Monday, February 21, 2011

Spineless Wonders and Every Creeping Thing by Richard Conniff, a double book review

Richard Conniff is now on my list of authors to watch forever. I recently read Spineless Wonders:Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World and Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife are some of the best nature writing I've read, broad-ranging, informative, and funny. Conniff is endlessly curious, asking about and traveling to see eels, tarantulas, possums, moths that live in opossum fur and feces, fire ants, weasels, and common house mice.

Thanks to the wide-ranging focus of his work, there are plenty of those "backyard biology" moments I've been looking for in addition to more exotic animals, and his writing is full of readable and memorable bits. There's the tale of the mole that dug its way out of the herring gull that had swallowed it, for example (both died), for example, and then there are bits like this from Every Creeping Thing:
Whether we like them or not, mice are a hit, an improbable success story, if only that they have distributed themselves more widely across the planet than any other mammal apart from Homo sapiens. They have done it with short legs and bad eyes, too, and with less help from us than we generally choose to think.
I kept stopping to read pieces like this out loud to whoever happened to be around.

Conniff respects his subject and he respects his audience, he knows what he's talking about, and he has a sense of humor. This is a rare and wonderful combination, and I plan on keeping an eye out for future books.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an author I'd really enjoy! I'm going to look for his books, thanks!