After the last book I read, I needed something a little more light-hearted to entertain me. I’d been hearing good things about Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, by Mary Roach, so I chose it from the “Books to Read” stack in my office. At least I knew I’d enjoy holding it, because the fake merit badge on the book jacket is embossed and feels cool.
Mary Roach is a very popular science writer, because she’s known for her humor, but this was my first book of hers to read. She just oozes folksy humor, puns, and silly digressions, and I think they could actually be irritating for some readers. I had set out to read something amusing, so I got what I asked for.
In addition to entertaining us, though, Roach educates us. I think I originally thought Fuzz would be a series of cute stories about naughty bears and coyotes, but it instead provides fascinating information about how animals and people can have deleterious effects on each other.
I learned about bears and why the eat the trash in some resort areas but not others (people follow the garbage can rules in one place better), how people cause many of the animal pest problems (boy, we made a lot of mistakes in the 1800s by bringing European animals into places like Australia and New Zealand), and how hard it is to get deer to not run into the road and just stare at oncoming cars. There really are a lot of ways humans and animals can run into conflict.
Sometimes Roach makes me laugh, just by revealing how little background knowledge she has in some areas that I seem to have picked up by living here at the Hermits’ Rest. She mentions more than once how she’s baffled that someone can be both an animal lover and a hunter, for example. We learn all about that in Master Naturalist classes.
It’s sort of like a high school band mom decides to write a science book, and is happy to share her naivete with her readers. It’s pretty charming, though you know she can’t be as naïve as she sounds, because she managed to arrange to travel all over the world and meet with specialists of all sorts in order to ask them her sort of silly questions. At least she had to be a master of logistics!
After reading this book and laughing, groaning, or grimacing at the jokes, you’ll end up knowing a lot more about the complex interrelationships between humans and all kinds of animals. I know Mary Roach hopes you’ll agree to live with a little irritation (yeah, even grackles and squirrels have their roles to play in the ecosystem) so that we can all enjoy the only world we’ve been given to live in. I’m up for it!