How do you judge a field guide?
Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and KalimantanSome field guides you leave on the shelf and rarely look at. Others you may put in the living room to spice up the coffee table, because they make great eye candy, but are otherwise not that useful. Others you take out, and at least have around in case you need them. Others you make sure you are never very far away from because you find yourself looking for them all the time.
And, every once in a while, a field guide comes along that you want to take to bed with you.
I’m sure you know what I mean.
It is such a beddable field guide.
Sure, if you are going to Borneo, you may want to check this out because it covers that region. But really, when you are out and about in the wilds of Borneo, you’ll be with a guide. Most of the mammals you’ll ever see can be listed on an index card, with large hand writing, and the few others that might come along, you’ll only see for a fraction of a second, and your guide will be able to make up something good about them.
So, yeah, bring it, and it will serve you well, help you keep the guide honest, etc.
But then take it to bed with you, because Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo by Quenton Phillipps and Karen Phillipps is some serious reading.
There are 277 species of mammals covered for the region, including the fish-like mammals such as whales. Most of the hard work in this book is done with drawings, which are excellent, but there are also photos. The drawing-photo combination is quite rare among field guides.
Note the second half of the title: “And their ecology.” There is about 75 pages of text prior to the “field guide of mammals” part, which blend interestingly and smoothly into one of the key mammal groups, the fruit eating bats, while still talking about ecology. The last 75 pages or so are detailed expositions of key ecologically important areas, and other back matter. The middle 225 pages or so have the “field guide” but about 25% of that space is not just field guide, but rather, some other information about the mammals being covered.
Here is an example of why this is a great book. It is a field guide to mammals. And their ecology. Thus, an entry on a fruit:
That’s not the last of the figs. Lots more on figs. Figs are keystone species in Borneo.
This is a book you can browse through, as your night time reading, enjoy immensely, learn a great deal from and never actually go to Borneo. But if you are going to go to Borneo, get the book. And spend a little quality time with it before your trip. Bring it along on the trip. Then, after the trip, use it to fill in the blanks.
Borneo, by the way, is pretty interesting.