BUGGY BOOK REVIEW: “Common Spiders of North America” by Richard A. Bradley

Growing up I was not much of a fan of spiders. On the one hand I thought they were kind of cool looking. On the other, they could be so fast and could bite! I think as a child I just felt it was safer to collect butterflies and moths. As I got older though my appreciation for these eight-legged invertebrates grew and now, I am a huge fan of arachnids. Though their speed and ability to bite makes me hesitant to hold them, I have a huge respect for them, especially with how beneficial they are to the world around us.

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When I first found out about the book, “Common Spiders of North America,” I was hesitant in adding it to my library. I have always had mixed feelings about guides that used drawings or paintings as opposed to photos. My original thought was that you could not get a more positive look at something, other than in person, than with a photo. With that being said, to this day one of my favorite butterfly and moth field guides is the book, “Butterflies and Moths: A Guide to the More Common American Species” from 1964, which only uses paintings (reviewed HERE).

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Rich Bradley and Steve Buchanan at the 2013 meeting of the American Arachnological Society.

My view on guides using paintings versus photos changed recently while looking at a Roger Tory Peterson bird guide that used paintings. Their justification was that paintings emphasize the important aspects of identifying a species. They added that every bird in their guides are positioned in such a way to emphasize what you are looking for, making identification as easy as possible. I believe that is what is going on with this amazing guide.

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Steve Buchanan’s illustrations are top notch and I love that some of them have shadows, giving the impression that they are standing on the page. In most cases, both males and females are shown and any reservations I may have had with a guide such as this quickly went away after going through the illustrations.

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Though this guide came out in 2013, it is a work that will be used for many years to come. It is the first comprehensive guide to all 68 spider families in North America and beautifully illustrates 469 of the most commonly encountered species. Though it could fit in your backpack when out in the field, it would be easier to use when at home or in the lab, after bringing specimens back with you.

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The first part of the book covers finding, studying and identifying spiders as well as a section on spider groups. From there we go to the amazing plates where each species is identified by scientific and common name with a page number to go to for more information on the species. Then, for each species, is information on further identification, information on where it can be found and what times of year the species can be found. In some cases, additional remarks are included.

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There are many things to appreciate about this book. Even if you are not a fan of spiders, and believe me, you should be, anyone will be able to appreciate not only the amazing artwork but also how beautiful spiders actually are. With the amount of spiders there are in North America, a book of this scope is quite the undertaking. It is also nice to see a book on spiders that is not so scientific that the layperson cannot use it! This is a book that everyone can use and enjoy, which is really important. I truly believe this book will help those with negative feelings about these eight-legged creatures to gain a whole new respect for them. Great job guys!

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~David Albaugh

 

 

 

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