Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Book Review - The New Neotropical Companion - Princeton University Press

     As a frequent traveller to Central and South America, I have relied many times on the wealth of information contained in A Neotropical Companion, the comprehensive work by John Kricher, published in 1997. I acquired my copy in 2000, and it is well thumbed, dog-eared here and there, and even bears the stain of an errant glass of wine. It is indeed a companion!
     I was, therefore, delighted to learn of a "new and improved" edition and very happy to be asked to review it. 

     Unlike the spurious claims of consumer products which are alleged to be superior to an earlier version, it is no vain boast to state that this book delivers what it promises.Filled with myriad glorious colour photographs and a revised text based on knowledge that has been acquired since last publication, it is a joy to read, and new insights are to be gleaned from every page. As we continue to enhance our understanding of neotropical ecology it is important to deliver this knowledge in a format that the layman can understand. For this reason Kricher has avoided excessive use of scientific jargon.

     The book is in every sense a readable travel companion, which is exactly what it is supposed to be.

     It is instructive to review the chapter headings to see just how comprehensive the coverage is.

Chapter 1:  Welcome to the Torrid Zone.
Chapter 2:  Why is it Hot, Humid and Rainy in the Tropics?
Chapter 3:  Rain Forest: The Realm of the Plants.
Chapter 4:  Finding Animals in the Rain Forest.
Chapter 5:  Sun plus Rain equals Rain Forest.
Chapter 6:  Essential Dirt: Soils and Cycling
Chapter 7:  If a Tree Falls......Rainforest disturbance dynamics.
Chapter 8:  Evolutionary Cornucopia.
Chapter 9:  Why are there so many Species?
Chapter 10: Tropical Intimacy: Mutualism and Coevolution. 
Chapter 11: Evolutionary Arms Race: More Coevolution, More Complexity.
Chapter 12. Cruising the Rivers to the Sea.
Chapter 13: Scaling the Andes.
Chapter 14: Don't Miss the Savannas and Dry Forests.
Chapter 15: Neotropical Birds: The Bustling Crowd.
Chapter 16: From Monkeys to Tarantulas: Endless Eccentricities.
Chapter 17: Human Ecology in the Tropics.
Chapter 18: The Future of the Neotropics.

     For the seasoned traveller and the neophyte alike there is a fountain of information in these chapters. This is especially true for those patrons of the all-inclusive resorts who are simply seeking to escape the cold and gloom of a northern winter. Take a few days and explore outside the resort, learn a little of what make the ecosystem operate the way it does,
become familiar with a few of the birds, mammals and reptiles that are easily seen, and your whole experience of Neotropical America will be enhanced. Furthermore your curiosity will have been piqued and you will thirst for additional knowledge. The New Neotropical Companion will help you to explore the environment further and point you to sources of more detailed specialization.

     Whether you are looking for information on how to protect yourself from mosquito bites or the logic behind buying shade grown coffee; or what to do in the unlikely event of a snake bite or how you can be a responsible ambassador for your country, Kricher provides sage counsel in a very readable format devoid of arcane terminology.
     Perhaps most important of all, however, the book gives guidance from beginning to end in the ways we can both cherish and enjoy the Neotropics and ensure that it will remain unspoiled for future generations.
     The scientific and lay community alike owe a great debt of gratitude to Kricher for this sparkling revision to what was already a very fine book. I recommend it highly.


  1. Hello. Those kinds of books are needed. It seems really good. Greetings.

  2. I do love animal and bird books for everywhere. Diane

  3. Obviously a valuable tool when birding and enjoying nature.

  4. A book worth having when your interest is birds, and for anyone else too.

  5. Good looking pictures, and lots of them.

  6. Hi David,
    You certainly are THE man to review this type of guide and this one seems to have all the info and pics needed to observe and photograph Central and South American birds.
    Would I manage to find a group to go to Costa Rica one day, I would get it;
    Great review :)
    Warm hugs to the both of you !

  7. It looks like a very beautiful and informative book.
    The ecology of those areas is extremely interesting and the chapter headings look very promising indeed.
    Wishing you a happy and sunny Easter weekend!

  8. A Good, succint review David. You were right to include chapter headings as it shows the diversity of the information within the book and a subject or two for every reader. As you say, to travel to such places and lie on a beach is a mindless and blinkered pursuit.

    It's a little like the tropics here today - endless rain but with no warmth.

  9. Always good to have background information to enliven the actual birding experience. Nice review.

  10. Look like a very interesting and god quality book. Many species of birds in the pages you share are tipical of my country and several easy to observe

  11. It does not matter if in a book what you look like and read or see what donkeys are wearing. Too bad about the wine spot, but it's too overlookable. It's great that you have such a nice short story in which you can look up and consult.
    Now there's a new version I read and that's good news :-)
    It really looks very rich too; Out with all these beautiful pictures in ion formation.