Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
I like to camp, I like to hike, and I like to garden. I don't, however, really like bugs—and that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Amy Stewart knows of some truly nasty creepy-crawlies, and that's what her latest book, Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects, is all about.
Here's the summary:
In this darkly comical look at the sinister side of our relationship with the natural world, Stewart has tracked down over 100 of our worst entomological foes—creatures that infest, infect, and generally wreak havoc on human affairs. From the world's most painful hornet, to the flies that transmit deadly diseases, to millipedes that stop traffic, to the "bookworms" that devour libraries, to the Japanese beetles munching on your roses, Wicked Bugs delves into the extraordinary powers of six- and eight-legged creatures.This isn't a book that you'll necessarily start out thinking you'll read cover to cover. You'll pick it up to check out, say, the mosquito. After you learn that this summer menace is just about the deadliest of all insects, you'll immediately start plans to build a screened porch. Once you've made that phone call, you'll sit down to read more. By the time you finish the book, you'll call back the builder—no need for the porch, you plan live in a HazMat suit for the rest of your life.
With wit, style, and exacting research, Stewart has uncovered the most terrifying and titillating stories of bugs gone wild. It's an A–Z of insect enemies, interspersed with sections that explore bugs with kinky sex lives ("She's Just Not That into You"), creatures lurking in the cupboard ("Fear No Weevil"), insects eating your tomatoes ("Gardener's Dirty Dozen"), and phobias that feed our (sometimes) irrational responses to bugs ("Have No Fear").
Intricate and strangely beautiful etchings and drawings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs capture diabolical bugs of all shapes and sizes in this mixture of history, science, murder and intrigue that begins—but doesn't end-in your own backyard.
Wicked Bugs is informative, entertaining, and downright yucky, but I just couldn't stop reading and then sharing what I learned with everyone who would listen. For example, did you know that both the Mayans and the ancient Greeks used stinging insects as instruments of war? Or that the death-watch beetle of literature and film is truly destructive? Stewart's captivating stories are told in a light, personable style.
I love the illustrations and the design of the book, too. Take a look (click to enlarge):
Next time you dig up nightcrawlers in anticipation of a lazy afternoon with your spinning rod, be sure to let researchers in Minnesota know that you're doing your bit to save the forests. Want to know why? I'm going to make you read Wicked Bugs to find out.
As always, I like to share some other opinions:
- John M. Formy-Duval at Contemporary Literature says, "Amy Stewart's book is a 'glorious buffet' that informs and entertains from beginning to end."
- Amy at The Black Sheep Dances notes, "In terms of criticism? I find none except that I wish some areas were even more in depth, such as to know exactly why these insects behave the way they do. However, the information given is accessible and never loses your interest."
- Terri Schlichenmeyer at the Leader Times concludes, "This book may make you shudder. It may make you say "Eeeeuuuuwww," but you'll be definitely fascinated."
This book was spotlighted as part of both my Imprint Fridays feature and my Get to know Algonquin Books feature. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.