Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law (Paperback)

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Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law By Mary Roach Cover Image

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law (Paperback)


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September 2021 Indie Next List

“Human encounters with wildlife are increasing as land development shrinks wildlife habitat. Roach recounts dangerous engagements, some head-shaking practices, and plenty of laugh-out-loud turf wars.”
— Kay Wosewick, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Staff Reviews

If you haven’t read anything by Mary Roach, then it’s time to get started…that is, if you like to learn and laugh. Roach writes about the most unlikely of subjects. Her earlier books include Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Surely those titles will entice you!
But, let’s get back to Fuzz, a book the Cottage Book Club recently reviewed. Roach probes the divide between wildlife and human behavior, and who is really to blame when one encroaches on the other. She takes us to India discussing the problems about monkeys and humans; posing the question of, "Who’s to blame when monkeys harass people, often taking food right out of their hands?" She suggests that the problem may have started with the practice of leaving food offerings at temples, not for monkeys, but for the icons that are represented inside. And why are monkeys more plentiful in well-to-do areas? Because the deforestation of monkey habitat has forced them into areas where parks are plentiful and full of trees.
Roach points out that the practice of “translocation” of troublesome animals only leads to the same problem in another area. Killing off creatures that have created problems for humans leads to the over-population of another. From albatross befouling aircraft on Midway Island, to the sunflower fields of the Dakotas marauded by black birds; from white-tailed deer on runways and the gulls in Rome's St. Peter's Square, to rabbits and yellow-eyed penguins in New Zealand and mice in the feedlots of America, Roach shows the good and bad of human conflict with wildlife. The best part is the way she tells the story. 
Example: p.199 (and I am paraphrasing here), “In 2012 …a woman called in to a morning talk-radio program…She’d had three car crashes involving deer…each time happen[ing] near a ‘DEER XING’ sign on a busy road. “Why,” she lamented in the recorded encounter, “are we encouraging deer to cross the road in such a high-traffic areas?” A short silence followed. “You seem to think,” one of the hosts began tentatively, “that deer-crossing signs are telling deer where to cross?” As nicely as possible, he explained that the signs are meant for us…”
Roach tells of the toughness of gulls, the fact that they will eat just about anything. A scientist who reported seeing the remains of a great-crested flycatcher in the gull's excrement. "Although," she added, “having been through the esophageal chute both forward and in reverse, it was more of an okay-crested flycatcher.”
Here's hoping you’ll give Mary Roach’s books a try; learn a few things and best of all, laugh along the way!

— From Karen L

An Instant New York Times Bestseller

#1 Los Angeles Times Bestseller

#1 Indie Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller

A Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction Book of 2021

Longlisted for the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

Join "America’s funniest science writer" (Peter Carlson, Washington Post), Mary Roach, on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet.

What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and "danger tree" faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter’s Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter Mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque.

Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and trespassing squirrels, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature’s lawbreakers. When it comes to "problem" wildlife, she finds, humans are more often the problem—and the solution. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.

Mary Roach is the author of five best-selling works of nonfiction, including Grunt, Stiff, and, most recently, Fuzz. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications. She lives in Oakland, California.
[Fuzz is] powerfully propelled by the force of Roach’s unflinching fascination with the weird, the gross and the downright improbable... There’s a wacky genius to [her] interjections...[Her] curious and generous engagement with her subjects makes for world-expanding reading.

— Amelia Urry - Washington Post

An idiosyncratic tour with Roach as the wisecracking, ever-probing guide... My favorite moments, ultimately, weren’t the funny ones, but those that reveal a bit of scientific poetry.
— Vicki Constantine Croke - New York Times Book Review

Each chapter is packed with the results of [Roach’s] detailed investigations. Roach uses footnotes to add both depth and lightness to the topic at hand by capturing misfit studies, asides, and hilarious tangents... Refreshing.
— Katherine E. Himes - Science

With her characteristic dry wit, [Roach] brings an intense fascination to the seldom discussed details and the at times absurd miscellany in the unexplored corners of unappreciated research... It is impossible not to smirk, chortle and sometimes outright belly laugh as you read her many wry asides and funny but fascinating footnotes... But the real trick Roach pulls off is to keep you laughing while at the same time making sure the earnest points come across.
— Tiffany O'Callaghan - New Scientist

Full of kernels of fascinating information... Her approach is informative and unpretentious, and she’s always armed with a dry sense of humor. Roach will change the way you think about the great outdoors. What more could you ask for?
— Emerson Malone - Buzzfeed

The book brims with Roach’s irreverent humor, which particularly shines when she experiences human-animal conflict firsthand... A blend of modern science and history, with Roach’s flair for spotting hidden absurdities... As another entry in Roach’s canon of books, Fuzz stands tall (and hairy), educating as much as it entertains.

— Bethany Brookshire - Science News

Reading a Mary Roach book is like spending a luxurious and joyful evening with the perfect dinner guest. Delightful facts become indelibly etched in your brain, and only later do you realize that hours have passed and your face slightly hurts from smiling too hard. In Fuzz, Roach’s peerless storytelling skills are paired with a sense of moral urgency, as she recounts stories of humans and other animals, uneasily and clumsily learning to co-exist in a world that they must now share.

— Ed Yong, bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes

Hilarious! With Fuzz, Mary Roach again takes us into an unfamiliar scientific realm, in this case the science of managing the conflicts between humans and the natural world—lethal leopards, rampaging elephants, jet-downing birds, even killer trees. It’s an ever-widening conflict zone, but one that Ms. Roach gleefully mines for a multitude of bizarre facts that’ll make you snort coffee through your nose.

— Erik Larson, bestselling author of The Splendid and the Vile

This book is such a rich stew of anecdotes and lore that it’s best savored slowly, bit by bit... No matter the situation, Roach approaches it with contagious enthusiasm.
— Alice Cary - BookPage (starred review)