NATURAL HISTORY – BOOKS FOR SERIOUS BIRDERS
Harrison, John (1999). A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka. 48 colour plates by Tim Worfolk. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 219 pages. Hardback ISBN 0-19-854961-X, paperback 0-19-854960-1.
A comprehensive field guide with plates and text covering virtually every species and race recorded. Lightweight and portable. No birdwatcher should be without a copy.
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Gee, Brian. (1995). South India, Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands. Trip Report. 41 pp + 26 pp of appendices and maps.
A useful trip report, with 18 pages of coverage on Sri Lanka. Available from the Oriental Bird Club. The coverage is superseded by the Pica Traveller Sri Lanka, but nonetheless the report remains useful as a ‘birder’s account of a birding holiday’.
Grimmett, R., Carol Inskipp, and Tim Inskipp (1998). Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Christopher Helm, a subsidiary of A & Black. London. ISBN 0-7136-4004-9
A landmark publication which for the first time contains colour illustrations of virtually of all the birds recorded in the region. A chunky book that is more a handbook than a field guide.
Henry, G.M. (1998) A Guide to the Birds of Ceylon. Third Revised Edition. Oxford University Press India.
The standard bird guide to Sri Lanka combining the comprehensiveness of a handbook with the identification covered in a field guide. Henry was a first class illustrator and painter. The artwork in the latest edition suffers from unsympathetic printing. Nevertheless, a good book to complement the Harrison book for those with more than a passing interest in Sri Lankan bird life.
Wijesinghe, D.P. (1994) Checklist of the Birds of Sri Lanka. Ceylon Bird Club Notes Special Publication Series No. 2, Ceylon Bird Club. Colombo. 49 pp.
The official checklist as accepted by the Ceylon Bird Club. It is widely quoted and debated because of the contentious splits espoused by Wijesinghe.
NATURAL HISTORY – POPULAR
Anderson, Dr Charles (1996) Common reef fishes of Sri Lanka. The Wildlife Heritage Trust Of Sri Lanka. 65 Cotta Road, Colombo 8.
Superb photographs of 82 species accompanied with brief descriptions.
Cannon, Teresa & Davis, Peter. Aliya – Stories of the elephants of Sri Lanka. Airavata Press. Victoria, Australia.
Lavishly illustrated large format book packed with information. 179 pages.
De Silva Wijeyeratne, G.., Warakagoda, D. & de Zylva, Dr T.S.U. (due 2000) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka. New Holland, London.
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The Sri Lanka title of the New Holland pocket photographic guide series. Descriptions and photographs of around 250 species of birds, covering the endemics and those likely to be seen on a short visit. Written in plain English for people with a casual interest and illustrated with photograph’s from the country’s best known wildlife photographer.
de Zoysa, Neela & Raheem, Ryhana. (1990 2nd Ed.). Reprinted 1993. Sinharaja A Rainforest in Sri Lanka. 61 pp. maps and illustrations.
A well written and presented book that brings a wealth of scientific detail across to a lay audience. A rare attempt to write science in a popular vein to a Sri Lankan audience. An ideal souvenir for visitors to Sinharaja, available from the major bookshops.
Jayawardene, Jayantha (1994) The Elephant in Sri Lanka. Wildlife Heritage Trust, Colombo. ISBN 955-95677-0-5. 128 pages will line drawings and photographs.
An authoritative account on the elephant’s status in Sri Lanka and the need for urgent conservation measures.
Jayawardhana, Childers. (1993) Yala National Park. Fauna International Trust. Colombo. ISBN 955-9125-00-1 pp. 187.
A comprehensive guide to the Ruhuna (Yala) National park with a number of maps. The text covers the wildlife as well as archaeological sites within the park. There are a number of maps and the book will be useful to locals who visit the park regularly.
Kotagama, Sarath & Fernando, Prithiviraj (1994) A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka. Wildlife Heritage Trust, Colombo.
238 species illustrated in colour. The text has been kept brief as the book is aimed at encouraging an interest in birds amongst the wider Sri Lankan public. The author is Sri Lanka’s first professional ‘bird man’.
Pethiyagoda Rohan (1998). Ours to protect Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Heritage. Wildlife Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka. Colombo. ISBN 955-9114-17-4. 156 pp.
A sumptuously illustrated, large format book with a thought provoking commentary by Rohan Pethiyagoda to complement some wonderful wildlife photography.
NATURAL HISTORY – FOR THE KEEN NATURALIST
d’Abrera, Bernard (1998). The Butterflies of Ceylon. Wildlife Heritage Trust, Colombo. ISBN 955-9114-15-8
A well written up to date account of the butterflies with good colour plates. If you are serious about Sri Lankan butterflies you need this book.
Bibby, C, Jones, M., and Marsden, S. (1999) Bird Census Surveys. Expedition Advisory Centre, Royal Geographical Society in collaboration with Birdlife International. ISBN 0 907649 79 3 3.
For a technical book, this is a surprisingly easy to read book, with the concepts simply and cleared laid out without baffling mathematics to intimidate the reader. A good book for people who are interested in field surveys.
Dutta, Sushil K., and Manamendra-Arachchi (1996). Amphibian Fauna of Sri Lanka. Wildlife Heritage Trust, Colombo. 230 pp, maps, plates & illustrations. ISBN 955-9114-10-7.
A comprehensive taxonomic work on the amphibian fauna with colour photographs of species.
Gunatilleke, Nimal & Savitri. (1996) Sinharaja World Heritage Site, Sri Lanka. National Resources Energy and Science Authority of Sri Lanka. 22 pp
An illustrated technical (but readable for a layperson) booklet by two of Sri Lanka’s most distinguished botanists.
IUCN (1990). IUCN Directory of South Asian Protected Areas. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. xxiv + 294 pp.
One of the first compendium’s of Sri Lankan protected areas with information on the fauna and flora. Although dated now it remains a very useful reference for the specialist.
Karunaratne, P.B. (1992). Fauna of the Samanalawewa Area, Special Publication Series of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka, Vol 1 No. 2. pp 63
Kotagama, Sarath (In preparation) A Hand Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka.
Pinto, Leonard (1986). Mangroves of Sri Lanka. National Resources Energy and Science Authority of Sri Lanka. 54 pp
A readable, illustrated account of this very important eco-system.
Phillips, W.W.A (1952, 1980) Manual of the Mammals of Sri Lanka. Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka. Colombo. Second Edition 1980 published in 4 volumes. 389 pages + xxxv.
Although dated, still the standard reference for Sri Lankan mammals. Illustrated in black and white.
NATURAL HISTORY – FOR THE KEEN BOTANIST
Abeywickrama, B. A. (1959) A provisional checklist of the Flowering Plants of Ceylon, Ceylon Journal of Science, 2:119-240.
Abeywickrama, B. A. (1987) The threatened plants of Sri Lanka. UNESCO-Man & Biosphere National Committee for Sri Lanka, Publication no: 16, Natural Resources, Energy and Science Authority of Sri Lanka, Colombo.
Baldwin, M. F. ed. (1991) Biodiversity in Natural Resources of Sri Lanka – conditions and trends, ch. 10, Natural Resources, Energy and Science Authority, Colombo.
Bandaranaike, W.M. and M.U.S. Sultanbawa (1991) A list of the endemic plants of Sri Lanka, Forest Department, Sri Lanka.
Dassanayake, M.D. and others (1980 – ) A revised handbook to the Flora of Ceylon, Volumes 1-12, Amerind Publishing Company, New Delhi.
Gunatilleke, I.S.U.N. and C.V.S. Gunatilleke (1991) Threatened woody endemics of the wet lowlands of Sri Lanka and their conservation, Biological Conservation, 55:17-36.
NATURAL HISTORY – FOR THE KEEN BIRDER
Collar, N.J., Crosby, M.J. & Stattersfield, A.J. (1994) Birds to Watch 2: the world list of threatened birds. Cambridge, UK. Birdlife International. (Birdlife Conservation Series no. 4).
De Silva, Rex I (1997). Watching seabirds on the west coast of Sri Lanka. Oriental Bird Club Bulletin Number 26. November 1997. Rubythroat Publications.
Fleming, Robert L. Jr. (1977). Comments on the endemic birds of Sri Lanka. Ceylon Bird Club. 13 pp.
Hoffmann, Thilo (1998). Threatened Birds of Sri Lanka National Red Data List. Ceylon Bird Club. Special Publication Series No. 3. pp. 28. 4 Illustrations by Jagath Gunawardana. 1 map. ISBN 955-8139-00-0.
An important document in the fight to save Sri Lanka’s bird life at risk.
Jones, Julia et al(1998) A conservation review of three forests in south-west Sri Lanka. Published by CSB Conservation Reports. 58 pages + appendices. Illustrations by Christine Isherwood. ISBN 1 901399 04 4. GBP 13.95
A report of a joint expedition between students of Cambridge University and the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka. As the expedition field work was focussed on birds, the report will be of interest to keen birdwatchers.
Phillips, W.W.A. (1978). Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) 1978. Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka in association with The Ceylon Bird Club.
Wijesinghe, D.P. (1997) Bird Study in Sri Lanka: an historical perspective. Oriental Bird Club Bulletin Number 26. November 1997. Rubythroat Publications.
Munasinghe, Flower (1997) The Spinning Wheel & other stories. Published by the author. ISBN 955-96016-0-1
A collection of short stories set all over the world. In 1998 the book won the State Literary Award for Short Stories. The author is a Sri Lankan who has travelled widely and used her personal experiences as the settings for many of the stories.
Murphy, Richard (1989) The Mirror Wall. Bloodaxe Books Ltd. UK. ISBN 1 85224 093 8
A collection of poems inspired by the ancient poems inscribed on the mirror wall in Sigiriya. Murphy spend much of his childhood on the island as his father was the last British mayor of Colombo.
Muller, Carl (1995) Colombo A Novel. Penguin Books India.
Despite the pretensions of being a novel, this is a thought provoking and insightful account to a side of Colombo that its residents would like to gloss over. Written with consummate skill to combine social and character analysis together with interludes of history to construct a spell binding and at times dispiriting story of a city living on the edge.
Muller, Carl (Various dates) The Jam Fruit Tree, Yakada Yaka, Once Upon A Tender Time
A hilarious trilogy of novels recounting the story of a burgher family in Sri Lanka. Beneath the humour, Muller manages to paint a candid social portrait.
Ondaatje, Michael (1989) The Cinnamon Peeler Selected Poems. Picador. UK
A selection of poems, with a few showing the influence of a Sri Lankan upbringing.
Heyerdahl, Thor (1986) The Maldive Mystery. George Allen & Unwin, UK.
An entertaining account by the famous Kon Tiki man about unearthing a pre Muslim civilisation in the Maldives with speculation of a cultural link between Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Bandaranayake, Senaka & Jayasinghe, Gamini The Rock and Wall Paintings of Sri Lanka.
Lake House Bookshop, Colombo. pp 300. ISBN 955 9029 00 2
A beautifully written and illustrated book describing the country’s rich inheritance of religious art.
Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. Mediaeval Sinhalese Art being a monograph on mediaeval Sinhalese arts and crafts, mainly as surviving in the eighteenth century, with an account of the structure of society and the status of the craftsmen. Reprinted by the State Printing Corporation Sri Lanka. Date not shown. A poor quality re-print is available from the Colombo Museum of this influential classic. Much of the books content is as useful today to the serious enthusiast as when it was first published. Originals are now collectors items.
Goonatilleka, M.H. (not dated) The Rural Theatre and Social Satire of Sri Lanka.
Published as a Cultural Tourism Project of the Ceylon Tourist Board. Lake House, Colombo.
A 13 page booklet that is a useful introduction to the Kolam dances. Inexpensive and available from some of the Tourist Information Centers.
Gunawardana , Sirancee (1997). Palm Leaf Manuscripts of Sri Lanka.
Printed by Sarvodya Vishva Lekha, Ratmalana. ISBN 955-96272-0-1
A nicely produced book that combines the feel of a coffee table book, with a wealth of scholarly information, written for a lay audience.
Russell, Martin., Rodrigo, Nihal., Dissanayake, Ellen., & Dissanayake, S.B. (1998) Moods and Modes 50 years of Sri Lankan Painting
A good selection in ‘catalogue style’ of the works of a number of modern Sri Lankan painters with essays by four writers. A mixture of colour and black and white pictures. The book is around 80 pages, but in a minimalist mood, page numbers have been omitted!
Senanayake, Nalini (1995). Senaka in Commemoration of the hundredth one man exhibition of Senaka Senanayake, Painter and Sculptor. Ceylon Tobacco Company Ltd. Colombo .
A lavishly illustrated high quality art book with the work of Sri Lanka’s best known contemporary artist.
The Heritage of Sri Lankan Bronze Culture (1995) With essays by Leelananda Prematillake, Nandana Chutiwongs, Srinimal Lakdusinghe, Senaka Bandaranayaka, Hema Ratnayake and Roland Silva. Published by the Department of National Museums, Colombo. ISBN 955-578-006-4 Numerous photographs in 78 pages
This is essentially a catalogue published for a roving exhibition that travelled around major western capitals. The essays and text accompanying the exhibits have a wealth of information on ancient Sri Lankan sculpture. The text is aimed more at the serious enthusiast and collector, but the book is produced well enough to appeal to the casual book collector. Available from the Colombo Museum for Rs 400.
Wickramage, Chandra (undated) Entrances to the ancient buildings of Sri Lanka. Published by the Academy of Sri Lankan Culture. ISBN 995-9079-13-1
Understanding Medieval Sri Lankan Art may have been a more inspiring title to this book as this is what it would help the keener student of art to do. It has a generous mix of colour and black and white photographs and line drawings. If you have a serious interest in ancient art, architecture and sculpture, look for a copy in the Central Cultural Fund book shops.
Rahula, Walpola. (1959) What the Buddha Taught. Gordon Fraser Gallery Ltd. ISBN 0 86092 005 4
This popular book has been printed several times as revised editions and reprints. It has around 150 pages explaining Buddhism in fair depth to the lay person. A good first book, if you are interested in having a good understanding of the Theravada school.
Saint-Hilaire, J. Barthélemy (1998) The Buddha and his Religion. Senate, an imprint of Tiger Books International Plc. Twickenham, UK. pp 151 and photographs. ISBN 1-85170-540-6.
this is a reprint of the edition published in 1914. The two chapters on Ceylon are a very interesting account of Buddhism’s history on the island particularly under British rule.
Casie Chetty, Shanthi (1988). Reprinted. Anita Dickman’s Cookery Course. Colombo. pp 151. ISBN 955-95186-0-7
World-wide cuisine with the emphasis on Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. Nicely produced with colour photographs.
Solomon, Charmaine (1976) Reprinted several times. The Complete Asian Cookbook. Weldon, Sydney. pp 511. ISBN 1 86302 185 X
Probably the best known oriental cookbook. Lavishly illustrated.
CULTURE & HISTORY
Amunugama, E.M.C. (1994). The History of Ancient Aryan Tribes in Sri Lanka (Yakkhas, Nagas, Devas, Sakyas). A J.R. Jayawardene Cultural Centre Publication. Colombo, Sri Lanka. ISBN 955-9266-00-3
An interesting account that identifies the ancient tribes whose presence is recorded in historical works, but whose real existence had been doubted for some time.
Bell, B.N. and H.M. (1993). H.C.P. Bell Archaeologist of Ceylon and the Maldives. Archetype Publications, London. 350 pp, 34 b&w plates. ISBN 1 873132 45 X.
An absorbing account of pioneer archaeological work in Sri Lanka by it’s first Commissioner of Archaeology. Written by his two of his grand daughters.
de Silva, Chandra Richard. (1987) Sri Lanka A History. Vikas Publishing, Delhi, India.
Similar in remit to the earlier book by Ludowyck, but nonetheless a different style of presenting a single volume history.
de Silva, Nimal. (1994) Kandy A World Heritage. City Deveco Designers & Publishers. Colombo. ISBN 955-9291-00-9 43 pages plus a fold out map.
A very attractively laid out book with photographs and a short description of the major historical sites in and around Kandy. A good travel souvenir for someone who had done the Kandy cultural circuit.
de Silva, R.K. (1985). Early Prints of Ceylon. Serendib Publications. London. ISBN 0 9510710 0 9. 362 pp.
A superbly produced publication showing prints that would not be available for view to the general public if it were not for the author’s efforts to publish them.
de Silva, R.K. & Beumer, W.G.M. (1988). Illustrations and Views of Dutch Ceylon 1602 – 1796. Serendib Publications, London and E.J. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 0 9510710 1 7 (Serendib) and 90 04 08979 9 (E.J. Brill) 495 pp.
Another superbly produced publication with prints from Dutch Museums, especially the Rijksmuseum, accompanied by readable and interesting commentary.
de Silva, R.K. (1998). 19th Century Newspaper Engravings of Ceylon – Sri Lanka. Serendib Publications. London ISBN 0 9510710 2 5 pp 404
With only a few pages in colour, lacks the coffee table appeal of his earlier books. But the book is full of interesting nuggets of history with 19th century illustrations.
Goonetileke, H.A.I. Images of Sri Lanka though American Eyes. Travellers in Ceylon in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. A select anthology, Compiled and Edited, with an Introduction, Commentaries, and Bibliography by H.A.I. Goonetileke.
Ludowyk, E.F.C. (1967) (1986) The Story of Ceylon. Faber and Faber, London.
A concise but authoritative account on the history of Sri Lanka from the earliest records to the post independence period. Published by the Unites States Information Service, Colombo. Reprinted several times.
Edited extracts from various American travellers including famous literary personalities like Mark Twain.
Paranavitana, Senarat (1999) Sinhalayo. Fourth Edition. Visidunu Prakashakayo. Boralasgamuwa, Sri Lanka. ISBN 955-9170-20-1 pp 61.
An attractively produced edition in ‘two colour’ with numerous line drawings. This is a classic work that provides a short account of the history of the island and its classical arts by the first Sri Lankan to be the Commissioner of Archaeology. A good introductory book for culture and history enthusiasts.
Seneviratne, Anuradha. (1998) Polonnaruwa Medieval Capital of Sri Lanka. Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN 955-9159-03-8 pp 310
Illustrated with many colour photographs, this is the definitive guide to Polonnaruwa for culture buffs. Inexpensive.
Seneviratne, Anuradha. (1994) Ancient Anuradhapura The Monastic City. Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN 955-9159-02-X pp 310
Illustrated with a mix of black & white and colour photographs, this is the definitive guide to Anuradhapura for culture buffs. Inexpensive.
H.A.J. Hulugalle. (2000). Ceylon of the Early Travellers. Published by Arjuna Hulugalle Dictionaries, Colombo. ISBN 955-8035-07-6. 187 pages. Rs 225.
18 chapters provide bite sized accounts of Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) during the visits of travellers ranging from Roman Envoys (45 AD), Fa Hien (414 AD), Cosmas Indicopleustes (545 AD), Robert Knox (1660 – 1680 AD) to Sir John D’Oyly (1805-1824 AD). The 19th and final chapter provides a bibliography. Written in an easy to read and entertaining style by an experienced journalist.
Arjuna’s Atlas of Sri Lanka (1997) Chief Editor T. Somasekaram. ISBN 955-9276-04-02 Various contributors. A comprehensive, encyclopaedia like manual on a huge range of topics from politics and socio-demography to plantations and forest reserves. Short accounts of 1-2 pages are accompanied by full colour maps.
Gunaratne, Rohan (1997) International and Regional Security Implications of the Sri Lankan Tamil Insurgency. Published by the Alumni Association of the Bandaranaike Center for International Studies, Sri Lanka, and the International Foundation of Sri Lanka, UK. ISBN 955-9506-00-5
A worrying expose on the LTTE.
Gunaratne, Rohan (1998) Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Crisis and National Security. Published by the South Asian Network on Conflict Research, Colombo. ISBN 955-8093-00-9
Probably the most detailed insight into the activities of the LTTE. Despite the dull scholarly title, and indeed the scholarly research in it, in places it reads like a spy thriller.
Ram, Mohan (1989). Sri Lanka The Fractured Island. Penguin, India. pp 158
Although dated, it provides a good analysis of the early years of the conflict written by an Indian journalist. The book gives a good airing of concerns from a Tamil point of view which is not surprisingly absent in books authored by Sinhalese.
Reynolds, C.H.B. (1987) An Anthology of Sinhalese Literature of the Twentieth Century, UNESCO Collection of Representative Works, Sinhalese Series. Paul Norbury Publications Ltd. Kent, England. ISBN 0-904404-53-6
PEOPLE & LANGUAGE
Dissanayake, J.B. (1993). Say it in Sinhala. Lake House Investments, Colombo. ISBN 955 552 085 2 pp. 319 A comprehensive grammar guide and phrase book in English.
Wijesekara, Nandadeva (1990) The Sinhalese. Gunasena, Colombo. pp 583. ISBN 955-21-0439-4
A good account of the customs and traditions of the island’s largest ethnic community.
Sri Lanka Words & Phrases (1998) Arjuna Hulugalle Dictionaries. Colombo. ISBN 955-8035-02-5 pp. 197
A phrase book with the Sinhala phrase also included in the native script.
Fernando, Nihal (1997). Sri Lanka A Personal Odyssey. Studio Times, Colombo. pp 290. ISBN 955 9236 03 2
A wonderful collection of images from one of Sri Lanka’s foremost photographers complemented by a selection of writing from various authors and poets.
Gunasena, Devika (1996) Sri Lanka the Emerald Island. Text by Tissa Devendra. Lustre Press Pvt Ltd. New Delhi, India. ISBN 81-7437-66-8 pp. 95
A well written text complements a good portfolio of images. The relatively slim size makes it quite light on the travel luggage and makes for a good souvenir.