Give me a book about obscure things and I’ll read it in a heartbeat. This is coming from a person who absolutely loved ‘Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers‘ by Mary Roach, a book with all the amazing gory and putrid details on what happens to the body after you die.
With Inscetopedia (by Hugh Raffles), there are 26 chapters, with titles like “Air” to “Zen” and “The Art of ZZZs”, “Chernobyl,” “Fever/Dream,” “Kafka,” “Sex,” “The Sound of Global Warming” and “Ex Libris, Exempla”, by which Raffles takes you on a delirious journey, from ever corner of the globe, to look at the vast world of insects.
In “Chernobyl,” Mr. Raffles profiles Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, an artist obsessed by mutation. Her precise scientific drawings of insects collected in Ticino, Switzerland, affected by the fallout from Chernobyl, countered the claims by scientists that the released radiation was too small to induce mutations. Hers was a long and too familiar battle, but eventually her findings could no longer be denied.
Fiction might be fun, but books like this open one’s knowledge base in ways that excite and stimulate one’s brain. Not everything in the book is cut and dry insectology. For instance, the chapter titled “Sex’ deals with insects in a metaphorical way. It is an essay about Jeff Vilencia, a self-identified “crush freak” who finds the idea of being crushed like an insect erotic. Read the whole article: nytimes
Before the ink had a chance to dry on this post, I have already added it to my “Must Get Book List”.