Review: Fuzz by Mary Roach

Review by JT Menard

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.” The paperback releases August 30.