
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About the Author
Golden Guides first appeared in 1949 and quickly established themselves as authorities on subjects from Natural History to Science. Relaunched in 2000, Golden Guides from St. Martin's Press feature modern, new covers as part of a multi-year, million-dollar program to revise, update, and expand the complete line of guides for a new generation of students.
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Given the price of this book there is not much to complain about. My one criticism is the focus or coverage of the book. It is not clearly defined but, seems to be heavily slanted to North America, with a comment in the forward stating “The scope of the book is broad enough to make it useful in Europe and on other continents.” The small percentage of the world’s 35,000 (ca. 3,500 North America) species that are illustrated are identified with the genus, species, continent, and size. However, even when spiders that I have seen and photographed appear in the book, I never really know how many similar looking species there might be out there, so I never feel confident with making identifications. Nonetheless, there is a lot of fascinating and useful information here for the price.
For an excellent companion book on the life of spiders- I recommend "The Tarantula Keepers Guide," by Schultz, the "bible" of keeping tarantulas. An affordable book on every aspect of a spider's long yet fragile life, from birth to injuries and sickness to death.
You maybe won't want to smash one ever again.
What makes Golden Guides appealing to young people is the attractive illustrative style. As an illustrator and photographer, I've found that hand drawn or painted pictures tend to capture the imagination of young people and put them more at ease with text that may be more challenging. The book's illustrations are accurate, if occasionally not as crisp and detailed as one would like for identification purposes.
Another characteristic of Golden Guides is that they are most helpful for identifying a limited - although not small - number of common species. If the specimen in question isn't in the book, you may still be able to find clues as to similar species within the group so that you can go on to track down the bug or fossil or flower or spider in question. Every book has a limit, and with nearly 40,000 spider species identified worldwide, I've yet to see a definitive guide to all of them! By my estimate, this book contains about two hundred spiders and an assortment of mites, tics, and scorpions. Oddly enough, it also includes millipedes and centipedes, which are a different group of arthropods altogether.
I've been reading Golden Guides since I was a geeky little nature kid. I still have a full set of them, and whenever I give away a copy to a budding naturalist (of any age), it must be replaced. The books have been around for many years, but that doesn't mean the information is dated. The most recent revision for "Spiders and Their Kin," for example, is 2002. Interestingly, early guides are very collectible and at least one website is devoted to collecting them.
All of the Golden Guides are well written, beautifully illustrated, and they make excellent family nature guides. Grab a magnifying glass, a few Golden Guides, and Mom, Dad and the kids are ready to hit the trail!