This list is inspired by Alison Anderson's Darwin's Wink : a Novel of Nature and Love.
Charles Darwin : Voyaging and Charles Darwin : the Power of Place, by E. Janet Browne (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press).
A highly recommended two-volume biography of Charles Darwin.
The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin (various editions and accessible online: http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-voyage-of-the-beagle/)
APRIL 29th. -- In the morning we passed round the northern end of Mauritius, or the Isle of France. From this point of view the aspect of the island equalled the expectations raised by the many well-known descriptions of its beautiful scenery. The sloping plain of the Pamplemousses, interspersed with houses, and coloured by the large fields of sugarcane or a bright green, composed the foreground. The brilliancy of the green was the more remarkable because it is a colour which generally is conspicuous only from a very short distance. Towards the centre of the island groups of wooded mountains rose out of this highly cultivated plain; their summits, as so commonly happens with ancient volcanic rocks, being jagged into the sharpest points. Masses of white clouds were collected around these pinnacles, as if for the sake of pleasing the stranger's eye. The whole island, with its sloping border and central mountains, was adorned with an air of perfect elegance: the scenery, if I may use such an expression, appeared to the sight harmonious. -- from The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
Darwin, Charles. Origin of the Species (various editions and accessible online: http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species-6th-edition/)
Darwin, Charles. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882 (available in print and online: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=2010)
Durrell, Gerald. Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons.
In her "author's note" for Darwin's Wink, Alison Anderson mentions Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons as one of the "two invaluable resources for the background on island biogeography and extinction of species." It's the account of Durrell's first two expeditions to Mauritius.
Quammen, David. "Was Darwin Wrong?" in National Geographic 206(5), November 2004.
A timely essay.
Quammen, David. The Song of the Dodo : Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions (New York : Touchstone, 1996.)
The Song of the Dodo is the other "invaluable resource" mentioned in Alison Anderson's "author's note." Quammen travels the world in this study of island biogeography, "the study of the distribution of species on islands and islandlike patches of landscape." This is an important book given that "ninety percent of the 171 extinctions of species of bird since 1600 have occurred on islands (Darwin's Wink, p. 13)."
What about you? Maybe you have read something, and maybe cared, about the extinction of species. Passenger pigeon, great auk, Steller's sea crow, Schomburgk's deer, sea mink, Antarctic wolf, Carolina parakeet: all gone. Maybe you know that human proliferation on this planet, and our voracious consumption of resources, and our large-scale transformations of landscape, are causing a cataclysm of extinctions that bodes to be the worst such event since the fall of the dinosaurs. Maybe you are aware, with distant but genuine regret, of the destruction of tropical forests. Maybe you know that the mountain gorilla, the California condor, and the Florida panther are tottering on the threshold of extinction. Maybe you even know that the grizzly bear population of Yellowstone National Park faces a tenuous future. Maybe you stand among those well-informed people for whom the notion of catastrophic worldwide losses of biological diversity is a serious concern. Chances are, still, that you lack a few crucial pieces of the full picture.
Chances are that you haven't caught wind of these scientific murmurs about ecosystem decay. Chances are that you know little or nothing about a seemingly marginal field called island biogeography. -- from The Song of the Dodo : Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction, by David Quammen