Beasts! is "a pictorial schedule of traditional hidden creatures from the interest of 90 modern artisans." Or, more succinctly, its a guide to 90 mythical creatures, with accompanying illustrations by 90 different illustrators. Imagine if McSweeney's created the Dungeon & Dragon's Monster Manual, and you begin to have an idea about what Beasts! is like.
Luckily, my wife is wonderful and announced that I should own it. So, I now have it next to my bed where, each night, I can fall to sleep with visions of Albastors and Sianachs dancing in my head.
Equally creature-filled and fascinating, if slightly less fanciful (and a little more disheartening), is this website, pointed out to me today by a coworker: Edge Of Existence. Edge of Existence is a website dedicated to:
The EDGE of Existence programme aims to conserve the world's most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species by implementing the research and conservation actions needed to secure their future.
But, their lists of endangered creatures is evey bit as amazing as those found in the pages of Beasts. Take, for example, the Long-Eared Jerboa, who's ears are 1/3rd the size of its body:
Also on the list are fresh water dolphins, the Saiga (a thick-nose antelope type creature that can run up to 80 km/h) and bats that are no bigger than a large bumblebee. You owe it to yourself to check it out.
Looking at these endangered species lists, reminded me of Douglas Adams' A Last Chance To See. This is probably the least read of the Adams' books, and his only non-fiction book (to my knowledge). It details his travels around the world to track down and see for himself some of the world's most endangered species. The subject matter sounds massively depressing, but Adams' (the author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) manages to balance it with the right amount of his trademark humor. It's a great read and one of my all time favorites.