Friday, October 15, 2010

The Book of the Spider by Paul Hillyard, a book review

The Book of the Spider: From Arachnophobia to the Love of Spiders is a good, informative book tackling a huge range of spider subjects: Spiders in myths and legends, spiders as they live all over the world, the history of arachnology (or "spiderology," as Hillyard calls it), spider silk, attitudes toward spiders around the world, and etc. It's an impressive and informative array, very well organized, and enthusiastically presented. The book is well worth reading if one is interested in spiders.

Stylistically it is, as I said well-organized, no mean feat for a book covering such a broad array of topics, and everything presented with enthusiasm and warmth. It doesn't quite tip over into spectacular, though: It is a book you'll enjoy if you like spiders, but not a book that will convince you to like them if you aren't already interested.

The two main drawbacks are its age and the complete lack of color. The age is no one's fault: Time passes, and a book that had the latest information in 1994 won't in 2010, and in biology, that matters. The breadth of the book also mitigates this: Legends remain the same, and arachnology may have advanced, but the basic history is still what it was.

The lack of color is  possibly also a function of age. I did, however, find  it a bit odd in a book on spiders. Illustrations of any kind are scant, and there is one spider drawing which reappears, seemingly at random, and irritated me by being without any label at all (I've since decided, based on another book, that it's a drawing of a wolf spider. It's nice not to have that nagging at me).

Verdict: worth reading, full of lots of intriguing tidbits (Did you know there are, or were, groups of people who used spiders' webs for fishnets? I didn't), but not one to hunt for if it isn't on hand.

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