Summer World: A Season of Bounty by Bernd Heinrich

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Summer World: A Season of Bounty by Bernd Heinrich

Heinrich, Bernd. Summer World: A Season of Bounty. Ecco, 2009. ISBN 978-0060742171 272 pp. $26.99

Professor Bernd Heinrich presents a observation of summer in New England from a biologist’s point of view in this companion volume to Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival. Things I learned from the 50 pages I read (and the additional 50 I skimmed) include:

  • Small birds migrate at night, following the stars
  • Next year’s buds are made the previous season
  • Wood frog mating is entirely random
  • Only 1 in 100 larve of the northern forest caterpillar turn into moths

Parts of the introduction read like my eighth grade earth science book, and some of the same information is repeated in the first chapter, nearly verbatim. Chapters are not arranged by date, though most begin with a date: a journalistic style observation about the natural world in a fixed point in time–before the author delves into a topic like dormancy, mating, or nest building, bringing in pop culture song lyrics, pivotal research studies, and childhood memories along the way. The inconsistent chronology bothered me because the chapters didn’t have another obvious reason for being arranged the way they were, and each chapter is strongly themed, and could be a stand-alone essay.

The index is good, and the selected references appear to include each study mentioned. Hienrich provides excellent modelling of the scientific method in the brief experiments he carries out, lending a strong air of scientific integrity to the book.

While this is a lovely gift book for a biologist or naturalist, with it’s ragged pages, beautifully rendered and shaded pencil line drawings and watercolors, reproduced in muted green ink, the writing is nowhere as engaging as Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff With Animals by Richard Conniff, which I also read this year. An AP Bio student, or bio major who loves nature may really enjoy this book . A blurb on the back compares Heinrich to the famous naturalist, but I think he lacks the voice and presence of the famous civilly disobedient essayist.

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