I feel like I haven’t written about insect books recently, so it’s time for another Friday 5 insect book list! This week, I bring you fictional books that feature insects and other arthropods, because they’re just so darned fun! I read a really huge range of things, especially when it comes to fiction, so I’ve got little of everything on this week’s list:
Contemporary Fiction: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
I absolutely love Barbara Kingsolver’s books! Her prose is astoundingly well crafted and the stories hold my interest well. Prodigal Summer is my favorite of her books. The story revolves around the lives of three women in Appalachia, a wildlife biologist who studies a group of coyotes that have just returned to the area after a long absence, an organic farmer at war with her farmer neighbor who thinks her farming practices are ruining his livelihood, and a young, big city entomologist who unexpectedly becomes the head of a farm when her farmer husband dies. (Guess which story I like the best!) The relationships these women form are interesting and beautiful and the book contains some of the most elegant writing about nature I’ve ever read. And did I mention that there’s an entomologist in the book? I just love it! I recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in nature. It’s that good!
Classic Fiction: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
You didn’t think you’d get through this list without hearing about this one, did you? THE classic entomological tale of a man who wakes up one morning to discover he’s been transformed into a giant insect, only to become an object of derision to everyone around him. There are, of course, all sorts of other things you can say about the book, about how becoming an insect is symbolic of the alienation that young men often feel, etc, etc. But really, what’s cooler than a whole book about a giant man-bug? Nothing, that’s what! :)
Historical Fiction: Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson
I have to admit: I only read this book because I was browsing a bargain book rack at Barnes and Noble and saw the beetle on the cover. It sounded pretty good and it cost $4, so I went for it! Set in Victorian times, at the dawning of the theory of evolution and in time when naturalists were superstars, Drayson’s story follows an entomologist/naturalist who is marooned on an island in the South Pacific. The man recounts his childhood with Charles Darwin, describing their shared love of beetles, how they developed the descriptions of natural selection that made Charles Darwin famous together, and how his search for an elusive gold beetle has left him to die on a volcanic island that’s about to explosively erupt. The book is a little bizarre at times, but it’s also a lot of fun to read. And, as the title suggests, there just might be a murder…
Sci-fi: Bug Park by James P. Hogan
I adore sci-fi movies, but I don’t read a lot of sci-fi books. However, my husband grew up reading pulp sci-fi novels and has a large collection of classics. This is one of them. In Bug Park, a scientist develops a direct connection between the brain and tiny insect-sized robots (mecs), allowing people to experience a bug’s eye view of the world. However, his scheming wife wants to steal the technology and sell it to a rival company. Meanwhile, the scientist’s son and his girlfriend become expert mec users, creating Bug Park so they can explore and battle the insect world. When they uncover the plot to sell the technology, they decided to find the evidence to take the scheming wife/stepmother down – but things don’t go exactly according to plan (of course). Mec battles, giant insects, and viewing the world through a bug’s perspective are all part of the fun in Bug Park!
Fantasy: Ananzi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors and he writes gloriously dark, beautifully written short stories, novels, and graphic novels. I am working my way through all of his books and I’ve read Good Omens, which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett, at least 20 times. Good Omens will always be my favorite Gaiman book, but Ananzi Boys is my favorite of the books he’s written on his own. In it, Fat Charlie Nancy decides to invite his estranged father to his wedding only to discover that his father has recently died. When he returns home for the funeral, he learns that his father wasn’t just any man, but the African trickster god Ananzi. He also learns he has a brother, Spider, that he never knew about. Spider becomes a part of his life and all hell breaks loose! All of Neil Gaiman’s books are strange and at times outright confusing, but this story is a really good one – and it would be good even if it didn’t feature so much entomological imagery.
Anyone else have bug fiction books they want to recommend? I’m always on the lookout for new ones, so I welcome any suggestions!
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