Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University







Books for the Insect Connoisseur on Your Christmas List

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. The decorations, the celebrations, the pageantry, the food, the family gatherings, the gifts. Well, maybe not the gifts! I believe this Christmas gift thing, much like athletic teams that don't live up to preseason hype or ranking, is overrated. Overrated both from the giving and receiving standpoint.

Now don't get me wrong, I have received some nice Christmas gifts over the years. I have also received a lot of things that I could have lived without. I shouldn't complain; as my father often reminded me, one shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.

OK, I can put up with receiving some gifts that aren't very useful. But it is the giving side of this Christmas gift equation that really gets me down.

Never mind that old cliché about gift giving. You know, how it's more blessed to give than to receive! I understand, but before you can give a gift, you have to select a gift. And that is a near impossible thing for me do. I never have any idea about what someone might like as a gift. The only thing that saves me is that it is getting more acceptable to give gift cards. It is hard to beat an idea where you can use someone else's money to buy something ridiculous.

The real spirit of Christmas is helping others. So I was very happy the other day when someone wrote to me about a problem they were having trying to come up with a Christmas gift for a relative. As it turned out, the relative was a person who liked insects. So I was asked to suggest a good bug book to give as a present. Now here is a place where I might actually be of some assistance in selecting a gift.

"Books and bugs" has a seasonal ring to it, almost like jingle bells and sleigh rides. However, there are hundreds of insect books from which to select. So, a Christmas bug-book giver really needs to consider the interests of the person who will receive the gift.

For instance, do you have someone who likes to fish on your Christmas gift list? He or she would love to have a copy of "Aquatic Entomology" by Patrick McCafferty. Everything a fisherman needs to know about the insects that are major food items for fish.

Got a photographer on your list? "Close-Up on Insects: A Photographers Guide" by Robert Thompson is all about recording photographic images of insects. The book also provides wonderful photos of insects for your viewing pleasure.

For that aspiring chef on your Christmas list, how about "Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects" by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio? Now there is a gift that is sure to have dinner guests talking about that special entrée for years to come!

For the home gardener, there are all kinds of insect books. But one that you might want to consider as a gift is "Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs" by Whitney Cranshaw. You can't do better than an ultimate guide! But ultimate or not, there are 1,420 species included with some great photographs.

The physician or veterinarian on your Christmas list, if they don't already have it, could use a copy of "Medical and Veterinary Entomology," edited by Gary Mullen and Lance Durden. A practical gift for sure, since physicians and vets frequently encounter diseases related to insects.

The movie buff would appreciate a copy of "Microcosmos: The Invisible World of Insects" by Nuridsany, Perennon and Perennon. The book is a companion volume to an award-winning documentary of the same name. So you could give a copy of the movie as well.

For an antique collector, how about a copy of the first children's book in color? It's titled "The Butterfly's Ball, and Grasshopper's Feast." Written by William Roscoe, the book was published in 1802. A copy might be hard to find. So a 1973 picture book by Aldridge and Plomer loosely based on the original book just might have to do.

It really doesn't matter who is on your Christmas gift list; there's probably an insect book for them. Whether they like it or not is another question. But what's not to like about an insect book for a Christmas present? After all, the present could be a tie or a pair of socks!


Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox