Common Spiders of North America, by Richard Bradley, with illustrations by Steve Buchanan. University of California Press, 271 pages.
Bradley is a professor at Ohio State University, and has made a serious study of the eight-legged crowd for several decades. In the course of his studies, he's examined untold thousands of specimens from all quarters of Ohio and beyond, and spent scores of hours afield studying the animals. His expertise shines through in Common Spiders. All 68 families of spiders are treated, and the author has done a masterful job of including the species that are most commonly encountered, and asked about. If you are a spider enthusiast, or even an arachnophobe who can handle seeing spiders in print, this book is for you. There is absolutely nothing like it.
Bradley singles out particularly fascinating spider families via inset boxes, and discusses their habits. The page above digs into the incredible Bolas Spiders, and brings out the almost unbelievable hunting techniques employed by the female spiders. It is these profile boxes, in part, that transform the book into a natural history treatment in addition to an ID guide. I'm glad that Bradley regularly detours down more detailed side roads so that we can learn more about the fascinating behavior of spiders. All too many guides stop abruptly at the pertinent identification field marks, and those of us with the desire to know more about the animal are left hanging.
Common Spiders of North America is not a field guide. It's a 7" x 10" hardbound book with a fair bit of heft to it. You'll not be slipping it into your back pocket. That's probably not an issue, though - with the proliferation of digital cameras and cameras imbedded in smart phones, most would-be users can just snap a photo of a mystery spider, and consult the book later.
You'll also have to dig rather deeply into your wallet to make a copy of Common Spiders your own. It lists for $60.00, definitely at the high end of the monetary spectrum for such fare. Parting with a half-dozen tenspots is really a small price to pay for such a novel book, though, and I highly recommend it. My copy is in hand, and I've enjoyed paging through it. And I really can't wait until warm weather returns scores of spiders to the landscape, and I can better put Common Spiders of North America through its paces.