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Book Review: Salamanders and Newts, one by Byron Bjorn, two by John Coborn

Otterwoman

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Book Review: Salamanders and Newts: A Complete Introduction by Byron Bjorn (TFH Publications, 1988, 96 pages) AND
Salamanders and Newts as a New Pet by John Coborn (TFH Publications, 1994, 63 pages).

I'm going to review these two books together because after a while it gets difficult to tell them apart. Two more introductory TFH books, about the same size, and sharing some of the same pictures. Kind of like siblings in a family where you really only need to know one of them. The apple doesn't fall far from the other apple.

Both Bjorn and Coborn's books contain the obligatory sections on evolution and classification, biology, housing, food, and general care. Then, following the same pattern, is a selection of species accounts.
Patterson's book (reviewed previously) is pretty similar also.
Bjorn's starts with an 11 page section on the axolotl. Coborn's book has a special chapter on "Reproduction of Salamanders and Newts", which, however, is really just a chapter on axolotls in disguise. Coborn's has better pictures, if you're trying to sex your axies.

The species in Bjorn's book is an odd selection, some of which are commonly kept, and some of which are rarely or not at all kept, outside of zoos.
Coborn's book covers only North American species (16 of them) until the last three pages, when a few European species are thrown in as an afterthought.

The formula is so similar, TFH must have decided it was time to update its Salamanders and Newts book, chose a new author, and told him to go to town. But not a very far away town.
Coborn's title is almost the same, and he follows the same formula. And although Coborn by no means plagiarized the former book, he definitely referred to it. The similarities and differences are purposeful and almost forced.
Which means nothing, really, except that like I said, they're like children in the same family. So do you need all three of these books (I'm including Patterson's book in this sentence too)? Only if you think that family is so much fun you can't get enough of them. Does Harry Potter really need ALL the Weasleys? Really he only needs Ron. Oh, and Ginny. Well, Fred and George were a big help. And I guess Bill and Charlie had their roles to play. Maybe I picked the wrong family for this example. Let's try the Bush family instead. I'll let YOU pick which ones of them we can all live without.

Patterson's book, as I wrote in that review, stands out from these two by virtue of its pictures, which have a better species variety than either of these two. It is the only one with a Tylototriton, and has a number of pictures of P. waltl (five, in fact, where Bjorn has none and Coborn has only one, identical to one of Patterson's). Maybe this is an uninteresting tangent; but I'm easily transfixed by pretty pictures.

None of these books, however, has a picture of a P. labiatus. For that we must move on to Andrew Gray's book, coming next week to a book review near you.

As of this writing, Bjorn is available used on Amazon starting at 1¢, and Coborn starting at $1.98, though there is another book by him called Salamanders and Newts as a Hobby (1993) from the "Save Our Planet" series, starting at 88¢. I don't know if it's the same book or not. It's 98 pages, whereas the one I'm discussing is 63 pages.........Well, I just ordered it, so I'll let you know when I get it.
 

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Nathan050793

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Re: Book Review: Salamanders and Newts, one by Byron Bjorn, one by John Coborn

I noticed this thread pretty late, but thought I'd post my experience with Byron Bjorn's Salamanders and Newts: A Complete Introduction. I have the book too (have had it for years) and have always found it interesting. I have to agree that the species section is rather strange though, even giving care requirements for Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis). It was the book that sparked my interest in Caudates, however, it is not the best information one could have.

Thanks for reviewing these Dawn, you beat me to it (by what, like 2-3 months?)! And again, sorry for bringing up an old thread. :eek:
 

John

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Re: Book Review: Salamanders and Newts, one by Byron Bjorn, one by John Coborn

Does Harry Potter really need ALL the Weasleys? Really he only needs Ron. Oh, and Ginny. Well, Fred and George were a big help. And I guess Bill and Charlie had their roles to play. Maybe I picked the wrong family for this example. Let's try the Bush family instead. I'll let YOU pick which ones of them we can all live without.
I'm obviously overpaying you, Dawn.
 

fishkeeper

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Re: Book Review: Salamanders and Newts, one by Byron Bjorn, one by John Coborn

As for books with similar photos and texts, TFH enjoys pulling those little stunts.
 

Otterwoman

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Salamanders and Newts...as a Hobby (1993) by John Coborn

From the "Save Our Planet" series.

Some time ago I promised to read Coburn's other book and compare them. How long has this book been sitting in my locker at work now? Approximately one year.

It seems odd that Coburn had a TFH book published in 1993 and another by TFH in 1994. The 1993 one is the one I'm discussing now; the 1994 one is the book discussed above.

This book starts with an anecdote about collecting salamanders as a boy. He follows the familiar formula: an introduction to caudates in the general scheme of things, followed by chapters on housing, feeding, health, and then various species.
This book is 98 pages versus the 63 of the above book. It has basically the same information, but quite a bit more of it, and a greater and pleasant variety of wild and captive salamander pictures (including just a few of the recycled TFH pictures).

This book has a more familiar, readable style, and I prefer it to the other book. Plus it has much more information, so if you were trying to decide between the two, get this one. It's not a bad introduction, aside from a couple of species misidentifications, and some nonsense about a heating pad. (In both books, while he talks about optimal temps being around 65 degrees, he also mentions turning heaters off at night. Though he seems to realise the danger of dryness and heat to salamanders, the 1994 book even has pictures of reptile heating pads you can buy.)

To continue on my Tylototriton tangent, this Coburn book has a picture of a Tylo. shanjing on the cover, but the species is nowhere mentioned in the book, and the picture is not even identified.

Pointless and eccentric tangents aside, these are all older books and no one would buy them new. But if you find it used for a few cents, and you like to read and collect books, go for it!
 

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Otterwoman

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I"m pretty sure #2 and #3 are the same book, though about #1 I don't know. But if you're wanting to buy an up-to-date book, I'd recommend something more recent, like Indiviglio's book. There's a copy for £2.01 on amazon.uk.
 

Jadore axolotl

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Well my book came today but I received "Salamanders and Newts: A Complete Introduction" instead of "A Complete Guide to Newts and Salamanders". I emailed the seller as I want to get the book I ordered to see what the difference is if any.
 

Ken Worthington

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I have a book by Byron Bjorn that I just bought (very cheap) .

On the cover it is called "A complete guide to Newts and Salamanders", however, on the title page it is called "Salamanders and Newts; A complete introduction".....make of that what you will!

In addition, the book recommends keeping no more than 4 axolotls in a 2ft x 1ft tank, with pea-gravel as a substrate.....so for that reason alone the book is best avoided.
 
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