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The Smaller Majority Paperback – November 30, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0674025622 ISBN-10: 0674025628

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674025628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674025622
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 9.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,133,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It's often said that you should buy books of gorgeous, light-saturated photographs for the images alone. Naskrecki's work does contain stunning and unusual nature photographs, even more striking for their subject matter. These photographs—of mites, katydids, grasshoppers, lizards—display life at the smallest scale ("smaller than a human finger"), and we are fortunate for Naskrecki's patience. It's impossible to tell how he took these head-on shots of bugs, views of one insect devouring another or of frogs' eyelids, but the result is beautiful. Not only the photographs are valuable: the writing also shines. Naskrecki's exuberant, expert knowledge of this microscopic world has been distilled down to the most arresting details. Crisp, enjoyable prose, clearly explains complex biological processes. Naskrecki wants to raise awareness of the perils of extinction and habitat loss, but he also wants to reawaken a childish curiosity and delight in the small wonders of the natural world. (Nov.)
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.

Review

The Smaller Majority represents the best kind of nature writing: by a scientific expert of the subject, beautifully illustrated, and with striking, original examples. (Edward O. Wilson)

Piotr Naskrecki is a master at portraying miniature worlds. He combines two skills that are rarely found in one person: as a conservation biologist, he can speak about his subjects with authority and conviction; as a photographer, he makes them come alive with astonishing close-ups. This book is a treasure house of images and information about a world most of us are barely aware of. (Frans Lanting, photographer-in-residence, National Geographic Society, and author of Jungles and Eye to Eye)

Imagine Gulliver just back from Lilliput. That is the entirely pleasurable feeling a reader will have after traveling through The Smaller Majority. Among the spineless wonders captured in macrophotos are giraffe weevils, tiger beetles, ant lions, shovel-snouted lizards and even a ghost-crab, dancing… The Smaller Majority, vividly written as well as shot by Mr. Naskrecki, an insect biologist, delivers itself of any number of astonishing facts… Small is beautiful—and powerful, too. (Patti Hagan Wall Street Journal 2005-10-22)

This volume celebrates the 'noncharismatic' mesofauna of tropical terrestrial ecosystems. In place of the images of birds and mammals that fill most collections of natural history photography, the author offers portraits of insects, arachnids, flatworms, and amphibians. With a few exceptions—such as island-dwelling coconut crabs and caecilians (subterranean legless amphibians)—the featured organisms would fit within a matchbox. (Science 2005-10-21)

It's often said that you should buy books of gorgeous, light-saturated photographs for the images alone. Naskrecki's work does contain stunning and unusual nature photographs, even more striking for their subject matter. These photographs of mites, katydids, grasshoppers, lizards display life at the smallest scale ('smaller than a human finger'), and we are fortunate for Naskrecki's patience. It's impossible to tell how he took these head-on shots of bugs, views of one insect devouring another or of frogs' eyelids, but the result is beautiful. Not only the photographs are valuable: the writing also shines. Naskrecki's exuberant, expert knowledge of this microscopic world has been distilled down to the most arresting details. Crisp, enjoyable prose, clearly explains complex biological processes. Naskrecki wants to raise awareness of the perils of extinction and habitat loss, but he also wants to reawaken a childish curiosity and delight in the small wonders of the natural world. (Publishers Weekly 2005-10-31)

Most of Earth's inhabitants, including insects, amphibians, and crustaceans, are smaller than a human finger. Naskrecki, an entomologist, brings these creatures into sharp focus with more than 400 full-color photographs. His book takes readers to various regions including the tropical forests, savannas, and deserts where these animals make their homes. Some of these critters have amazing camouflage and blend seamlessly into the background. Others stand out, thanks to displays of psychedelic-color combinations. With each photograph, Naskrecki provides background information about the creature, including its physical-features, defensive techniques, and mating habits. The author spotlights some of the odder small creatures, including scorpions that glow under ultraviolet light butterflies that drink 600 times their own weight in water at a sitting, and geckos that slip out of their skins to evade predators. The book ends with a description of the photographic process and the tricks involved in getting close-ups of tiny animals. (Science News 2005-10-29)

Little critters of the jungle and desert are all ready for their close-ups here, and they are spectacular. (L. K. Hanson Minneapolis Star Tribune 2005-12-04)

It's hard to not to like a book as beautifully photographed as this one. Naskrecki is a technically impeccable photographer. His 400 images bring us fascinatingly close. We're eye to eye with pygmy chameleons in Madagascar, the red-eyed tree frog from Costa Rica, the West African gecko of Guinea, plus all kinds of beetles, ants and butterflies. (Charlie Fidelman Montreal Gazette 2005-12-03)

Naskrecki, a conservation biologist and magical photographer, has produced a dazzling experience, not only for nature enthusiasts but for anyone inspired by colour and design. Hundreds of small creatures were photographed in tropical forests, savannahs, and deserts across the globe. Among chameleons and katydids are life forms stranger than anything on distant planets, yet their lessons in biology often hold true in one's own back garden. (Michael Viney Irish Times 2005-12-03)

You may not feel more comfortable with spiders after reading this book, but you will be captivated by more than 400 full-color, stunning, jaw-dropping photographs, and charmed by Piotr Naskrecki's writing and passion for these small animals. (Marilyn Dahl Shelf Awareness 2005-11-29)

The Smaller Majority…presents many species never before photographed and all on high-resolution, six-color film. Naskrecki spent years in remote locations of Madagaskar, Costa Rica, Guinea, Australia and Bangkok pursuing millipedes, flatworms, tree frogs, spiders, ants and katydids… Naskrecki's macroscopic world view underscores what he calls the bigger issue—that size in nature serves as a great divider, rooted in the human desire to conquer and subjugate. Too often we dismiss the animal kingdom's smaller residents, not appreciating their role in the health of ecosystems. But as a photographer, Naskrecki reveals what seems to be a link between size and beauty, and how the 'insignificant' loom large among nature's most magnificent creations. (Kurt Loft Tampa Tribune 2005-11-28)

I loved (if that's the mot juste) the richly-hued beasties who crawl through Piotr Naskrecki's survey of insects and mini-reptiles. (Boyd Tonkin The Independent 2005-12-02)

The text provides ample background and perspective for the animals included, but the main theme is illustration, as in lush, detailed photographs of the subjects. From a leaf-tailed gecko almost indistinguishable from its perch on a plant to an African weaver ant busy constructing a leaf-based nest with strands of silk, individual subjects provide a glimpse into the varieties of behavior, habitats, diet, and interaction with other animals. Often, however—as in the portrait of the genus Gusteracantha spider or the fig eater butterfly—the natural beauty of the animal's life-form projects its own reason for being included here. Perspective and background may educate, but the overriding impression of this book is aesthetic appreciation of tiny creatures. (C. R. Stalkind Bloomsbury Review 2005-11-01)

Piotr Naskrecki of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University used pioneering camera techniques to picture praying mantises, grasshoppers, spiders, geckos, chameleons and much in between, in tropical forests, savannahs and deserts… With all the enthusiasm for finding extraterrestrial life, says Naskrecki, it never ceases to amaze him how little interest there is in investigating life on Earth. (New Scientist 2005-12-10)

This is more than a collection of excellent photographs and words—it is one person's private view of the small majority's world, one person's ardent, even passionate, attempt to help others get closer and understand the wildlife in miniature that surrounds us all. And his passion is infectious. (Richard Jones BBC Wildlife 2006-01-01)

The vast preponderance of the world's animals—insects and other invertebrates—rarely get much of a look in. But it's this 'smaller majority' that fascinates photographer Piotr Naskrecki… The photos themselves are stunning—interestingly composed and well lit. There's a particularly arresting shot of a helmeted iguana, the lizard's head looming out of the page. However, what is surprising, nay shocking, is that the real joy of this book lies in the text, traditionally where most photographic tomes drop the ball. Naskrecki is a biologist (he works on katydids—hence their abundance in the book), and his writing is both poetic and remarkably accurate and informative. Much of the text is also quite personal, effectively communicating his love of the natural world. A pleasant surprise. (Geordie Torr Geographical 2006-02-01)

Piotr Naskrecki has traveled the world with his camera, seeking out rare and little-known creatures, and The Smaller Majority is a book filled with some of the most beautiful wildlife photographs I have ever seen. (Tim Flannery New York Review of Books 2006-03-23)

It is refreshing to have [a] new book about the 'smaller majority' by [a] naturalist whose enthusiasm for these creatures abounds throughout the text. (Ghillean Prance Times Higher Education Supplement 2006-04-21)

In [Naskrecki's] stunning new coffee-table book, he sets out to 'celebrate everything that is small and misunderstood'… The heart of the book is undeniably his photographs—over 270 pages of glorious colour, outlandish patterns, and extraordinary anatomy. Macroscopic photography is typically haunted by poor depth of field, but these photos leap off the page in their clarity. There are the requisite portraits and headshots, and these are spectacular. But there are also some wonderful depictions of ecological interactions… The photos are generously complemented by informative text, both detailed photo captions and general introductory sections on the habitats of interest and the biology of each animal group portrayed. The general introductory sections merge personal narrative with gee-whiz natural-history accounts and details of evolutionary trajectories… This book is a welcome burst of genuine joy in natural history. (Diane Srivastava Discovery 2006-05-01)

In The Smaller Majority, Piotr Naskrecki, director of the Invertebrate Diversity Initiative at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, explores a miniature world, transporting the reader through three major biomes—rainforest, savanna and desert—to encounter the microcosms of animals that mostly would 'fit inside a matchbox.' Naskrecki's photography offers insights into the biology and conservation of these creatures; the sumptuous illustrations that make up the bulk of the book are obviously the work of a fine craftsman… With spectacular and sometimes bizarre images…Naskrecki drives home his point that tiny creatures display enormous biodiversity. The Smaller Majority will go a long way toward increasing the public's appreciation of, and support for, conserving small animals. (Roger Harris American Scientist)

Conservation biologist and accomplished photographer Naskrecki offers the reader a trip to a fascinating world of close-ups of animal life; most are smaller than a human finger… Naskrecki traveled the globe with the Rapid Assessment Program expeditions searching for undiscovered creatures. The accompanying essays are as spellbinding as the photography… [This book is] a treasure and deserves a special place in your bookshelf. (Florence Waszkelewkz Clowes Polish American Journal)

If photographing insects and other small creatures is your passion, you absolutely must have this book. Not only is it the most excellent book that I have seen on this subject, but it is wonderful quality for the dollar value as well. As a conservation biologist and entomologist, Naskrecki is eminently qualified for his task, and his close-up photography is enviable… Every page elicits a gasp of wonder at the perfection of nature's design, and its frequently jewel-like beauty. Who would not gape at the sight of a four-eyed jumping spider, or an orange polka-dotted spittle bug nestled in its foamy froth? And if it is scientific detail you are after, you definitely have it here. Naskrecki does get very specific and technical in some sections. He devotes a few pages at the end of the book to a discussion of the photography of small subjects, which is quite helpful. The photographs are greatly enhanced by Harvard University Press's decision to use the exclusive Pantone Hexachrome colour technology, rarely used for book-length projects. (Joy McDonell Canadian Camera 2006-10-01)

More than 400 spectacular, colour photographs of an excellent quality accompany the text… In my opinion, Naskrecki's book represents an exception in many respects. (T. Soldan European Journal of Entomology 2007-01-01)

Naskrecki shares his lifelong fascination with the miniature of the natural world in The Smaller Majority, a pictorial homage to 'everything that is small and misunderstood.' The book is a full-color, guided tour of the tiny creatures that inhabit deserts, tropic forests and savannas across six continents. The Smaller Majority, whose title refers to the fact that more than 90 percent of known species are smaller than a human finger, brings you inside animals' habitats. The explanations that accompany Naskrecki's photographs offer a wealth of fascinating detail, with one exception: almost no mention of the animals' dimensions. The omission is intentional, as Naskrecki, ever sensitive to the way size can shape first impressions, feels it would distract from 'our appreciation of the animal's beauty.' His glorious photographs allay any concerns. (Nora Krug Washington Post Book World 2008-02-24)

[Naskrecki] skillfully uses a macro lens to show us a world we seldom see: what he calls 'match-box sized' creatures, mostly insects and invertebrates. Although they make up more than 90 percent of the visible animal species in our world, it's likely that you'll be seeing most of the 450 creatures he has chosen for the first time. They are beautiful, sometimes strange, always fascinating. You or a photographer you know could explore in a similar way the small world found in a back yard. All you need is a sharp eye and a suitable camera. Naskrecki provides the inspiration. (Jim Williams Minneapolis–St. Paul Star Tribune 2008-12-23)

More About the Author

Dr. Piotr (Peter) Naskrecki is a Polish-born entomologist, photographer and author, currently at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA.) His research focuses on the evolution of sound-producing insects, and the theory and practice of nature conservation.

As a writer, Piotr strives to promote appreciation and conservation of invertebrate animals - insects, arachnids, and their kin - by capturing both their beauty and roles as vital, often critically important members of the Earth's ecosystems. He is the author of over 30 scientific, peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, and his photographs and nature writing have been published in a number of national and international publications, including The Smithsonian Magazine, Natural History, National Wildlife, National Geographic, BBC Wildlife Magazine, BBC Knowledge, Terre Sauvage, Time magazine, Ranger Rick, and many others.

Customer Reviews

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Overall, a great book to read, or just to flip through.
Newton Ooi
The design and layout are outstanding, as are the photographic reproductions: just an outstanding book.
Taylor McNeil
Naskrecki combines stunning photographs and clear prose to create a classic of natural history.
Scott D. Reeves

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Derek S. Sikes on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a friend of the author and have been with him in the field for some of the shots in this book. I can say Piotr is a driven man - at the end of a long day of hiking, entomologizing, and shooting - when it's time to quit he invariably pushes on, stretching his words "just 5 more minutes!" into another hour or so. Of course, it's in those last 5 minutes of that extra two hours that he gets the shot he wants - which he will invariably describe as being merely "OK". (He's also terribly humble).

I've been learning macrophotography from Piotr which has given me an insider's perspective on his work. For example, I once spent 8 hours trying to replicate a photograph he had taken 4 years earlier (of the dolichopodid fly on page 165). His photograph is simply perfect - the light, the resolution of detail - and those flies are both very small and very flighty! My efforts were often frustrated by slight breezes that would ruin my shot (moving the leaf the fly rested on). After the day of shooting (hundreds of shots) my best shot was simply not close to matching the quality of Piotr's. Sometimes he gets lucky with a shot, but most of the photos in this book are the result of incredible effort, patience, knowledge, and vision.

Often books of such great photography have little to offer in the text, The Smaller Majority is an exception. Piotr has written about the subjects of his photographs with authoritative detail. He has also included anecdotes describing some of his experiences with these animals. These explain his passion, for Piotr is first and foremost a biologist. His masterful photography grew out of his scientific love of biodiversity.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kort TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Professor Naskrecki has something to teach us all with this gorgeous "bug" book. His macro photography of the insect and animal world truly captures a beauty that we rarely can appreciate. Printed using a gorgeous 6 color hexachrome process, the photos within it's 278 pages jump forth with vivid and lush clarity.

It is obvious a lot of love went into the making of this book. To get shots of a pygmy chameleon, he spent a week hiking, canoeing and hacking through the jungle just to reach the place where they lived. Was it worth all that effort? Most definitely. This is one book that should appeal to everyone for the beauty of the photos alone, no matter if you may be squemish over the subject matter. His personable writting style only adds to the appeal.

Pick this one up!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Sammy on November 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Naskrecki, with his wise words and great pictures shows the incredible beauty of smaller animals and their significance in the biodiversity realm. Amazing, up close photos with text that will pique basic interest as well as inform those who are scientifically bent. Great for the young ones too.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Doll on December 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Being an obessed Macro photographer I love looking at pictures. ANY kind. I had recived this book as a wonderful gift from my aunt. It makes you realize there are smaller things out there to take photographs of. After going through the entire book and drooling over the photographs for over an hour I wanted to grab my camera and go look for bugs just like those! You can probably find similar bugs in your own backyard!

As a macro photographer I found this book inspiring and makes me less afraid of spiders that's for sure! 400 up-close and personal photographs of all types of bugs. You will not be disappointed with this book. The photographs and information on the bugs and creatures is fasinating and entertaining to read!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on February 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The things one notices in life often depends on our point of view. In some cases, this is literally true. For humans living in the modern world of concrete and steel, we are often oblivious to the ecosystems that occur in other locales on different scales of space. This book opens a window to this world through beautiful photographs and wonderful text. Focusing on those environments lying within the tropics: deserts, tropical rain forests and African savannahs, the author uses incredible photography to show the beauty and intricacy of life among smaller creatures.

The author presents the life forms of each environment using exquisite photographs, with accompanying text that describes the lifestyles, habitat, and life cycle of each, and how they interact with their fellow denizens. All the various animals are covered: crustaceans, spiders, scorpions, lizards, frogs, katydids, beetles, etc... The author also goes out of the way to show those species that are the rarest of their kind, and gets them in their native environments. Hence the reader can test himself by trying to locate the camouflaged butterfly sitting on a treebark, or the walking stick swaying among leaves and branches. The book also gives a good background of how man affects the different species, and how many of these ecosystems can be measured in square footage.

Overall, a great book to read, or just to flip through. The text is simple enough for non-scientists to appreciate, yet it contains enough illustrations and facts to intrigue any nature-lover. I highly recommend this book.
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