Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law (Hardcover)

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In February 2022, there was a criminal on the loose in Lake Tahoe. Homes around the lake were being ransacked. Unlike most thieves, this one was not after expensive electronics or jewels, instead he wanted food. Officials pointed the finger at a local 500-pound black bear named Hank the Tank. Due process is not afforded to black bears, surprisingly, and California Fish and Wildlife had to decide whether to kill or relocate Hank the Tank. At the eleventh hour, however, DNA evidence collected at the crime scenes exonerated Hank. Several other bears were responsible for the break-ins around Lake Tahoe. The prodigious black bear was left alone.
Hank’s saga occurred after the publication of Mary Roach’s “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” but stories like his are contained within its pages. Roach is a popular science writer who over the past twenty years has released numerous books covering various subjects including dead bodies (Stiff), the science of sex (Bonk), and the effects of space on the human body (Packing for Mars).
In “Fuzz”, Roach explores the intersections of the human and animal worlds and humanity’s often misguided attempts to control nature. How do you stop a bear from breaking into a vacation home in the woods, and what happens if one does anyways? Does a bear who enjoys midnight snacks from the fridge deserve to be removed from its natural territory or even killed? How do you balance the safety of people and their property with a bear’s right to just be a bear?
Beyond hungry Ursidae, Roach covers a variety of topics from around the globe. Farmers in India struggle with elephants eating their crops, the history of Australia’s ill-fated war against the emu, and the vandalizing seagulls of St. Peter’s Square (Alaric would be proud). I learned a lot and her investigative reporting got me to consider a variety of topics that I have seldom thought about. Roach’s writing is celebrated as quirky, witty, and charming. Though the Washington Post billed her “America’s funniest science writer,” humor is subjective. While I occasionally chuckled, I generally found myself experiencing a lot of second-hand embarrassment. She seems to revel in awkward conversations and asking cringe-inducing questions to the people she interviews. The results will either make the reader laugh or squirm, depending on their disposition.
Science and nature lovers will find a lot to love in “Fuzz.”

— JT Menard

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


An Instant New York Times Bestseller • #1 Los Angeles Times Bestseller • #1 Indie Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller • Longlisted for the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction • A New York Times Editors' Choice • A Washington Post Notable Book of 2021 • A Goodreads Choice Award Finalist • An NPR 2021 Best Book of the Year • A New York Public Library 2021 Best Book of the Year • A BookPage Best Book of 2021, Nonfiction • A Bookshop.org Best Nonfiction Book of 2021 • A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2021 • A Library Journal Best Science & Technology Book of 2021 • A Publisher's Weekly Best Book of 2021 • Science Best Book of 2021 • A Smithsonian 10 Best Science Book of 2021 • A St. Louis Public Radio Best Book of 2021

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.

About the Author

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.

Praise For…

[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)

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324001935
ISBN-10: 1324001933
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 14th, 2021
Pages: 320
Language: English