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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Love and Sex in Nature

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February 09, 2011

Book Roundup Wednesday: Love and Sex in Nature

Books about environmentalism Each Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today, we're anticipating Valentine's Day by recommending books about mating and companionship in the wild.

In the Womb: Animals (by Michael Sims, $26, National Geographic Books, 2009): Incredible photos reveal the prenatal transformations of animals such as elephants, dolphins, and golden retrievers. This book probably won't light anyone's fire on Valentine's Day — depending on your tolerance for blood and slime, responses to this book's graphic images may range from extreme fascination to mild disgust. But the miracle of life remains, for many, the purest expression of love. With that in mind, a glimpse into the wombs of animals is a rare privilege.

Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans' Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter (by Ellen Prager, $26, University of Chicago Press, May 2011): Packed with excellent conversation fodder for your next date, this book details the strange lives and mating rituals of sea creatures. Choose your anecdotes wisely, though: That romantic seafood dinner may become less appetizing once you explain that lobsters use urine during foreplay, or that male octopi copulate with a "specialized baby-maker arm."

To Love is to Fly (by Jonathan Chester and Patrick Regan, $10, Andrews McMeel, 2009): Since penguins are pop culture's go-to symbol of devotion, this pocket-sized book may do more to charm your sweetie than a staid greeting card. The simple text — a lighthearted, non-scientific explanation of love — is accompanied by dozens of photos of uber-cute penguin pairs.

Seeds, Sex and Civilization: How the Hidden Life of Plants has Shaped our World (by Peter Thompson, $30, Thames & Hudson, Sept. 2010): This informative book chronicles the history of humans' relationship with seeds, starting from the beginnings of western agriculture 19,000 years ago and working up to the discovery of pollination mechanisms and current-day agricultural issues including GMOs and climate change.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, $19, Algonquin Books, Sept. 2010): Suffering from a long, debilitating illness, author Elisabeth Tova Bailey found solace in an unexpected companion: a common woodland snail. This book chronicles a year spent observing one of the earth's smallest creatures. A poignant story with some good passages about snail biology and mating habits, the book's strength is its quiet, unyielding attention to its subject. That devotion is richly rewarded — Bailey may be the only person alive who has watched a snail tend its eggs, or who can describe the sound of a snail eating a flower petal.

--Della Watson

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