Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects Hardcover – May 3 2011
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“I read your book, and I'm all itchy.”―Dave Davies, NPR’s “Fresh Air”
“A word of warning: Some of the descriptions ahead might trigger your gag reflex.”―Terry Gross, NPR’s “Fresh Air”
About the Author
Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world. She is the cofounder of the popular blog Garden Rant and is a contributing editor at Fine Gardening magazine. She and her husband live in Eureka, California, where they own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books.
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Top Customer Reviews
Stewart is not a scientist, but is rather an enthusiast, which makes her books very approachable. She does not bog down her chapters with a lot of excessive details, instead trying to provide a human landscape or jumping off point for each discussion about a particular bug. Some of the references are historical (e.g., Napoleon's medical condition) whereas others are more social (e.g., developing world issues) or economic (e.g., agricultural devastation). This approach brings an itchy humanity to these critters and really highlights their interplay with society.
The stories are brief and largely self-contained, making this a very easy read for someone easily distracted throughout their day. By the same token, Stewart's writing style is so approachable that you could easily read the entire book within a single day (as I did) and not grow weary of it. If anything, the writing style makes the book so easy to read that you'll find yourself wishing Stewart had either included more chapters or expanded each section to provide even more details or anecdotes.
Even the cover of the book is pleasant on the eyes, and in this case, you really can judge a book by its cover.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Flies, caterpillars, spiders: the diseases they carry and their methods of transmission are all detailed, with anecdotal stories illustrating just how effective they can be. The book is a sequel to Wicked Plants by the same author (which I haven't yet read), and it's extremely well-researched. One section details early forms of biological warfare, when soldiers would hurl hornet's nests or scorpion-filled baskets over the city walls of their opposer, causing havoc and sickening many. Another section explains why you should be a cat-person, as the diseases that rats, mice, and vermin still carry (the plague in the past) are easily able to sicken you.
I made the mistake of reading this before bed. I don't recommend that, as you'll find yourself convinced something is crawling in your sheets. Despite the light-hearted presentation, the book does a serious service by showing just how interlinked species are, and how extinction of some animals or insects causes a disparity that often increases the danger of illness and infection. The balance of habitats is essential to keep most of these bugs manageable. Really, there is no such thing as a "small" bug in the living world as all factor in somehow.
A great gift title, but I would probably hold back from sharing with children. The chapters on bug reproduction are, um, disturbing and graphic. Clearly, a bug's life is not always fun, and (spoiler alert!)the males usually end up dismembered and dead. For the most part, females rule the insect world and males are their underlings and servants.
In terms of criticism? I find none except that I wish some areas were even more in depth, such as to know exactly why these insects behave the way they do. However, the information given is accessible and never loses your interest as it might if it became too much like a scholarly article or textbook. This is my favorite kind of nonfiction title, and it's already been devoured by two other members of my family.
Mention must be made of the incredible illustrations that accompany the text by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. They are hand-drawn and stunning.
If you were a fan of Wicked Plants, you can rest assured that this book is just as good. If you never read that but have an interest in entomology or know someone who does, this will be a fun read and a good addition to the bookshelf.
Furthermore I found enough typographic errors; this book could have used better editing.
While Amy's a huge fan of bugs, she didn't focus on their virtues in this book. Instead we're treated to the gory sexual lives, dietary quirks, and reproductive evils they take part in every day just to survive. Amy's dry humor is the perfect balance to these horrible happenings, and the tales of zombie cockroaches and filth flies had me alternately laughing and cringing with glee. I did, however, find that my desire to read portions of the book out loud did not go over well at mealtimes.
I'm lucky enough to live locally to the author, and she graciously invited me over to talk with her about the book, hence the video.
If you love science, zombies, and tales of wickedness, you'll definitely dig this book. I'd especially recommend it for gift-giving because the dry wit and short chapters make it easy for people to read bits out loud in a group setting. Plus, it's one of those gorgeous hardcovers with a ribbon for a bookmark, and has gorgeous etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs (who did the etchings for Wicked Plants).
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