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Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife Paperback – December 10, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (December 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805056971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805056976
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,579,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Animals are the source of some of our most imaginative and persistent fantasies, and these fantasies are the only way most of us ever get to escape from our urbanized and domesticated lives into a larger world," writes Richard Conniff in the introduction to Every Creeping Thing. But Conniff, author of Spineless Wonders, has some rather strange ideas of the kinds of animals we might want to daydream about. Take the little brown bat ... please: "When their mouths are open and their insect-gnashing teeth exposed, they look like the sort of particularly unpleasant lap dog that a Barbie doll would have in her spiteful and neglected old age."

Conniff lovingly describes the habits of grizzlies, mice, cormorants, weasels, sharks, porcupines, moles, snapping turtles, and other underappreciated critters, including the scientists and fanciers who pay attention to these animals. In deadpan prose, Conniff describes the decorative nature of bloodhound slobber ("It hangs down in ropes from the upper lips, or flews, and sometimes gets festooned between the lip and the end of either ear.") and the distinctive mating call of the porcupine ("It is like a baby whimpering from a dream that is bad and getting worse... "). Every Creeping Thing is a delightful, yet far too short, tour of our love-hate relationship with some "faintly repulsive wildlife." --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

Conniff, a science journalist whose previous book (Spineless Wonders) took on invertebrates, offers another funny, informed examination of the natural world. The author is no softie. He trusts his "gut feeling that fear of nature is normal?more normal, certainly, than a love of it." But readers shouldn't be fooled by the slightly curmudgeonly posture: Conniff pays the kind of close attention to nature that only someone who loves it can. (The book's title, far from being an epithet, comes from Genesis.) Conniff presents a rogue's gallery of beasts that includes the sloth, the grizzly, the bat and the snapping turtle, among other oft-maligned and misunderstood creatures. His defense of the sloth is priceless: "masters of digestion, champions of sleep, gurus of the pendulous, loafing life." While cormorants are demonized by naturalists for dining on trout, Conniff defends their honor, averring they would much rather chow down on alewives and other unwanted fishy predators than on grade-A fingerlings. The text offers a procession of odd facts: the mole can tunnel 60 feet or more in a day; sandtiger sharks eat their weaker siblings in the mother's womb. Coniff's 17 wonderful essays on some of the animal kingdom's "weird, unsuspected minutiae" make, in addition to great entertainment, a strong argument for the importance of biodiversity. Illustrations by Sally J. Bensusen.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Richard Conniff writes about behavior on two, four, six, and eight legs. He has collected tarantulas in the Peruvian Amazon, tracked leopards with !Kung San hunters in the Namibian desert, climbed the Mountains of the Moon in western Uganda, and trekked through the Himalayas of Bhutan in pursuit of tigers and the mythical migur.

His latest book is The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth (Norton, November). Also now out in paperback is Swimming With Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals (Norton, 2009). He is the author of The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights, and Work Smarter By Understanding Human Nature (Crown, 2004), The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide (Norton, 2002); Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife (Holt, 1998); Spineless Wonders: Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World (Holt, 1996); and other books.

The New York Times Book Review says, "Conniff is a splendid writer--fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can't resist quoting him."

Conniff also writes about wildlife, human cultures and other topics for Time, Smithsonian, Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and other publications in the United States and abroad. His magazine work in Smithsonian won the 1997 National Magazine Award, and was included in The Best American Science and Nature Writing in 2000, 2002, and 2007. Conniff is also the winner of the 2001 John Burroughs Award for Outstanding Nature Essay of the Year, a 2009 Loeb Award for distinguished business journalism, a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship,and a 2012 Alicia Patterson Fellowship.

Conniff has been a frequent commentator on NPR and recently served as a guest columnist for The New York Times online. He has written and presented television shows for National Geographic, TBS, Animal Planet, the BBC, and Channel Four in the UK. His television work has been nominated for an Emmy Award for distinguished achievement in writing, and he won the 1998 Wildscreen Prize for Best Natural History Television Script for the BBC show Between Pacific Tides.

You can follow him on Twitter @RichardConniff, and on his blog http://strangebehaviors.wordpress.com/

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Soso R. Whaley on February 28, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Conniff has done it again! "Spineless Wonders" was fascinating and informative and I am happy to report that his book "Every Creeping Thing" follows in those same footsteps. From the Introduction where he speaks of our ignorance about the natural world to the epilogue where Mr. Coniff admits that perhaps he has been searching for some "larger, mythic connection" with the natural world the reader will find a whole new world opened up to them. A world so new that it could help strengthen our desire to preserve the very planet we live on.
In this book you will meet Bonifacio de Leon or "Boney" as he is known who studies the sloths of Panama, an animal that is slow but not stupid. Spend some time with David Wingate who is attempting to piece together a tropical paradise known as Nonsuch Island turned into a desert after humans discovered it, all for one bird known as the Cahow. Grizzlies, sharks, porcupines, weasles, even animal actors, this diverse volume is easy to read and understand by people who know absolutely nothing about the natural world, but a complete delight for those of us who work with and around animals. A veritable encyclopedia of information that will enlighten and enhance the lives of those who read it.
Where else can you find out that the Bloodhound is not named for its fondness for blood but rather that it is a reference to the fact that it is one of the first purebreds, the first canine blue blood. That snapping turtles "right now are in the biggest population explosion of their history", yet it is still hard to find them.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Conniff clearly has an affinity for the animal knigdom. This elegantly-written, witty---heck, it's laugh-out-loud funny at times---offbeat book is a must-read for anyone interested in animals, humans and their complicated pas-de-deux.
Conniff's prose clips along and he even gives the reader a few eccentric characters, some violence and a bit of weird sex to carry the whole thing forward. The violence is non-gratuitous---who can blame the shark for an occasional chomp on a surfers leg? The characters who seem (indeed, are) eccentric are the people who help us better understand the nature of the snapping turtle, for example, or the cormorant. And then there's the bat sex (a "disco mating strategy"), sloth sex (really, really slow) and porcupine which ends, a biologist tells Conniff, in "hostile screaming." "The wonder is that it ever began at all," Conniff notes.
This is a terrific read that sent me, happily, to Conniff's other book, Spinelss Wonders. I gave both to my high school age son who's interested in a career in the natural sciences and he loved them. Also, the illustrations by Sally J. Bensusen are wonderful.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
Based on this book's title and short description, I was expecting "tales" of interesting or unusual animal behaviors or characteristics. Unfortunately, many of the chapters seemed to focus more on the people who study or hunt these animals than on the animals themselves. While many of the chapters were fairly interesting, little unique or fascinating information about the animals was presented. Finally, it was hard to consider some of the animals or their behaviors to be even faintly repulsive (e.g., a bull being used to film a TV commercial).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marty on February 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
THis book is such fun - it teaches in an unobtrusive way, and entertains with wonderful tales of encounters with everyday critters.
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Format: Paperback
Coniff is an easy writer to read and picks engaging subject matter: sloths, bats, sharks, mice, to name a few. This isn't as grim as spineless wonders -- although much of the wildlife contained herein is faintly repulsive -- but it is as interesting. For anyone who can't stomach the latest summer trash novel to read at the beach but can't be bogged down by erudite writers this is perfect.
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