|On Six Legs
By Tom Turpin
Nowadays, it seems that every political candidate, newspaper columnist, TV personality and professional athlete has a book or two. I, too, have joined the madding crowd by writing a book. It’s titled “Flies in the Face of Fashion, Mites Make Right, and other Bugdacious Tales.” As you might guess, it’s a book about insects.
I’m not the first entomologist, a person who studies insects, to write a book. But most entomologists, since they are scientists, produce scientific books. For example, textbooks with titles like “Introduction to the Study of Insects” or “Insect Biology” or just “Entomology.”
Some books written by entomologists are about specific aspects of the science. Such titles as “Insect Morphology” and “Insect Ecology” come to mind. Other books, including “The Moth Book” and “Carabid Beetles in Their Environments,” are about specific groups of insects. There are also books about insect control, two of which are “Destructive and Useful Insects” and “Insect Pests.”
Most people shy away from reading books that are too scientific. So, over the years, a few entomologists have written books intended for the general population to read.
One of the first, and certainly the most prolific of such writers, was the great French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre. In the 19th century, Fabre wrote hundreds of pages about insects that were published under the title “Souvenirs entomologiques.”
Since then, there have been other entomological books designed to be read by non-scientists. Anna Botsford Com-stock, the wife of one of the first teachers of entomology John H. Comstock, published “Ways of the Six-Footed” in 1903. The title of this book was the inspiration for the title of this column. Other such books by entomologists include “Life on a Little Known Planet,” “Six-Legged Science,” and “Bugs in the System.”
Some writers have also discovered insects and have authored “bug” books. Two such books include “Insects: Their Secret World” and “Insects on Parade.” A number of children’s books about insects have also been written. One of the best-selling books of all time is Eric Carle’s “The Hungry Caterpillar.”
I checked the July 21 edition of the New York Times Best Sellers List, and there isn’t a single book about insects on the list. If a bug book were to make the list, I assume it would be in the nonfiction category or a children’s book. But there were no titles suggesting insects in either of these categories.
The current top selling, non-fiction book features a dog. “Marley & Me” is all about the life lessons that a newspaper columnist learned from his neurotic dog. In the top 10, there were a couple of books about economics, one about the Bush administration going to war in Iraq and four more by columnists or TV broadcasters. No. 11 was “Blink,” a book about hunch and instinct.
On down the list, there is a book about a golfer, a book about black women and a book about the Founding Fathers of this country. But not a single title that even suggests insects.
On the children’s-books side, the top of the list was about pirates. There are many animals in the top 10: bats, sharks and even a baby hippo. But no insects!
The list also includes the story of a young woman who wants to be the flower girl at a wedding and a retelling of that age-old favorite, “The Little Engine That Could.”
So, my book about insects hasn’t made it to the best-seller list. OK, I’m not surprised. But after reading the current list of best sellers, I’m already working on my next book. I can’t decide if it should be entitled “Wisdom of Our Insects” or “Insects: Agents of Liberalism.”
Either way, I will need a co-author. I wonder if Tim Russert or Ann Coulter is available?
This farm news was published in the August 23, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.