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  • Extraordinary Insects

  • Weird. Wonderful. Indispensable. The Ones Who Run Our World.
  • By: Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson
  • Narrated by: Lucy Moffatt
  • Length: 7 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (135 ratings)

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Summary

The Sunday Times best seller

A Sunday Times Nature Book of the Year 2019 

A journey into the weird, wonderful and truly astonishing lives of the small but mighty creatures who keep the world turning.

Out of sight, underfoot, unseen beyond fleeting scuttles or darting flights, insects occupy a hidden world, yet are essential to sustaining life on earth.

Insects influence our ecosystem like a ripple effect on water. They arrived when life first moved to dry land, they preceded – and survived – the dinosaurs, they outnumber the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches, and they will be here long after us.

Working quietly but tirelessly, they give us food, uphold our ecosystems, can heal our wounds and even digest plastic. They could also provide us with new solutions to the antibiotics crisis, assist in disaster zones and inspire airforce engineers with their flying techniques.

But their private lives are also full of fun, intrigue and wonder – musical mating rituals; house-hunting for armies of beetle babies; metamorphosing into new characters; throwing parties in fermenting sap; cultivating fungi for food; farming smaller species for honey dew and always ensuring that what is dead is decomposed, ready to become life once again.

Here, we will discover life and death, drama and dreams, all on a millimetric scale. Like it or not, Earth is the planet of insects, and this is their extraordinary story.

©2019 Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"Extraordinary Insects is a joy." (The Times)

"Erudite, enlightening and entertaining...a timely reminder of the fragility of our ecosystem and the vital role that insects play in the future of the planet and humanity’s existence." (Countryman)

"Extraordinary Insects is packed with wondrous information. There are more than 200 million insects on Earth for every human being and anyone wanting to learn more about them will find this book fascinating’ (Daily Express)

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What listeners say about Extraordinary Insects

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Not for enthusiasts or biologists

For someone who doesn’t know anything about insects, this book could well blow your mind; but it’s important to be clear that the audience for this book cannot be anyone who has an interest in scientific thinking.

The book is well written and the performance is good; however, it was not what I (admittedly, optimistically) expected after reading the blurb.

For context, I have a keen interest in nature and have done for many years. I am also studying for a Biology degree, but I am by no means an entomologist, nor an expert in any field.

Rather than a robust scientific overview of the insect order, I found the book to be a series of (mostly wacky) facts that I generally already knew just from watching Attenborough documentaries. The book is constantly comparing insects to us humans and talking as if they think, act like, and have the same motivations as us. Anthropomorphism is difficult to avoid, and I understand it making concepts easier to relate to layman’s, but it is also frowned upon in the scientific community.

Whilst I’m sure there is some kind of bibliography in the physical book, instead of citing specific peer reviewed articles, the author often writes ‘studies show that...’, which will give you an idea of the type of book this is. It’s not that I dispute the facts stated within, it’s that The author has made it difficult to do any further research on my own; doesn’t give credit where it’s due; and doesn’t go into any great detail on the ‘why’ behind all of the facts presented.

Rather than ‘pop science’, I’m going with ‘tabloid science’.

10 people found this helpful

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Utterly fascinating, brilliant narration

This book is gorgeous and absolutely fascinating - never thought I'd find myself saying that about a book on insects, but thanks to Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, I have such a newfound respect for bugs. I'm very much enjoying the gentle narrationby Kristin Milward, this book feels lik the perfect antidote to some of the heavy going crime fiction I've been reading lately. I'm learning so much about the incredibly vital role that the trillions of insects around us constantly play in actually helping our planet, it's people, animals and plants to even exist and it's helping me feel grounded and more connected to nature. It's very humbling to learn that without insects, including the ones that seem to be the most hated by us, the human race would cease to exist. There are honestly so many utterly fascinating facts crammed into this book (did you know that insects were around to see both the beginning and the end of dinosaurs? Or that Meal Worms can actually digest plastic? I did not!), it's very accessible in a way that absolutely anybody is able to read and enjoy without feeling overwhelmed by scientific words and I know I will be listening to it many times again. I also plan to purchase the hardback version, because I really want to see Carim Nahaboo's beautiful illustrations that for some reason did not come with this audio book. Harper Collins, please update the Audible book to include these?

5 people found this helpful

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An Extraordinary Book

Sex, horror, violence, slavery - you’ll find every human vice mentioned somewhere in this book.

The author has a natural gift for writing and the presentation of her subject. Without patronising her readers, she explains her subject with clarity and humour (I’ve laughed out aloud more than once).

Even if you only think about insects when you’ve been bitten or stung, or driven to distraction by a fly, you will find this book fascinating. It is informative and thought provoking and makes the reader realise the vital importance of insects to the life on this planet and the absolute insignificance of the human race in comparison.

I believe this to be the author’s first book - I sincerely hope it wont be her last.





1 person found this helpful

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brilliant primer on entomology

humorous and informative and one of the best popular science books on entomology a great investment. the cover is similarly exquisite.

1 person found this helpful

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  • DM
  • 28-04-21

Insects are cool

This was a enjoyable listen, good to pop on for short spells while you're doing the washing up or similar. Though it's short, it took me a while to get through it, as there is no narrative to hook the listener and carry them along. Rather, it's a collection of fascinating facts about our invertebrate friends... which may change the way you see the little guys.

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An amusing and educational book. I learned loads a

An amusing and educational book. I learned loads about insects, behaviour, reproduction, eating habits... The writing style is simple, calm, humourous, and generous. Although I loved the first part, sometime I had trouble to keep focus on the second part. Recommended.

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A truly wonderful book

Eye opening and interesting, this page turner has filled me with a passion for the world of insects.

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Great Story telling

The author makes the insect world sound close and wonderful: Using words and analogies we understand, she uses humour to simplify their weird behaviours. A truly remarkable book like no other even if you don’t particularly like insects!

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very good and very informative!

I really enjoyed this book. It makes me with there were more just like it out there. Now i want to persue a career in entomology! Great listen.

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Fascinating insight into invertebrates

I absolutely loved this audio book it covered a lot in a short time form insect diversity, ecology, uses for humans and impact of climate change . Very well narated and packed with information, a book I will be listening to again.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jason Boswell
  • 01-09-20

Incredible journey through the insect world!

This is hands down one of the most fascinating books on natural history and popular science I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

The author weaves together a myriad of fascinating stories from the insect world and how they've impacted the world we live in from soil composition, fashion to antibiotics and space travel.

An exceptional piece of science communication the author communicates the science in a clear, easy understandable conversational manner.

I was captivated throughout and would highly recommend this book to anyone!

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  • Matt
  • 28-01-20

Fascinating stories, writing didn't hit the mark

This book is a treasure trove of interesting facts on a wide array of insects (and a few other arthropods). I thoroughly enjoyed learning about quirky relationships between insects and other organisms like that between sloths and the moths evolved to live in their fur. There really was something new and fascinating to learn in every chapter.

That said, both the writing and narration had me on the verge of giving up multiple times. The writing style felt like it might be aimed at a teen or even preteen audience at times. The narrator had an intoxicated rather than intoxicating quality to her voice. At times I felt like a slightly tipsy aunt was reading me a strange bedtime story about fascinating little creatures she found in her garden. I can see how some may find this combination appealing and even particularly charming. It might even be the perfect book to listen to with your older children to get them excited about our amazing little companions in this world (if you don't mind the inevitable bits about bugs getting busy). But I for one found it a bit strange given the subject matter-of course, that might be the grumpy old man in me.

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  • Kent
  • 07-05-19

The perfect book about insects.

I have taken insects for granted. After listening to this book, I will never do that again. It tells you how insects work, their biology and how they relate to us. Our life and history are intertwined with these little bugs. Loved every single chapter. Great narration and writing.