01 July 2011

Imprint Friday: Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart

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.

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.
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.

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."
To learn more about bugs and Amy Stewart, visit her website. There, you'll also find a sample chapter, the book trailer, and a Q&A.

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.

Wicked Bugs at Powell's
Wicked Bugs at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Algonquin Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781565129603


Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 7/1/11, 6:59 AM  

What a fun book! I'm with you on the bit about loving camping but not so much loving bugs.

Debi 7/1/11, 7:13 AM  

"...I just couldn't stop reading and then sharing what I learned with everyone who would listen."<---That cracked me up! My husband is reading this book right now, and I've already been shared with a number of times. :P

Sandy Nawrot 7/1/11, 7:53 AM  

Oh dear Lord. I'm like you, I like to camp and I love the outdoors. But I HATE BUGS. Which isn't good since I live in the mecca of bugs. I like learning new things and all, but I fear this book would perhaps give me too much information, and I'd never sleep again. (I already have nightmares that bugs are getting me.)

Beth Hoffman 7/1/11, 8:48 AM  

I have the feeling that I should read this. I love to garden and often quite curious about some of the bugs I come across.

Reading what you shared made me go online (immediately) and look for natural mosquito repellent that's safe for use around animals and birds. And I found one that looks perfect ... so I ordered it! LOL!

Nise' 7/1/11, 9:33 AM  

My husband would love this book - me not so much. I'd probably have nightmares about bugs!

Barbara 7/1/11, 9:41 AM  

This sounds like a fun book. I'm one of those people whose chemistry or something attracts bugs. Since we live in a rural area, I'm subject to all kinds of flying insects including the one I hate most of all: deer flies! Our bats disappeared but the swallows have taken up the slack in killing the little critters.

Zibilee 7/1/11, 11:02 AM  

The thought of reading a book devoted to all the weird and strange aspects of bugs sounds delightful, but the actual prospect of being confronted by said bugs? Horrid. I do want to read this one when I can, and will have to add it to the top of my list. It sounds very intriguing!

Belle Wong 7/1/11, 2:27 PM  

I have Stewart's WICKED PLANTS and am enjoying it very much so far. I will definitely have to add this one to my list.

TheBookGirl 7/1/11, 2:29 PM  

This is the kind of book that would make me paranoid for days, lol, even though I am the designated bug killer in the house.

Vasilly 7/1/11, 2:41 PM  

I agree with The Book Girl. This sounds like a book that will leave you paranoid! Maybe I'll try it. :-)

Julie P. 7/1/11, 5:36 PM  

I love the idea of this book but I'm not real good with any type of bug.

Anonymous,  7/1/11, 8:43 PM  

This looks really interesting!

Michelle 7/1/11, 9:55 PM  

I absolutely detest bugs. I can't watch them on TV and really struggle with arachnephobia. Still, I've read such great things about this book. I want to read it but don't know if I can overcome my horror of the creepy-crawly!

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 7/2/11, 1:14 AM  

I've been meaning to read this one. I do a lot of gardening and encounter a lot of bugs.... most of which don't bother me too much as long as they stay outside and don't eat my plants. The squash vine borer is at the top of my list of evil bugs. Every year it kills my zucchini plants.

Anonymous,  7/2/11, 5:04 AM  

What a great review, and what a wonderful book! Will I dare to leave the house ever again after reading that? Or for that matter, will I dare stay indoors?

Sounds like we can't avoid the beasts. Brrr!

ibeeeg 7/2/11, 6:39 AM  

This sounds like fantastic information is within these pages. Sounds like fun stuff to learn and then share with other people in a way that creeps them out or makes them go "oh". :)
The only problem, it may make me feel a bit creeped out by bugs than I already am. Still, I am gonna check into this book further. On my list it goes.

Anonymous,  7/2/11, 12:27 PM  

Ewwwwwwww. I don't think I could handle it...just reading your post gave me the creepy crawlies!

Beth Kephart 7/3/11, 8:57 AM  

oh. my. we had many citronella candles lit last night as we dined outside..... I hope we succeeded in fending those blood suckers off!

BookGeek 7/3/11, 10:11 PM  

This book sounds like a great pick up read. Thanks for featuring!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 7/4/11, 9:37 PM  

Ha! You know we're considering a screened porch ... because of those pesky (and deadly!) mosquitoes!!

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