Friday 5: New Books

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 ThingEvery 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 WormsHorseshoe 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 SlimeSex, 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 EatenHow 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-EatingThe 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.)


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

16 thoughts on “Friday 5: New Books

  1. I love Every Living Thing (and all of Rob Dunn’s other writing for that matter)! I devoured it on a flight to Costa Rica a few summers ago and have been meaning to give it another read lately. Thanks for the heads up on the other books, I think I’ll have to add them to my book wish list!

  2. I’m reading Losing it All to Sprawl: How Progress Ate My Cracker Landscape. … “haphazard development that consumes rural land far away from city centers, costing taxpayers extra money and harming natural resources.”
    Looking forward to two new books, “Florida’s Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber. Do you know what sea foam is made of? Field Notes on Science and Nature, “allows readers to peer over the shoulders and into the notebooks of a dozen eminent field workers, to study firsthand their observational methods, materials, and fleeting impressions.”
    I love Waldbauer, his new book is on my wish list.
    Happy Reading & New Year,

    • I have Field Notes on my wishlist, but no one ever seems to get it for me. I might have to break down and buy it myself. I’ll have to look into Losing it All to Sprawl too. I imagine it’s one of those books that I would find depressing, but it’s good to know about those sorts of things too.

  3. I’m sorry but I’m going to be against of what you ask, and to the opposite: what more books of insects do you reccomend? Since my first years in the degree I loved invertebrates, specially insects. That’s why I’m working with Tardigrades, just love this tinny little world. So this titles you show are delightful for me. And I have a lot of difficulty to find such type of books in Portugal or even over the internet. Thank you a lot for this books.

    Happy New Year, enjoying this Christmas Book Flood.


    ( the old Sleeping With a cat with a new adress

  4. I asked my husband to get me “To Know a Fly” by Dethier. Either the preplanning required was more than he could do, or he thought I wasn’t serious.

    He did buy me a really great book to go with my ridiculously complicated new camera, so he still wins in the husbanding department.

    • That’s what Amazon wishlists are for! Everyone who asks me what I want for my birthday or Christmas (which are two weeks apart) is immediately directed to my Amazon wishlist. I have so very many books that it’s hard for people to know what I already have, so the wishlist gives them an easy way to choose something they know I both want and don’t already own.

  5. Girl, you get expensive! I read your original entry, thought it was great, returned to comment, found your expanded lists from older blogs and checked through those, started ordering from your list, added one more of Eisner’s and Bumble Bee Economics by Bernd Heinrich (always loved his work), then for my husband’s next birthday Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence about scientific presentations…$100 spent, even though most are used!

    • Sorry!! But think of how many great bug books you’ll have to look forward to ! :) It’s great you could get used copies. I tend to buy used when I can – so much cheaper and I don’t care if my books are dinged up a bit. Very happy to hear that you got some extra Eisner and Heinrich too. I need to read the latter sometime because I hear good things about his writing. Enjoy!

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