Insectopedia: Book summary and reviews of Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles

Insectopedia

by Hugh Raffles

Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles

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Book Summary

A stunningly original exploration of the beautiful, ancient, successful, astoundingly accomplished, largely unknown, and unfathomably different species with which we share this world.

For as long as humans have been here, insects have been here. Yet we hardly know them, not even the ones we’re closest to: the insects that eat our food, share our beds, live in our homes. Organizing his book alphabetically, with one entry for each letter, weaving together brief vignettes, meditations, and extended essays, Hugh Raffles uses the prism of history and science, anthropology and travel, economics and popular culture to show how insects have triggered our obsessions, stirred our fears, and beguiled our imaginations.

Raffles provides a glimpse into the ritualized world of Chinese cricket fighting, the deceptive courtship rituals of the dance fly, the vital and vicious role locusts play in the famines that afflict the African continent, the queer sexual practices among insects, the obsession of Japan’s entire culture with insects, how insects deformed by Chernobyl inspired art, and how our unease with insects has prompted aberrant behavior of our own.

Deftly combining the anecdotal and the scientific, Raffles has given us an essential book of reference that is, as well, a fascination of the highest order.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [A]n enthralling hodgepodge of historical fact, anthropological observation, and scientific insight." - Publishers Weekly

"Let's be clear: this volume is not an encyclopedia....this is sure to amuse, educate, raise our hackles, unveil our guilt, and leave us to ponder just who we think we are anyway." - Library Journal

"Art, science, beetles, beauty, miracles, manias, and more—the world itself, dazzling, gleams freshly through Raffles' insect-eyed lens. Every page delighted me." - Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever (National Book Award winner) and The Voyage of the Narwhal

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Hugh Raffles teaches anthropology at the New School for Social Research. He is the author of In Amazonia: A Natural History, which received the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing. His essays have been published in Best American Essays and Granta. He lives in New York City.

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