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Book Notes | ‘Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law’

May 17, 2024, at 2pm

In her latest book, Mary Roach describes situations around the world where animals have come into conflict with humans. The goal of the wildlife management companies in the countries described is to establish protocols to deal with the problems, using solutions that would not involve destruction of the animals. Roach has gone around the world to collect stories of animal behavior and the measures that humans have taken to reach compromises to allow the animals and humans to live in harmony. Unfortunately, in most cases, the problem is loss of habitat; as agriculture pushes animals into smaller and smaller areas, the animals react aggressively.

These problems include garbage-eating black bears in Aspen, Colorado, marauding macaques in India, plant-destroying gulls at the Vatican, and invasive rabbits and stoats in New Zealand. The 15 chapters of the book describe different geographical settings and the conflicts that have arisen, between various animals and the inhabitants of cities and farmers who have suffered crop losses. Roach also describes dangerous situations with falling trees and rosary peas (source of abrin, a lethal phytotoxin) and castor beans (source of ricin, a highly potent toxin).

There is a lot of humor in the book, and some of the situations that wildlife managers have encountered are hilarious. Roach has a witty way of writing and seems willing to dive into any situation, even if she gets dirty. She establishes the fact, though, that these are real-life problems, and everyone involved is working hard to find solutions for the devastation caused by some of these animals. 

The members of the UMRA Book Club group generally liked the book. Each chapter of the book deals with a different situation, and some members admitted they skipped certain chapters due to their dislike of the subject matter, or skimmed over parts of the book.  

Roach is a superb researcher whose other books include Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.

— Stephanie Daily, UMRA Book Club I




Book Club I to meet May 17

Fri, May 17 2024, 2pm

Event to be held via Zoom.

Stephanie Daily will lead the discussion of Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by best-selling author Mary Roach when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 17. 

Named one of the ten best science books of 2021 by Smithsonian Magazine, the book is a work of nonfiction that explores the times when plants and animals break human rules. Think murderous cougars, thieving monkeys, and sinister birds. Roach explores the nature-human connection with humor and wit.

Email Pat Tollefson at [email protected] for more information.

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