I recently read an article on NPR’s website about the Christmas Book Flood in Iceland. Apparently, the people of Iceland are huge readers and giving a loved one a book has been considered a really classy, wonderful gift ever since World War II. I ask for and receive a lot of books every year myself, so I think this is a marvelous tradition! I have my own little one-woman Christmas Book Flood each year. I received about 20 books altogether this year, including several about insects and other invertebrates. These are the ones I am most excited about reading (click on the title to view the book on Amazon):
Every Living Thing by Rob Dunn
I had heard that Rob Dunn was an excellent writer before I met him in person and my limited experience with his writing (mostly work e mails – woo! – and the occasional guest blog post) convinced me that I really needed to read some of his books. So, I asked for Every Living Thing for Christmas because I like the subject matter: the classification of life on Earth. There are some truly crazy stories about the quest to classify life and this is something that has fascinated me for a long time, so how could I resist? I love these kinds of science stories! And I know Dunn’s storytelling ability is going to make the book a really great read. I’ve only read a few pages of it so far, but I already know I’m going to love it.
Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey
I read one of Fortey’s other books a few years ago, one about his time at London’s Natural History Museum, and was entranced. That book made me long to work at a natural history museum so that I could have some of the same amazing experiences that Fortey had during his tenure in London. However, I expect I will like this book even more. Fortey is a paleontologist who specializes in trilobites, but this book deals with living creatures, those that have existed in a highly primitive state for many millions of years, and describes how they reveal the evolutionary processes that have shaped life on Earth. I am really excited to learn about the most primitive plants and animals, horseshoe crabs, chitons, hellbenders, clubmosses, and the like. These sorts of ancient creatures are just so darned interesting. I know I’m going to love this book!
Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime by Ellen Prager
Anyone who had a subscription to National Geographic as a kid will probably confess to having some level of fascination with marine invertebrates. Who doesn’t love a good cuttlefish or nautilus? This book is, according to Prager’s introduction, intended to be an entertaining introduction to the lives and survival of a variety of sea creatures (including a lot of invertebrates) and how their place in the environment is important to mankind. I’ve heard many bizarre stories of marine invertebrates in the past (lobsters are AMAZING!), so I’m excited to read more of them. The fact that the author is a marine biologist only makes me more excited. Who knows more than a marine biologist when it comes to the strange, amazing, and hilarious lives of the creatures of the deep?
How Not to Be Eaten by Gilbert Waldbauer
How can anyone resist that title? In this book, the wonderful entomologist/writer Waldbauer introduces the reader to the world of insect predator-prey relationships and some of the amazing adaptations insects have undergone to both find food and prevent being eaten. I’m sure the book is full of poisons and traps and death-defying chases – rather like a James Bond book, if it were filled with insectoid characters instead of British people. Insects are just so weird! I really enjoyed Waldbauer’s A Walk Around the Pond, so I expect to love this one just as much. As a scientist who works with large, predatory insects, I am eager to explore the topic in more depth.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey
This is the only book not written by a scientist on my list here, but I feel that it needs to be included with the rest. This book is less about science than it is about the joys of close observation of the natural world. The author, Bailey, was bedridden with a mysterious virus when she received a potted violet from a friend. The friend had also tucked a snail under the leaves and Bailey soon found herself enthralled by her snail’s behaviors. The title of the book is based on an early experience with the snail, one in which she fed a violet to the little creature and realized she could hear it chewing the petals. Bailey soon created a bigger, better habitat for her snail and began to learn everything she could about it, so the book does delve into the science of snails to some extent. I love the idea of this story, a person finding some meaning in an otherwise terrible experience through something as small and seemingly insignificant as a snail. It makes me happy when people become attached to the spineless creatures of the world, so I think this is going to be a thoroughly enjoyable book to read.
But before I read any of these books, I have to finish my current book and one completely frivolous book: Redshirts by John Sclazi. I know I’m going to love it, but considering my husband told me, immediately upon opening the book mind you, that I had to read it immediately and then I had to let him read it as soon as I was done, I have a feeling he really bought it for himself. Ever get that feeling when you open gifts? :)
Did anyone else get any good insect or science books for Christmas? I’d love to hear about your personal Christmas Book Floods in the comments below! You all have great book recommendations, so I’m interested to hear about what you’re looking forward to reading.
(In the interest of full disclosure, none of the images in this post are my own.)