Sex on Six Legs
by Marlene Zuk
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25)
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“Insects have a lot to teach us,” said Elizabeth Royte in The New York Times. In this “exuberant,” mischievous book, biologist Marlene Zuk explores the many odd tricks these species use to get ahead not because she thinks, for instance, that we too should explode our genitals after mating. Her point is that science can learn more about human evolution by studying the enormous variations within the insect world. Once you get used to the icky details, “whole new worlds of inquiry appear.”
The Ocean at Home
by Bernd Brunner
(Univ. of Chicago, $29)
That “little, algae-lined glass jar on your child’s dresser” turns out to have an interesting history, said Nick Owchar in the Los Angeles Times. Exhibiting his “trademark thoughtfulness,” author Bernd Brunner shows how aquariums emerged in the Victorian age at a time when people were uncommonly fearful about the mysteries of the ocean. He’s no fan, arguing that aquariums remain more effective as prisons for fish than as teaching tools. By the time his tour is done, you’ll agree that the sea and its secrets deserve better.
The Authentic Animal
by Dave Madden
(St. Martin’s, $27)
Dave Madden’s “engagingly offbeat” history of taxidermy is very good on the who, how, and when of that bizarre practice, said Elizabeth Lowry in The Wall Street Journal. He creates drama by tracking the career of the father of the craft—Carl Akeley—“a big-game-hunting Victorian who once strangled a leopard with his bare hands.” As for the why, Madden is too kind. Killing and stuffing an animal doesn’t do it honor. Instead it “speaks volumes” about man’s inability to let things be.
We the Animals
by Justin Torres
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18)
As the title of this debut novel suggests, the three brothers at its center are practically feral, said Maggie Galehouse in the Houston Chronicle. Like animals, they’re “always wanting more—more attention, more fun, more everything.” Growing up in poverty in upstate New York, they lead lives full of adventure, hunger, and heartbreak. With evocative prose and visceral imagery, Justin Torres has created a portrait of a struggling family through snapshots, which “merge into more—much more—than the sum of their parts.”
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