Book Review: The Book of Beetles.


The Book of Beetles:  A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature’s Gems – Patrice Bouchard, Editor (2014, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago)

I may be a gardener, but I pretty much freak out whenever I encounter an insect – it doesn’t matter if they’re beneficial or not.  I can handle lady (ladybird) beetles (and by that, I mean I can literally hold them) and butterflies – and for some reason ants don’t upset me unless they’re in my kitchen, building little ant condos and supermarkets beneath my dishwasher.  But everything else either sends me running or – in the case of a certain grossly oversized, hairy moth that once flew into the open window of a vehicle I was driving – to a screeching halt on the side of the road.   Sawyer beetles – you know the ones that are the size of a Honda Civic and sport antennae of a length you normally associate with the rack on a trophy elk – make me positively hysterical.

Still, even if you have only a fractional fondness for insects, it is extremely useful (I’d suggest necessary) to be able to identify them in the home and garden. I came across The Book of Beetles at work and thought maybe it would be helpful for me to properly ID some of the beetles in southern Alberta.  Actually, while some of the 600 beetles in the book do indeed inhabit the province, it’s not really that kind of book.  It’s actually a book about the fashion models of the order Coleoptera.  Every page sports a glorious full colour, life size glossy photo of beetles bedecked in all their finery,*  accompanied by a short bio that answers all of the important questions, such as country of residence and favourite foods.  (“Carpet fibres,” enthuses one, while several others tout the benefits of chewing tree bark).   These beetles are all so staggeringly beautiful and unique, this non-beetle lover paged through the book in complete amazement.  And if I was impressed, anyone interested in beetles would be quite happy, indeed. The photographs are absolutely incredible, and despite its size and weight, the book isn’t text heavy.  (This shouldn’t trouble beetle enthusiasts and scientists, as the intent of the book is clear.  And it will only serve to make people like me take an earnest look).   I don’t think a more enjoyable book about beetles has ever been produced.

*In the case of the reeeeeallly little beetles, there is also a magnified photo to show detail.


Face to Face with 11 Amazing Beetles (BBC World)



  1. Really amusing post, Sheryl! I was the same as you except I liked ants less until I started photographing them and I became hooked on all insects. They are fascinating and some are so beautiful. Thanks fpr the link. I still don’t like ants very much.

    • I was absolutely terrified of insects as a child so it’s been a difficult haul to get to the point where I’m starting to acknowledge how incredibly amazing they are. And you’re right, some of them are absolutely beautiful.

      • I was really frightened of them as a child too. I think it’s only since having children and having to rescue them from moths, spiders etc that I’ve got over a lot of my fears.

  2. A great post. Funnily enough I have just bought a bug book. I used to be like you about them but I am looking at them with new eyes now and I am keen to learn their names. In fact it is seeing bugs on blogs that has kindled my interest. Your book looks well worth seeking out.

    • It’s really an amazing book, very well written, and the photographs are incredible. I agree with you, there are so many excellent photos and info about insects on blogs, it really does help on the whole appreciation front. They are fascinating creatures.

  3. I feel the need for some bug books, this sounds like a good candidate. Though I am generally more interested in your common garden-type insects, this sounds like an entertaining read (and view). Funny review.

  4. That book sounds wonderful! I am always surprised when gardeners don’t love bugs the way I do*; plants and insects seem to go hand in hand to me. Glad you enjoyed looking at them in a book and thanks for telling us bout it.
    *Except when that giant (more than 3 inches across) spider was in the kitchen on the wall right next to the stove!

    • Oh, my goodness, I can’t even imagine what I would do if I saw a spider that large!

      I definitely think it’s really important for gardeners to have an understanding of the connection between insects and plants – and an appreciation for them would be a huge bonus (at least for me!). They really are amazing.

  5. I once met a scientific illustrator who was deep in a beetle illustration project – she said it was absolutely wonderful, and that opened my eyes up. I’m sure this book does too. Fun review!

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