I have always been a big fan of the National Geographic “Big Book of ___” series. Each of these books is a journey into a targeted topic with the quality of scientific accuracy and imagery we all expect from National Geographic. This “Ultimate” book is no exception, highlighting the work of Brian Skerry, a photojournalist for National Georgraphic and other publications. The book is not only a collection of incredible images he has collected over a 20-year career in photography, it is also essentially a young scientists’ encyclopedia of sharks! It features a wide range of species, from fan favorites (great whites, tiger sharks) to smaller species (angels, dogfish). In addition to current sharks and their whereabouts, the book takes a trip through the fossil record to look at the evolution of sharks and how ancestral species lived and hunted. In addition to types of sharks, there are full chapters on anatomy and physiology as well as the secret lives of sharks in the ocean. My favorite chapters are found at the end of the book. In one of these chapters, Skerry tackles common myths about sharks – like their interactions with people, how they select food, and those bites. Another is a chapter on “super sharks,” delving into the superlatives of the shark world – such as the best camo, the deepest dweller, and the fastest swimmer. And most important is a chapter calling for the defense of sharks through conservation and protection of the oceans!
Overall, this book is a fantastic look at the world of sharks, infused with the experiences of someone who has photographed them over a career. Each chapter has great “Moments of AHHHHH!” built in to tell a story beyond just the facts about these magnificent creatures.