Fireflies, Honey, and Silk - Gilbert Waldbauer, James Nardi
Annie Dillard first forced me to reevaluate my position (“yuck”) on insects; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek left me, if not fascinated, at least open to the idea that the insect world is complex and offers sophisticated insight into life and the human condition. Fireflies, Honey, & Silk (Univ. of California, $25.95) took my entomological curiosity several steps further, towards actual infatuation and appreciation. Gilbert Waldbauer takes a meandering, humanities-friendly survey of “insects people like,” highlighting the debt our material culture owes to bugs (by way of silk, beeswax candles, shamanist implements), but he also considers poetry (from Japanese haiku on the lightning bug to a summary of the “flea on bosom” trope in European literature), and peppers the narrative with personal anecdotes. The wonder and enthusiasm here are contagious.