Monday, April 18, 2011

Look Out for Wicked Bugs!

My partner spent the weekend slogging through work in the garden -- and has the aches and pains to prove it -- so it must be time to talk about garden-related books. Amy Stewart's newest book, Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects (Algonquin Books), offers a captivating mixture of history, science, murder, and intrigue in an A-to-Z presentation of creatures that infest, infect, and generally wreak havoc on human affairs, from the African bat bug to zombie bugs -- bugs that actually inhabit other bugs and force them to do their bidding. Ok, so perhaps this isn't your standard issue gardening book. But it's fascinating nonetheless.

Stewart, who lives in Eureka, California (where she also owns an antiquarian bookstore, Eureka Books), is the author of five books, including Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers, a New York Times bestselling behind-the-scenes look into the flower industry, and Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities. Wicked Plants was also a NY Times bestseller, won the 2010 American Horticulture Society Book Award, and was named one of the best gardening books of 2009 by The Washington Post and NPR. NPR described it as "Bram Stoker meets Agatha Christie in this sophisticated little brew of botanical bogeyman," and the Los Angeles Times called it "deliciously eerie."

"I've always been interested in creepy-crawly creatures," says Stewart. "Like most gardeners, I'm very interested in all the living things that inhabit my backyard." Wicked Bugs, however, goes well beyond the bugs in her backyard! She chose the bugs to portray in her book by considering their negative impact on human affairs. And speaking of portray, the book is wonderfully illustrated by the artist Briony Morrow-Cribbs,

In conducting her research for Wicked Bugs, Stewart visited a number of living bug collections (gak!), such as the bug zoo a the LA Natural History Museum and The Insectarium in New Orleans. She also interviewed scientists all over the world and pored through newspapers, medical journals, and other related reading material.

The following "news reel" introduces the book and gives you an idea of the author's style and sense of humor.

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