Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia lives up to its name. It is definitely an encyclopedia, with 17 huge volumes. I don’t necessarily want to admit to being a nerd who reads the encyclopedia for fun but this one is worth a second look, particularly for animal lovers. Our library has two sets of Grzimek’s and the set shelved at the James City County Library in Croaker Road can be checked out (and requested for library users who prefer to go to the Williamsburg branch), so I challenge anyone who is fascinated by books like Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat or anything by Jane Goodall to try Grzimek’s for the sections on animal behavior. If you love to watch Cesar Milan work his magic with dogs or are moved by Dogtown, you’ll be fascinated by the section on canids. If you’ve a passion for birdwatching, tropical fish, or you just love animals, try these great books.
Grzimek’s is a standard for both public and academic libraries and it is prominent in any standard list of essential science reference titles. The academic library where I previously worked considered them so essential for undergraduate students that we bought them both in print and online. We told biology students starting their important essays that they always needed to start their animal research with Grzimek’s.
This said, these books have a lot to offer the everyday reader. They are beautiful volumes with lots of stunning photographs, drawings of individual species, and species distribution maps (although I have to admit, they are large volumes and I didn’t have much success trying to read them in bed). The first volumes are about invertebrates, and then they go up through fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. I am a sucker for cute, fluffy animals so I pulled out volume 12 about mammals. It starts with general chapters on topics like “Ice Age Giants,” “Migration,” and “Mammals and Humans,” then the accounts of individual species starts with Australian marsupials. For more obscure species, this information may be difficult to find elsewhere. For example, did you know that some species of quolls (carnivorous marsupials in Australia) always die young? They live in an extremely harsh environment and the males die soon after their first breeding season.
Grzimek’s has a lot for bird lovers, including four volumes covering birds from all around the world. I was charmed to learn the one of my favorite childhood birds, the New Zealand Tui, is described as “among the best singers in the world. The song is rich, melodious, and includes soft liquid warbling notes, bell-like calls and chimes.”
We know that our library users are intrigued by animals because circulation is constant on books by Marc Bekoff, or any DVDs featuring marine life or dogs. So if you are one of the people moved and bewitched by animals and the natural world then these underused library books are well worth another look.
Check the WRL catalog for Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia