Spider Silk Press
According to these reviews, Spider Silk is a book readers should look out for:
The Boston Globe
SciBooks (click on What's New in Science Books)
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Bug Girl at Bug Girl's Blog and at Skepchick
"This is a wonderful introduction to the history of spider evolution, and a great review and explanation of how evolution works….[T]his book really shines for me as a scientist as an educator. It's wonderful to learn about the fossil history of spiders, and all the different types of webs they make; but what I liked most about the book is the very readable and clear explanation of how mutation, natural selection, and other evolutionary factors created that diversity."
Joe Lapp at Reports of the National Center for Science Education
"Spider Silk makes the case that spiders are in many ways ideal species for studying evolution and for teaching how evolution happens. It is a gentle primer on evolution and genetics, as well as an introduction to spiders. There is some good material here for educators to draw on. The authors explicitly take time to show how spiders clarify certain misunderstandings about evolution, such as the notion that evolution is strictly progressive. The authors also take time to refute a few creationist claims, such as how the existence of living fossils like mesotheles supposedly contradicts evolution. The book isn’t just for educators, though. It is an enjoyable, informative, and surprising read."
Rachael A. Carmen at Evolution: Education & Outreach
"[T]his book is so much more than just a book on spiders; it explains evolutionary theory beautifully and keeps the reader enticed throughout the book with fascinating stories about everything from the etymology of the term 'Arachnid' to explaining exactly how accurate E. B. White was when he wrote Charlotte's Web in 1952--and yes, they even discuss Spider Man. Overall, Spider Silk is fascinating and is written for a large audience, so this book is recommended for virtually anyone that would like a better understanding of evolution while learning about the fascinating lives of spiders."
Carl Zimmer at Pinterest
"One of those subjects you may not have realized is endlessly intriguing. It is."
Sharon Zuiddam at Australasian Arachnology
"With structure, humour, history, clear language and images, the authors seem to have thought of everything to make their book accessible and interesting for everyone."
Josh Witten at The Finch & Pea
"Spider Silk is not just a compilation of all the cool trivia the authors could dig up about spiders. They present a metric ton of information at all levels of detail, from molecular and genetic to ecological and systematic, in the framework of a coherent narrative....Throughout, Brunetta and Craig build your interest, encourage you to think, and then reward your curiosity....Spider Silk may contain the best and most complete explanation of natural selection I have seen written for a general audience. It is clear. It is concise. It describes how directional action emerges from random events....I can guarantee, come the spring, I’ll be testing out my new spider knowledge in the back garden…"
Cecilia, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, 8th grader
"It absolutely helped me understand evolution!"
National Center for Science Education
The National Center for Science Education, defenders of the teaching of evolution in U.S. public schools, excerpts the Preface and Chapter 2, "Living Fossils."
Clare Dudman at Popular Science
"…its description of the finer points of Darwin's evolutionary theory and the explanation of how it differed from earlier theory was the best I've ever read. It will give you a new appreciation of the wild life of your home, and give you an excellent excuse not to dust." Featured Book, 5 out of 5 stars.
Read the full review here.
The Royal Society
The Royal Society longlists Spider Silk for the 2011 Winton Prize for Science Books, thereby naming it one of the 13 best science books for nonscientists published in 2010. The judges said: “This book uses an unlikely subject to draw out many of the major principles of biology, drawing the reader into the surprisingly fascinating world of the spider.”
Boston Authors Club
The oldest continuous authors club in the US names Spider Silk a Highly Recommended Book in its 2011 Julia Ward Howe Book Awards.
Honors Spider Silk with the Silver Award in the Nature category in its 2010 Book of the Year Awards.
Chris Holland in BioScience
"...aimed at anyone with an interest in natural history, and provides a fundamental course on arachnology, evolution, and genetics....The authors achieve the difficult task of conveying many high-level yet fundamental biological concepts while preventing the reader from becoming entangled in specialized language and theories...endows the reader with unique insights into the mindset and approaches taken by an evolutionary biologist....Craig and Brunetta successfully walk the thin line between education and entertainment..."
Read the full review.
Helen Smith in Explore
"On the way through this engaging history there are many tales and snippets about the spiders that surround us today. Reading this excellent book will add an extra dimension to your appreciation of your eight-legged companions."
Todd A. Blackledge in the Quarterly Review of Biology
"...the authors use the remarkable history of evolutionary innovations in silk spinning by spiders to trace the historical progression of scientists' understanding of the process of evolution, in a manner that is both effective and entertaining. Aimed primarily at a general audience, this quick and easy read will also delight biologists as it follows the development of evolutionary theory from Darwin and Wallace to modern genomics."
M. J. O'Donnell in Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
An Editors' Pick book: "...wonderfully entertaining...As the book delves into the evolution, properties, and multiple uses of spider silk, it takes the reader on brief forays into Greek mythology, paleontology, the foundations of Darwinian theory, Mendelian genetics, the Watson-Crick model of DNA structure, and protein chemistry....Summing Up: Highly recommended. Academic and public library collections, all levels."
Read the full review.
Anna Ree Cutler in Myrmecia
"Spider Silk encourages readers to observe and marvel at the multitude of ways in which spiders use silk, beyond the familiar orb web, helping to give these extraordinary creatures the respect they deserve."
Sue Howarth in The Biologist
"The language is lively and a passion for the subject shines through."
Ben Hoare in BBC Wildlife Magazine
"This supremely absorbing book examines one of nature's most extraordinary creations..."
Gizmodo posts an excerpt from Chapter 5, "Triumph over Thin Air."
J. Richard Gorham in AAAS SB&F (Science Books and Films)
An Editor's Choice book: "...a fascinating history of spider silk, beginning with fossil evidence and ending with descriptions of the web work of the 'higher' forms of spiders. The language is conversational, easy to read, and largely nontechnical...The authors provide a wonderfully informative history of genetics from Mendel to the discovery of the genome. The glossary, index, and bibliography are all excellent. This book is a great introduction to the study of spiders." Two out of two stars: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for high school and college students, teaching professionals, and general audiences.
The Ventura County Star, CA, highlights Cay's desire to communicate with the general public: “We both passionately believed that ordinary people need to understand basic evolutionary concepts as our society grapples with the effects and implications of global warming, advances in biotechnology, and environmental disasters such as the Gulf oil rig explosion.”
Peter Forbes in The Independent (London)
"Leslie Brunetta, a science writer, and Catherine L Craig, an evolutionary biologist and spider expert, have combined to explore the diversity of spiders and the lifestyles made possible by their production of silk. The co-authors wax lyrical on the freedom the invention of dragline silk gave to spiders. Abseiling around on their strong lines, evading predators with vertiginous drops, spanning chasms with lines flung out on the breeze, spiders have come far in evolution from their burrowing origins."
Read the full review.
Steven Poole in The Guardian (London)
"...this book's beautiful colour plates include a lampshade spider's extraordinary three-dimensional web (fearful symmetry indeed), a gladiator spider holding out its net to fling over prey, and a jumping spider in mid-leap, ready to brake with its webline. The book is a lesson in evolution, as new kinds of silk and new ways to use them give rise to thousands of species over the ages."
Read the full review.
Owen Seeman in Wildlife Australia Magazine
"It’s an undeniably absorbing read and a perfect tribute to the spider’s silken skills."
Tim R. New in the Journal of Insect Conservation
"Introducing a review of a book on silk by referring to it as a 'ripping yarn' may seem frivolous, but this is a compelling and immensely readable account that engages the reader from start to finish and that I found difficult to put down. I venture that most readers, even informed arachnologists, may not subsequently regard spiders in quite the same way after reading this book...."
Full review by subscription only, but read most of it here.
Simon Barnes in The Times (London)
"Not all of us love spiders, but we must all try to make mental adjustments. Here is the book to help you to do so....A spider will use four kinds of silk, all produced from its own body, to create an orb web. This is a fascinating and readable account of one of the great, overlooked mysteries of life."
Tibor Fischer in The Sunday Telegraph (London)
"Spider Silk is an intriguing joint venture between Leslie Brunetta, a freelance writer, and Catherine L. Craig, an evolutionary biologist. The result is a mostly punchy text, of a New Scientist order, where the general reader is kept in mind... full of amusing facts and observations....The question of why, when we can see orb webs very clearly in the garden, insects, whose vision in some ways is better than ours, can't, provides another fascinating chapter...."
Read the full review.
The New York Journal of Books says, "The reader will at times grimace at satisfyingly creepy-crawly details, and at other times will be staggered by the illuminating style of Brunetta and Craig’s writing and knowledge."
Dominique Browning, author of the memoir Slow Love, was "astonished and delighted" to find out from Leslie and Cay that hummingbirds use spider silk to make their nests (and she has a beautiful photo of an orb web at her site, as well).
The Lewisboro Ledger, Westchester, NY, reports on the importance to Leslie of childhood experience with nature.
American Arachnological Society
American Tarantula Society Headquarters
Arachnology Home Page
British Arachnological Society
International Society of Arachnology
Ed Nieuwenhuys's spider site
Ned Eisner's arachnid page
The World Spider Catalog
Samuel Zschokke's Spider Web Construction Gallery
BugGuide's spider guide
"No dessert for you until..." For some spiders, it's heads you win, tails you lose.