Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart (nonfiction)

You'll more than likely find this title in the Nature section of your bookstore, but it could realistically be shelved under Horror.  This book is seriously scary.  In a breezy, light tone and pace, it describes all sorts of frightening details about insects, especially in terms of what they will do to you if you run across them.  Covering various continents, there's really no place you are safe from these tiniest of creatures-sure, they may not hunt you down exactly, but the odds are with them that one of their kin will be dining with (or on) you.

Flies, caterpillars, spiders:  the diseases they carry and their methods of transmission are all detailed, with anecdotal stories illustrating just how effective they can be.  The book is a sequel to Wicked Plants by the same author (which I haven't yet read), and it's extremely well-researched.  One section details early forms of biological warfare, when soldiers would hurl hornet's nests or scorpion-filled baskets over the city walls of their opposer, causing havoc and sickening many.  Another section explains why you should be a cat-person, as the diseases that rats, mice, and vermin still carry (the plague in the past) are easily able to sicken you. 

I made the mistake of reading this before bed.  I don't recommend that, as you'll find yourself convinced something is crawling in your sheets.  Despite the light-hearted presentation, the book does a serious service by showing just how interlinked species are, and how extinction of some animals or insects causes a disparity that often increases the danger of illness and infection.  The balance of habitats is essential to keep most of these bugs manageable.  Really, there is no such thing as a "small" bug in the living world as all factor in somehow. 

A great gift title, but I would probably hold back from sharing with children.  The chapters on bug reproduction are, um, disturbing and graphic.  Clearly, a bug's life is not always fun, and (spoiler alert!)the males usually end up dismembered and dead.  For the most part, females rule the insect world and males are their underlings and servants. 

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 as it might if it became too much like a scholarly article or textbook.  This is my favorite kind of nonfiction title, and it's already been devoured by two other members of my family.

Mention must be made of the incredible illustrations that accompany the text by Briony Morrow-Cribbs.  They are hand-drawn and stunning. 

Special thanks to Megan and Kelly at Algonquin for the Advance Review Copy. 
This title was released yesterday.


  1. Ooh, this does look good! (if creepy). I still want to read Wicked Plants, too.

  2. I got the shivers up and down my spine just reading your review! I don't particularly like creepy crawly bugs. i think reading this book, while educating me, might very much petrify me! My husband would probably like this a lot although he might torment me. lol