The enormous and wonderful Tucson Festival of Books is this weekend! This year I’m helping out by manning an insect station in the Science Pavillion with some of my students and the head of Insect Discovery. Because the entire University of Arizona campus currently looks like a refugee camp tent city and everyone has books on the brain, it seems only fitting that I do another book post. Besides, I read a lot. A whole lot. I often prefer reading to everything else I might do in my spare time and I blast through lots of books each year. My taste is quite broad and I often switch back and forth between fiction and non-fiction, mixing classic literature with modern masterpieces. Naturally, I read a lot of insect books. For today’s Friday 5, I’m going to share 5 insect appreciation books for the masses that have a great potential to make you fall in love with insects – assuming you’re not already. :)
For Love of Insects by Thomas Eisner
Eisner is a well-known and highly respected entomologist. He’s done some brilliant studies that are now considered classics of entomological science and he ranks among the best entomologists of all time. This book is a memoir of sorts, a recounting of a life as an entomologist and biological researcher. It’s also a sort of love letter to the 6 legged animals that Eisner has dedicated his life to. It’s a fantastic book! You’ll learn about some of the cool things insects do, but you’ll also walk away with a better understanding of entomologists and discover why we love what we do so very much.
Life in the Undergrowth by David Attenborough
If you aren’t familiar with Sir David Attenborough’s enormous body of work, you really should be! He’s been involved in some truly inspiring works of biological film and has drawn the public’s eye to the natural world in a way few other people ever have. Life in the Undergrowth is a companion book to his excellent television series of the same name. The book introduces you to the world of invertebrates through excellent writing and colorful, vivid imagery. Excellent read! And when you’re done, you should watch the TV series. It’s stunning!
Bugs in the System by May Berenbaum
May Berenbaum is another well-known and well-respected entomologist! She does great research, heads an entomology department (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and is the founder of the fabulous Insect Fear Film Festival. She also has an amazing sense of humor and is an incredibly entertaining speaker. I love all of Berenbaum’s books, but this one is particularly good because it highlights the many ways that the insect world collides with ours, for better or worse. It’s geared toward non-entomologists, but even entomologists can benefit from reading this wonderful book. It’s funny, engaging, and educational – definitely worth the time to read!
Life on a Little Known Planet by Howard Ensign Evans
This book is a bit older, published in the 60’s and updated in the early 90’s, but is considered a classic of entomological writing for the masses and remains popular. Evans takes readers on a journey through the world of insects, focusing on specific groups in each chapter. His prose is marvelously well crafted and he describes insect mating habits and flight abilities with the skill of a poet. And if that isn’t enough to convince you to read it, the dedication gives you a really good sense of what the book is like: “This book is dedicated to the book lice and silverfish that share my study with me. May they find it digestible!” Read it. Love it. Share it with others. You’ll be glad you did!
A Walk Around the Pond by Gilbert Waldbauer
Last but not least we have Waldbauer’s excellent tribute to the aquatic insects. Now I’m a little biased, but I think this book is marvelous! The book is divided into easily digestible chunks of information so that you’re never overwhelmed by a barrage of information. As you read the book, you’ll collect a vast store of short stories that you can share at parties and other social gatherings to entertain your friends. (Non-entomologists do that, right?) The writing style is highly accessible to non-entomologists and brings the biota of ponds and streams to life in an engaging way. Plus, aquatic insects are fascinating, but few people know much about them. This book helps remedy this sad state of affairs! It’s well worth a read.
So those are my top 5 insect appreciation books. Anyone have any others they’d like to recommend? There are a lot of excellent insect books out there and I’d love to get some suggestions for what to read next!
(If anyone has an opportunity to attend the Festival of Books this weekend, I’ll be at the Insect Discovery table in the Helios Science Pavillion on Sunday afternoon. Fellow bug blogger Eric Eaton, author of the fabulous Kaufmann Field Guide to Insects of North America, will also be at the Festival as part of a panel called “Southwest Dangers: Things That Sting, Bite, Poison … and Kill!” Saturday at 2:30 in ILC 130. He will be signing his book afterwards. Justin Schmidt, creator of the famous-among-entomologists Schmidt Sting Pain Index for bees, ants, and wasps, will also be a part of the panel. Between the two, it promises to be good!)
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14 thoughts on “Friday 5: Books That Just Might Make You Fall In Love with Insects”
If you get a chance, could you ask Justin Schmidt what a velvet mite tastes like? He was cited in a paper as saying that they taste “unpleasant” and I am wondering whether he would be willing to elaborate on that.
I will try to remember to ask the next time I see him! Doesn’t surprise me he’s eaten a velvet mite though… :)
Velvet MITE is what the comment asked for–not velvet ANT. I’d expect the taste sensation to be quite different!
Ooops! I was thinking the right thing but wrote the wrong one, so thanks for pointing it out. I corrected the comment. Yes, I would expect a velvet ant and a velvet mite to taste very different – and with a very different level of stingy-ness. :)
Awesome list. I already have (and love) Life in the Undergrowth, and now I’ve got the other ones on my list!
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Try ‘Insectopedia’ by Hugh Raffles. I just came across this in the library yesterday. It looks like a fascinating account of the intersection of man and insects – history, culture and entomology, but written by an anthropologist!
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R.I.P. Tom Eisner.
I second that. Sad loss to science.
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Jean-Henri Fabre is a sort of literary “cult classic,” and has plenty of delightful moments!
An excellent choice!