This week on ‘bee’ reviewed is a really fun book – an easy read for most anyone to get into, today we’re looking at Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart. I love Stewart’s work (she also wrote Wicked Plants and was selected to be this years editor of The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016), I’m admittedly fascinated by bugs, and Stewart signed my copy when my mom bought it from her (thanks mom!), so I may be a tad biased but seriously, I promise this book is for everyone.
The book begins with a cheerful warning: We are outnumbered! and indeed, we are with a ratio of approximately one human to every two hundred million insects on this planet. Stewart then launches into a book filled with fascinating insects – from the painful bullet ant to the disease-carrying rat flea (that brought the Black Death to Europe) to the terrifying Asian giant hornet. Interspersed among these humorous, informative, and brief tales about various ‘bad’ bugs are beautiful black and white drawings and humorous collections of stories (for example: ‘She’s just not that into you’ which details the terrible dating experiences of insects like fireflies, banana slugs, and praying mantids). The book is filled with saccharine and morbid humor as Stewart conquers subjects like Zombies, Bookworms, and Bugs of War with finesse and even charm.
This book is such a fun book, to me, because it can be read in short bursts, all containing humor and all so brief that you don’t get bogged down in detail. It’s like a serious of short comedic sketches by Adam Ruins Everything – self-contained, very informative and all about bugs. Stewart does a masterful job organizing the collections and her voice is aware, full of awe, and sometimes a bit of horror. It’s a conversation about how awesome and inspiring and terrifying nature can be. Stewart uses language that everyone can understand – the book is not written for a serious entomologist but for the everyday explorer, someone who wants to know a little bit more about the possibilities of outside from the safety of… you know, inside. Stewart’s writing is fluid and easy to read; her sentences are not poetic or lyrical, working instead to be straightforward and appeal to every reader. Stewart is a masterful writer but she wants the bugs to get the spotlight – in this book she writes clearly while letting the writing itself fade into the background behind the message.
If you’re grossed out by even the most innocuous carpenter ant and have nightmares about honey bees (awwww) then this book is not for you – you will not feel better about going out in the world after reading it. But for those with a fairly self-contained imagination, a sense of natural curiosity, or a general understanding of geography (i.e. not all these bugs live near you), give this book a shot. I think you’ll bee glad you did.
Hah. See what I did there?