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The following books are recommended reading to provide a better ecological, cultural, and social context for the course and for independent travel in Costa Rica. These books, unless otherwise noted, are available on Amazon. Some of the descriptions below are derived from those available on Amazon’s website.
- Baker, Christopher P. Moon Handbooks: Costa Rica, Avalon Travel Publishing, 4th edition (2001).This travel guidebook has won several awards. In addition to excellent “off the beaten path” travel information, it provides ecological, historical, and cultural information that enhances the travel experience.
- Biesanz, Mavis H. et al, The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica, Lynne Rienner Publisher, Inc., Boulder, CO (1999).Costa Rica is unique among Latin American cultures. Ticos, as Costa Ricans call themselves, have a higher standard of living than their neighbors, with a higher literacy rate, a well-developed social security system, widespread access to electrical power, and a traditional system of education. This book is divided into 11 chapters covering history, government and politics, the economy, the family, education, and religion. The authors draw on their experiences in the country, interviews with people from all walks of Costa Rican life, and secondary sources. The conclusions dwell on Costa Ricans’ distrust of changes that await the country in future decades.
Carr, Archie F., The Windward Road: Adventures of a Naturalist on Remote Caribbean Shores, University Press of Florida, Revised edition (March 1979).*This excellent book was written by a man who is often described as the “Godfather” of sea turtle biology and conservation. He provides accounts of his travels in pursuit of the green turtle and his interactions with locals. We will read an excerpt of this book as a part of our Tortuguero visit.
* = Currently out of print but available at many libraries and currently available on Amazon.
- Coates, Anthony G., ed. Central America: A Natural and Cultural History, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT (1997).This book brings together a complete range of information on the cultural and natural history of Central America, the slim geographical bridge that separates two continents and two vast tropical oceans. Chapters by leading authorities discuss geological origins, differences between the surrounding oceans, the importance of natural corridors, the history of native people and colonizers from pre-Columbian to modern times, and crucial current conservation issues.
- Evans, Sterling, The Green Republic: A Conservation History of Costa Rica, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX (1999).With over 25 percent of its land set aside in national parks and other protected areas, Costa Rica is renowned worldwide as “the green republic.” In this very readable history of conservation in Costa Rica, Sterling Evans explores the establishment of the country’s national park system as a response to the rapid destruction of its tropical ecosystems due to the expansion of export-related agriculture. Drawing on interviews with key players in the conservation movement, as well as archival research, Evans traces the emergence of a conservation ethic among Costa Ricans and the tangible forms it has taken.
Ewing, Jack, Monkeys are Made of Chocolate, San Jose Costa Rica, 2003.*This collection of stories reflects the experiences of an American who left his upper-middle class upbringing to live and raise a family in rural Costa Rica. He weaves tropical ecology into his anecdotes, and the result is an entertaining and educational book about Costa Rica’s tropical environment.
This book is available online here.
- Kricher, John C. A Neotropical Companion: An Introduction to the Animals, Plants, and Ecosystems of the New World Tropics, Princeton University Press, Princeton N.J. (1989)This book is an extraordinarily readable introduction to the American tropics, the lands of Central and South America, their remarkable rainforests and other ecosystems, and the creatures that live there. It is the most comprehensive one-volume guide to the Neotropics available today. Biodiversity and its preservation are discussed throughout the book, and Neotropical evolution is described in detail.