One of my commenters mentioned a book about insects that I have loved for as long as I’ve been seriously interested in insects, The Practical Entomologist by Rick Imes. It came out about a year before I decided I wanted to be an entomologist and I was thrilled to find it at my favorite used bookstore in Colorado Springs, CO. The bookstore has changed ownership and names several times and is a pale shadow of what it used to be, but I still have, and love, the book. In fact, I just yesterday unpacked it and lovingly placed it on my bookcase in my home office after flipping through it for the thousandth time. It took a place of honor among the several hundred insect books that fill up the entire bookcase and it is one I am sure I will always enjoy.
Thinking about that book again and seeing my well-loved copy of it made me think of how I got it. My dad discovered the bookstore where I bought it. He went nearly every weekend, looking for books about the Western US and geology and the bookstore was big enough and eclectic enough to have a lot of books that he wanted, unusual things you couldn’t find anywhere else. I can’t even remember when I started going with him to the bookstore, but it was unusual for me to go a month without visiting it with my dad. At first I was into buying collections of comics, The Far Side mostly. But, as I started liking insects and then decided I wanted to become an entomologist, I gradually made my way over to the animal section of the store and found their phenomenal insect book collection.
Some of my all-time favorite insect books came from that shop. The Practical Entomologist was an important book for my development as an entomologist because it told me, for the first time, how to make a proper insect collection and how to do things like photograph insects or create little habitats for them. I absolutely loved that book when I got it. I bought my first old entomology textbook there too, Entomology for Beginners: For the Use of Young Folks, Fruit-Growers, Farmers, and Gardeners by A. S. Packard. I credit this book for inspiring my love of both printmaking and old science books. That book set me back a measly $2.75 and I still consider it one of my best insect book finds ever. It costs a lot more than that anywhere else now, which is part of why I loved that bookstore so much.
I bought my first field guides at that shop too. My favorite at the time was a book called American Nature Guides: Insects by George C. McGavin. This is far from my favorite field guide now, but the illustrations are marvelous and I found it incredibly helpful as I first learned my insect families. I bought a lot of general insect books too, like the Time Life insect book and one about insect flight. I had that butterfly alphabet poster that features photos by Kjell Sandved on my bedroom wall (and then my dorm wall and my first apartment’s wall) and was thrilled to find an entire book of his butterfly photography in the insect section at the bookshop. Getting to see butterfly scales that close was a magical thing to me at the time. That bookshop was marvelous, absolutely marvelous, and had a spectacular insect book collection. No other bookstore has ever come close to matching that shop in my eyes.
I got $10 a week in allowance as a teenager and that had to pay for everything – movies with friends, meals out with friends, and everything other than clothes that I wanted to buy. Choosing which books to buy each week was an agonizing decision and I would frequently ask my dad for an advance of 2-3 weeks on my allowance so I could buy every title I wanted. Every now and again my dad would “forget” that I owed him a week’s worth of allowance and would give it to me anyway. Honestly, I think he enjoyed that fact that I shared his passion for eclectic books and was willing to forgo the normal teenager stuff to spend all my money on bug books.
And I still spend a good part of my spending money on insect books! The books I buy now tend to be new rather than used and I usually buy them online, but my insect book collection keeps growing. It currently takes up nearly an entire bookcase, and not a small bookcase either. No, this bookcase is a foot taller I am and 5 feet across, a big, heavy oak bookcase that can stand up to the incredibly heavy science books I am most likely to buy these days. I’ve got two whole shelves of nothing but dragonfly books, but I still have a dozen more on my wishlist too. I love insect books, and I don’t think that is ever going to change. I can think of much worse things to spend my money on.
Looking at my books brings back so many good memories – good times spent with my dad, fun classes that I enjoyed, places I’ve gone, and people I’ve met. They’re a visual representation of my passion for entomology, of a life lived doing something I truly love. Those books make me happy and remind me that I’m still on the right path. I love my insect books. Oh, that reminds me! I still wanted that book on… :)
14 thoughts on “Buying Books About Insects”
I had that butterfly alphabet poster on my childhood bedroom wall too – it was a gift from an eccentric great-uncle. I feel like I spent hours staring at it as a kid…
I still have my poster! It’s stored in a poster tube these days rather than out on display, but I can’t bring myself to throw it away. It was such a great poster!
:) You are truly a gem and a great role model.
Aw… That’s so sweet. Thanks!
A warm and loving post, filled with passion
I studied electrophysiology one summer in college. One of the recommended books was To Know A Fly by Dethier. It’s a short biography of his work, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.
Excellent! Thank you for the suggestion. Sounds like a good addition to my bookcase o’ insect books.
I got Elsie Klotz’ tiny old freshwater life guide from the Florida Tech library to help me write my novel.
I have only owned one bug book by way of my grandpa’s basement: THE EMPEROR OF THE ANTS by Vamba. My sister had it last and apparently lost it over the last forty years. So, as I put my mss draft together, I simply had to find another one on EBay: Australia!
Sent it to SIS and shocked the heck out of her!
Oh, I love old bug books! They’re the best. Glad you were able to find another copy of your ant book!
I loved The Practical Entomologist too! It was a major reason I got into entomology as well. Before picking that up, I tended to avoid trying to learn about insects.
Yeah? Excellent! I’m glad I’m not the only one who found that book inspiring. I liked insects before I bought it, but it really convinced me that my plan to become an entomologist was spot on.
Great post—what a bookstore! I too enjoy scouring used book sales and searching online to add to my science and nature book collection. I agree that it’s money well spent.
It was the best bookstore I’ve ever been in, and I’m not just saying that because I practically lived there. It had an incredible selection for nearly any topic you could imagine. It’s really too bad the bookshop is no longer there in its old form! They didn’t even have everything computerized, so they just guessed on the prices and had this really surly guy who was their main cashier. Best coffee shop ever was right next door until Starbucks moved in down the street, so it would smell like coffee and delicious hot chocolate, had Enya playing constantly, and then had this enormous and wonderful collection of books. Can you tell I miss it? :) I’m glad other people get a lot of their science and nature books that way too. I need to scope out the used bookstore scene in my new city to see if I can find anything wonderful like the shop I loved in Colorado.