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The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms Paperback – March 11, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Even Charles Darwin found the lowly earthworm fascinating: all their tiny individual labors in tilling the soil and nourishing it with their droppings add up over time to a massive collective impact on the landscape. In this absorbing, if occasionally gross, treatise, gardening journalist Stewart (From the Ground Up) delves into their dank subterranean world, detailing their problem-solving skills, sex lives (Darwin noted their "sexual passion") and shocking ability to re-grow a whole body from a severed segment (scientists have even sutured together parts of three different earthworms into a single Frankenworm). Intriguing in their own right, earthworms stand at the fulcrum of the balance of nature. In the wrong place, they can devastate forests, but in the right place, they boost farm yields, suppress pests and plant diseases, detoxify polluted soils and process raw sewage into inoffensive fertilizer; indeed, humanity's first great civilizations may have risen on the backs of earthworms, say some of the creature's most fervent champions. Stewart writes in a charming, meditative but scientifically grounded style that is informed by her personal relationship with the worms in her compost bin. In her telling, worms become metaphors-for the English working class, for the process of scientific rumination, for the redemption of death and decay by life and fertility-and serve as a touchstone for exploring the ecological view of things.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-In this fascinating book, readers are taken on a journey underground to see the impact worms have on humans and on our planet. Referring often to Charles Darwin's The Formation ofVegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations ofTheir Habits, Stewart educates on the vital role these creatures play in growing crops, how they can neutralize the effects of nuclear waste on soil, and their ability to regenerate new body parts. An avid gardener, the author begins with the worms crawling through her own backyard before visiting them in such destinations as an endangered redwood forest in California, a sewage-treatment plant in San Francisco, a nature preserve in Minnesota, and The Giant Worm Museum in Australia (which is shaped like a 325-foot-long worm). A book that's as enlightening as it is entertaining.-James O. Cahill, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (March 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124685
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124684
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amy Stewart is the author of seven books. Her latest, Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story. She has also written six nonfiction books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers: The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential. She lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown, who is a rare book dealer. They own a bookstore called Eureka Books. The store is housed in a classic nineteenth-century Victorian building that Amy very much hopes is haunted.

Stewart has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers and magazines, and has appeared frequently on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and--just once--on TLC's Cake Boss. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society's Book Award, and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Even if you aren't a gardener, you probably know that if soil has plenty of earthworms, it is healthy soil. People didn't always know this. It used to be thought that earthworms were parasites, eating at the roots of plants gardeners wanted to flourish. Chief among the instructors that made gardeners change their minds about the humble earthworm was none other than Charles Darwin, who was fascinated by the creatures, experimented on their abilities, and wrote his final book, _The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits_, in 1881. Darwin's work, and especially his curiosity and his enthusiasm for what worms do for us, run through all the chapters of _The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms_ (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) by Amy Stewart. It is always good to be reminded of just how much natural history Darwin taught us in yet another field, rather than merely his overarching Theory of Evolution, but as Stewart shows, there are now microscopic and ecological investigations that Darwin could not have dreamed of, all of which convince her (and she will convince any reader) that the humble earthworm is a soil engineer that has made our world the way it is today.
Earthworms till the soil more intimately than any plough. By burrowing, they provide aeration. Earthworm manure (called castings) is highly valued by gardeners, and is even a cash crop for those who raise worms on a large scale. Earthworms promote bacteria in the soil, and most soil bacteria, rather than being bad germs, are useful in such things as converting ammonium to a form of nitrogen that plants can use, and breaking down other complex molecules so roots can absorb them.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By David Dun on April 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is receiving raves across the country for good reason. First it is possessed of an undeniable charm in the writers voice that makes you smile along with her both at natures eccentricities and her marvels; second there is a wholeness to the book that makes earthworms relevant to their broader context in the way of an accomplished naturalist; and third it possesses a clarity of thought and simplicity of delivery that gives it the kind of elegance that all great writers strive to achieve. This book will grow because it takes a seemingly lowly subject and spins a tail of greatness. Charles Darwin an icon of modern science was fascinated with earthworms and you will be similarly engaged, (even if like me you're an ordinary Joe operating on a much more basic level) after you have read this wonderful book. Join a host of thinking people across this country, stretch your mind, learn something, and read this treasure of American non-fiction literature.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Michael Reid Hunter on January 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Amy Stewart has written a spellbinding treatise on EARTHWORMS!
She couples fascinating facts ("one plant in Korea processes eighty tons of sludge every day in a giant earthworm reactor.")with historical research (Charles Darwin's last book was on earthworms) to create an astonishing tribute to one of our most overlooked allies. Ms. Stewart does this with succulent prose that is a joy to read. I've ordered my worms after reading this surprising book, and hope that they enjoy Alaska...
This book is lovely, and the author's enthusiasm shines through! A must read!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David B Richman on December 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Earthworms are common creatures of soil, compost and leaf litter. Fisherman often use them for bait and gardeners often raise them for their ability to break down compost into usable fertilized soil. Darwin studied these humble creatures and published his last book on them. Although he did not have knowledge that we have of the microorganisms that share the soil with earthworms, and only a minimal understanding of springtails, mites, sowbugs, etc.,which share the earthworm's habitat, he laid the groundwork for at least a smattering of knowledge on these simple, but very strange organisms.

In "The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms" Amy Stewart explores this shadowy realm of soil- a habitat at once close at hand and yet in many ways more remote to us than the sea. In a very well-written 200 plus pages she lays before the reader both the known facts and the multidinous mysteries of earthworms. She points out that the very classification of earthworms is far behind that of almost any other creatures on the planet, at least partly because of a lack of researchers in the field (a fact also noted by David Ehrenfeld in his essay "Forgetting", first published in Orion magazine.) There are thus few specialists to document the effects of the invasion of exotic worms into North America (primarily through their use as fish bait.) This invasion has wrought considerable change and in some cases almost certain damage to the native species and habitats. While earthworms can be very important in the formation and aeration of soil, if imported into areas where there were no earthworms (such as the areas of the Great Lakes once covered by vast ice sheets) they become major destroyers of the forest ecosystem.
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