Cover: For Love of Insects, from Harvard University PressCover: For Love of Insects in PAPERBACK

For Love of Insects

Product Details


$30.00 • £26.95 • €27.95

ISBN 9780674018273

Publication Date: 10/31/2005


464 pages

8 x 9-1/4 inches

431 color; 108 halftones, 48 line illustrations

Belknap Press


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Prepare to be amazed. Brimming with enthusiasm, Eisner reveals a world of unbelievable majesty and complexity in the simplest of insects. The photographs alone are worth the price of the book, but the text crackles with the electricity of a brilliant genius at work, as Eisner leads the reader from simple observation to major scientific breakthrough. In fact this book should be required reading for every biology student because it illuminates the basic principle that passion and curiosity are the twin pillars of all great science.—David Lukas, The Los Angeles Times

Have you ever been squirted by a vinegaroon? Spent a night alone outdoors in the Arizona desert? Staged a pitched battle between ants and termites? (The termites took heavy losses, but the ants retreated under fire from their biological weapon, a chemical spray containing complex diterpenes.) If the answer’s no, enlarge your horizons by reading Thomas Eisner’s For Love of Insects… A fascinating and highly unusual book… These and many more of nature’s mysteries are unraveled in Eisner’s inimitable style—charmingly modest, brimming with enthusiasm and shot with flashes of endearing naïveté… Anyone fascinated by the endless diversity of nature, who prefers quirky fact to highfalutin theory or who simply likes to share someone else’s passion, will find this book a delight.—Derek Bickerton, The New York Times Book Review

Eisner’s book compels and fascinates at a variety of levels. It probes the ways in which insects use chemicals, and documents the ways in which an investigator poses the questions and teases out the answers… He tells his stories in the most accessible way… The sheer elegance of his approach is spellbinding. And the photographs that document his explorations are remarkable—every experimental tale here is beautifully illustrated.—Gaden S. Robinson, The Times Literary Supplement

The book is well written and beautifully illustrated with colour photographs, the majority taken by the author… Throughout the text one is reminded of the pleasure that the author derives from discovery. Anyone reading this book will themselves embark upon a journey of discovery and come to share, if only at arm’s length, Tom’s love of insect’s and the wonders of nature.—Jeremy N. McNeil, Nature

Not only does [Eisner] describe discoveries with a richness and enthusiasm long absent from contemporary literature (where every word counts and is counted), but he interlaces the chronology of his exploration with relevant personal reflections. The resulting bildungsroman portrays the scientist as hunter in hot pursuit of new findings… With its vivid descriptions and beautiful images of insect life, this book should entice the interest and support of readers from all backgrounds.—Ian T. Baldwin, Science

Eisner’s work, summarized for the first time in this elegantly written and beautifully illustrated book, presents a coherent picture of a world little known even to many biologists.—William A. Shear, American Scientist

This book is simultaneously a fascinating exploration of insect defenses and a personal account of the process of scientific discovery. Eisner relates…intricate stories of arthropod defense. While doing so he also gives the reader an understanding of how scientists go through the process of observing phenomena, developing and testing hypothesis, and finally achieving an understanding of what’s going on… Eisner has produced a book that is especially a delight for the insect enthusiast, but also should interest the general naturalist.—Cliff Fairweather, Audubon Naturalist News

At the start of his career as a professional biologist, Thomas Eisner noticed that hardly anyone had looked at how insects defend themselves against the many animals that want to eat them… Over the next 50 years, his work as a kind of ‘chemical biologist’ opened up a miniature world brimming with subterfuge and weaponry, some subtle, some simply vicious. This book takes us through his most exciting discoveries and reveals a lot about the man behind one of the more famous names in biology.BBC Wildlife

For Love of Insects contains enough depth and description to engage even the most dedicated entomologist, yet because the material is presented in Eisner’s engaging style, the reader never gets lost in a maze of scientific jargon… I think it would be hard for any reader to come away from this book without sharing in the author’s sense of wonder at the amazing ways in which insects have evolved to defend, mate, and live. With fewer and fewer people engaged in the study of biology and natural history, this book could serve to explain to nonscientists why insects deserve respect.—Scott Hoffman Black, BioScience

This is one of the best nature titles in the last several years.—Kim Long, Bloomsbury Review

[Eisner’s] new book is a personal memoir of a lifetime in science, engagingly written and stunningly illustrated with photographs of insects doing astonishing things… What makes Eisner a world-class entomologist is not access to million-dollar scientific instruments, but a mind that never stops asking ‘Why?’—Chet Raymo, The Boston Globe

The reviewer is well known for his dislike of the self-congratulatory style of presentation that is a feature of many books from ‘across the pond’; he also has little knowledge of, and even less interest in, the New World entomological fauna. How surprising that he actually liked this well-illustrated book by Thomas Eisner! Dr. Eisner is Professor of Chemical Ecology at Cornell University and a great deal of this book reveals this fact. However, the reader should not be put off by this fact and I suggest that the style of the book actually works in the favour of the layman understanding some of the more complex matters presented.Entomologist’s Record

Apart from being a most enjoyable read for an entomologist, For Love of Insects describes a long list of important discoveries in arthropods’ chemical defence systems and other fascinating relationships between insects and plants that would be useful background for students in a number of entomological and ecological fields. Thomas Eisner deserves the epithet ‘modern Fabre’ for his long-lasting investigations of arthropod behaviour, in particular chemical defence mechanisms.—Barbara May, Journal of the Entomological Society of New South Wales

In his new book, For Love of Insects, Eisner describes a lifetime of field observations and laboratory experiments on an amazingly broad sampling of the class Insecta, together with the rest of the terrestrial arthropods. Along the way, he is a font of information about the workings of myriad biological adaptations. Together with the book’s exquisite and detailed photographs…Eisner’s text is the research retrospective of a self-described ‘incorrigible entomophile’—one of the world’s most visible and admired entomologists.—Robert L. Smith, Natural History

For Love of Insects is especially valuable because it explains the steps missing from the research reports in Nature and Science: [Eisner] tells the story from first noticing a bug on a walk in the woods, through experiments and analytical chemistry, to a final understanding of each phenomenon… For Love of Insects is a fascinating introduction to a world we poor humans—barely able to detect most chemicals—seldom notice.—Jonathan Beard, New Scientist

An absorbing story of Eisner’s career as a professor of chemical ecology (a discipline he helped found), interwoven with a passionate celebration of his subject—the lowly insect—and countless did-you-know’s from the world of entomology.The New York Times Book Review

This is the sort of book that you want to read out loud to complete strangers. Rarely has the manic curiosity of a naturalist’s scientific mind been so clearly revealed as in this journey with Thomas Eisner… As the title suggests, this book reflects sheer enthusiasm and passion for bugs, and the reading of it is like a wild ride with a brilliant researcher… For Love of Insects marvelously captures the spirit of the naturalist mind and suggests how we might view the natural world with renewed curiosity and excitement. If this book could be required reading for biology students, the result would be a new generation of eager, brilliant naturalists.—David Lukas, Orion

The findings [Eisner] describes are intriguing—all the more so in that they provide the scaffolding on which we see at work the mind of one of our most distinguished scientists and naturalists. Exquisitely illustrated with photographs, most taken by Eisner, who is widely admired for his photography, the book is written in a style that is conversational, witty and graphic. Beautiful to look at and beautiful to read.Scientific American

A world-renowned expert on insects takes the reader on a fascinating journey into his world in this lively and engrossing book. Each of the ten chapters tells a different story of entomological mystery and imaginative research, illustrated with stunning photography and spanning much of a productive research career. An entertaining read highly recommended!Southeastern Naturalist

If you want to understand what drives a man to spend his entire adult life researching an apparently obscure topic, you should read For Love of Insects. In this inspiring book, Thomas Eisner recalls his colleagues and his insect subjects with genuine affection, and the effect on the reader is equally warming… Fascinating stories of how biological mysteries were unravelled by painstaking observation and experimentation.—Graham Elmes, The Times Higher Education Supplement

Although insects are not usually the stars of popular-science writing, this engaging look at how one scientist studies their lives may add them to the most-requested lists of science- and animal-loving readers.—Nancy Bent, Booklist

After 45 years at Cornell [Eisner] has written a fascinating book of stories about some of his most interesting discoveries and how they came about. One can read about bombardier beetles that blast their attackers with hot benzoquinones, millipedes that tie up marauding ants with minute grappling hooks, and sundew plants that capture their insect prey with sticky secretions… This very readable book has a great number of outstanding color and black-and-white photographs that are themselves remarkably interesting.—R. C. Graves, Choice

The world has eagerly awaited these enchanting tales of insect life, brimming with discovery, insight, and wry humor. They’re a master entomologist’s masterwork. The photographs are also extraordinary, both illuminating and exquisitely beautiful.—Diane Ackerman, Cornell University

I don’t know whether I like the text or the photographs of For Love of Insects better. The former is brilliant, the product of the dean of chemical ecology and a world-renowned expert on insects. The latter are spectacular, the work of an outstanding photographer—once again Tom Eisner. No naturalist or natural scientist will want to be without this book. Indeed, if everyone would take the time to read it and look at the amazing pictures our society would benefit greatly from an enhanced appreciation of the insect world.—Paul Ehrlich, President, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University

There are few books which present the fullness of a life in science as powerfully, as modestly, and as enchantingly as this one. The excitement of Tom Eisner’s fundamental investigations are mingled with vivid descriptions of his many other loves and enthusiasms—for music and literature no less than for the natural world—in seamless and beautiful prose. For Love of Insects is not only a delight to read, but, with its amazing photographs, a visual feast, too.—Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Love of insects? Hell, that’s barely the half of it! Better Tom Eisner had called this book Love of Life and the Lively of progeny and all provenance! With boundless verve and grace and marvel and delight, Tom Eisner proves himself, across these dazzling pages, to be one of the all-time great biophiliacs. Ah, the blessing, for the rest of us, to be alive alongside him!—Lawrence Weschler, Director, New York Institute for the Humanities, and author of Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder

Awards & Accolades

  • 2004 Independent Publisher Book Award, Science Category
  • 2003 Association of American Publishers PSP Award for Excellence, Biological Science Category

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