DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Aug 20 2010

ShareReads: Bugged Out

by Jimmy L

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

About a month ago, I was poking around my crawlspace when I noticed a lot of dark crickets jumping around like popcorn as soon as I got close to them.  Wondering whether they were harmful, I looked online and found out that they were called camel crickets (but also sometimes known as cave crickets), and completely harmless.  They like dark damp spaces, eat detritus, and are completely silent, so you won’t hear them chirping at night.   The little things looked so cute, the 5 year old in me thought about raising a few in a cage so I could observe them.

Then last week, I was in a used bookstore and I came upon a book through pure luck— Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs by Sue Hubbell.  A cursory glance through the contents revealed that each chapter is about a different insect, from much loved ones like the butterfly and the ladybug, to ones we consider pests like gnats, silverfish, and flies.  I put it in my huge pile of finds that day and took it to the checkout counter.  It wasn’t until later that I saw the title of the last chapter—Order Orthoptera: Camel Crickets.

I’m still reading this book, slowly, savoring it chapter by chapter, and I’m reading it impulsively rather than in order, skipping to katydids or dragonflies just because I suddenly feel like it.  But, obviously, I started with the camel crickets.  I found out so much more about these little critters than Wikipedia could ever be able to tell me.  Hubbell writes from a personal angle; she is not a bug expert, just someone who’s very enthusiastic about them, so I was able to get that same sense of excitement and discovery that she did.  She presents you with amazing tidbits (did you know that the daddy longlegs uses his legs as a kind of cage to trap other insects underneath him as he feeds?) that never feel dry.  Her approach with each insect is different.  With the ladybug, she followed ladybug harvesters (because they sell them now for people who want them in their gardens), for the daddy longlegs and camel crickets, she raised some of her own in cages and observed them, for the butterfly, she followed a few taxonomists, helping them count the different varieties in the Beartooth Mountains.

Sue Hubbell has written many other books, some of which are available at the library.  A Book of Bees… And How to Keep Them is about beekeeping, A Country Year: Living the Questions is a book about living and exploring nature, and Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time Before Bones is a book about invertebrates.  I’m excited to check these books out too, once I finish with this one.

Have you read any books lately that make you feel like a giddy 5 year old?  Any books that satisfy an odd curiosity?  Please share in the comments.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Veronica August 21, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Many years ago I stumbled across a used book entitled Rolling Homes:Handmade Houses on Wheels. It called to me. It was not about those mega monsters that cost more than some houses and haul cars, motorbikes and everything else to make the owners feel like they have never left home. This lovely book showed mobile homes that folks had made out of trucks, school buses and other vehicles. They invested time, hard work and love into making these “moving homes.” There are wood floors, stained glass windows, fireplaces and even back porches. Whenever I get world weary, I pull out this book and dream of going on the road.

Lesley B August 23, 2010 at 12:11 AM

I loved Broadsides when I read it some years ago and I think Hubbell’s “A Country Year” would appeal to anyone who likes Annie Dillard or Kathleen Norris or Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. If it’s the creatures you were particularly interested in, check out Amy Stewart’s book on earthworms, “The Earth Moved”. Apparently there are pale purple, sweet-smelling, 3 foot long earthworms living deep in the ground – it’s an unknown world down there in the dirt. Stewart’s latest book is “Wicked Plants”. I was intrigued by how many very common plants were in there. Her next one is going to be “Wicked Bugs”, for the not-so-cute ones in your crawlspace.

Jimmy L August 23, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Thanks for the recommendations, Lesley. It was the creatures I was interested in at first, but now I’m equally (if not more) excited about Hubbell’s prose and insights.

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