The World's Rarest Birds is a fairly self-explanatorily named new book from Princeton University Press, a copy of which was recently forwarded to me to review. Published under the auspices of the conservation group BirdLife International, this book aims to provide information on every one of the world's 650 (or so) endangered bird species. To gather material for this, we are told, an international photography competition was held, and the book features mostly new photographs of nearly 600 bird species. Only 76 of the species covered could not be illustrated by photographs, and all of these have been represented with paintings by the artist Tomaz Cofta. And the results are...well, just take a look at this:
My other complaints are fairly minor. Some of the photos chosen to illustrate species accounts may have benefited from captions clarifying details such a whether the individual(s) shown is male or female, or where the photo was taken. The text's practice of consistently capitalising terms referring to formal conservation categories such as 'Endangered', 'Critically Endangered' or 'Extinct in the Wild' together with vernacular names, and of insistently providing the conservation status of each species when mentioned (never just 'the White-backed Vulture', but 'the Endangered White-backed Vulture'), can feel a bit heavy-handed at times. It can be hard not to read certain sentences as if Punctuated. For. Emphasis.
There is also the question of price. In an ideal world, one would not quibble at paying for quality, but sadly this world is not ideal. And so, having seen how much this book is awash with colour, how much effort has evidently gone into compiling it, it is with trepidation that we ask: how much?
And as it turns out, the list price is just $45 US. So if nothing else, the price of admission alone makes this worth it.