Tales From The Ant World – A book review

Tales From the Ant World, E. O. Wilson’s book that came out this August, was a fun and interesting read. I enjoyed peeking inside the mind of a man who has built his life around his sheer passion for natural history and his love of ants in particular. I recommend buying and reading the book if you have even the slightest interest in natural history, ants, or the way scientists think about natural history.

Tales From the Ant World cover
The cover of Tales From the Ant World by E. O. Wilson

The Best Part of Tales

Wilson is a master of understated joy. He writes with a reverence for his subject that you rarely encounter from other authors. And that’s the best part of Tales From the Ant World: E. O. Wilson took the time to write down some of his favorite things about ants. Interesting things. Things that are stranger than fiction in the way that only natural history can be.

And for that glimpse of joy, I recommend buying the book.

The bits I didn’t like

It pains me to say this because I’ve been a bit of a Wilson devotee for most of my professional life, but there were parts of Tales From the Ant World that weren’t what I hoped for. Wilson’s voice was a little too nostalgic, and the story telling a touch scattered in some parts of the book. Not that I’m a great writer, but I don’t have a team of editors at my back, either. Since Wilson does, one must assume that he told them to mind their own business when they suggested he try not to sound so old. I more or less read half the book with Grandpa Simpson’s voice inside my head.

Verdict: Read Tales From the Ant World

READ IT! Tales From the Ant World is interesting, full of great natural history, and it’ll make you smile more than once. If you’re like me and cut your teeth on Wilson’s earlier books, you’ll enjoy this one too. As I said above, Wilson’s love of natural history comes shining through. Just prepare yourself for more nostalgia than his other books and you’ll be good to go.

Lagniappe

A version of this review also appears on Amazon.com

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – A book review

I try to read widely, which means I often pick up books outside my preferred genres. This time I selected The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily A. Danforth. (Both links lead to Amazon.)

And what a fortuitous choice!

Overview

Danforth’s novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post is excellent. Following the formative years of Cameron Post, a young woman in Miles City, ND, the story describes the character’s growth as young lesbian in a intolerant conservative community. We meet Cameron when she’s a relatively young girl, just as she’s discovering her sexuality and right before tragedy hits. Being an LGBTQ teenager is, I suspect, difficult enough, but being lesbian and also losing her parents means that Cameron had to figure a lot of stuff out by herself. I don’t want to give away the whole story by summarizing the book here, so suffice it to say that if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a young lesbian woman in conservative rural community, then this story provides a good primer.

cover of Miseducation of Cameron Post
The paperback cover of The Miseducation of Cameron Post written by Emily M. Danforth and published by Balzer + Bray

Why I liked Miseducation

The fact that Cameron Post’s story is a good primer is, in fact, exactly what lead me to read it. My own child faced some of the same struggles as the book’s main character and recommended it to me as a sort of introduction to their reality. I can’t say that much of what I read in Miseducation was surprising or shocking, but it did distill some of the things I had heard and imagined into a digestible story that allowed me to make sense of what I thought I knew. And it helped me understand my kid’s world with a little more clarity.

It’s that sense of understanding just a little bit better that made me really like the book. I related to Cameron even though I’m a straight white middle-aged man who hails from a fairly liberal community. That’s the kind of writer Danforth is; she drew me in and told me Cameron Post’s story in a way that kept my attention for 470 pages. And when I say she kept my attention, what I mean is that she told Cameron’s tale in a way that made me feel the story as much as anything else.

What I didn’t like about Cameron Post’s story

Danforth’s writing is easy to read and sounds like it might be authentic if you don’t overthink every passage. However, bits of the book were a little lengthy and wordier than necessary. I also thought the story’s end could have been done a little better. But then again, endings are some of the most difficult material to write, and who doesn’t say that about many books?

There was nothing in the book that would prevent me from recommending it.

Take away – I recommend the book

I definitely recommend this book to young adults and parents of young adults. You needn’t be LGBTQ to enjoy it or grow from it, either. The story is fundamentally sound, with all the elements of a good novel. So you can enjoy it purely for the narrative. But for those of you who like to be a little more reflective, there’s plenty to think on. Simply reading the book is likely to increase your empathy for a large and increasingly visible segment of our population. And, as we all know, this is an age in which empathy is something we need more than ever.

Lagniappe

A version of this review also appears on Amazon.com.