Synopses & Reviews
War weary after writing a book about Iraq and psychologically fatigued by a career of reporting bad and sad news, Peter Laufer jokingly said his next book would be about butterflies and flowers, simple analogies for peace and love. The result: an invitation to a butterfly preserve in Nicaragua where he soon discovered the behind-the-scenes world of collectors, criminals, and cops obsessed with one of natures most compelling miracles. The Dangerous World of Butterflies chronicles Laufers adventures within the butterfly industry and the butterfly underground. He examines the allure of butterflies and recounts the constant role they have played throughout history and across cultures in mythology and art. But his research takes an unpredictable turn into the high-stake realms of organized crime, ecological devastation, species depletion, the integrity of museum collections, and chaos theory. Along with beauty and renewal, the butterfly has become an unwitting symbol for greed and vanity. Laufers widely praised journey of discovery throughout the Americas and beyond offers a rare look into a theater of intrigue, peopled with quirky and nefarious characters—all in pursuit of these delicate, beautiful creatures. Read this book, and your garden—and the world—will never look quite the same.
"In this absorbing and far-reaching chronicle, Laufer applies his insatiable journalistic appetite to exploring the crossroads where humans and butterflies meet." --NPR Science Desk [A] compelling, all-angles examination. . . . Laufer delivers an absorbing science lesson for fans of the colorful bugs.” --Publishers Weekly "Recommended for scientists and lay readers who enjoyed Susan Orleans The Orchid Thief." Library Journal "Like The Orchid Thief, The Dangerous World of Butterflies takes us deep into the dark heart of obsessed collectors and the passionate activism of people working to repopulate species like the Palos Verdes blue. Worlds within worlds: Laufer, a veteran reporter on cultural and political borders, understands how these worlds cross and collide. His book is a Venn diagram of the beautiful and bizarre." --Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times "[Laufer's] book is charming and his attention to detail, combined with a real gift for describing these fascinating characters -- like calling entomologist Arthur Shapiro "an endless litany of intriguing butterfly stories" -- made me want to read everything else he has written." --Andrew Ervin, Washington Post "...Laufer's The Dangerous World of Butterflies packs real entertainment wallop in a book filled with informed tidbits custom-designed for cocktail hour." --P. Joseph Potocki, The Bohemian "A charming . . . meditation on butterflies and the people who love them." --Kirkus "The Dangerous World of Butterflies: the Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists by Peter Laufer is an eye-opening peek into the world of butterfly collecting. From true crime to heated debates between butterfly conservationists and butterfly farmers, this book reads like a novel." --Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Like The Orchid Thief, a book that exposed many unexpected aspects connected to another of nature's beautiful gifts, The Dangerous World of Butterflies is an entertaining, enlightening read." --Seattle Times "Laufer weaves his tale with a genial flair. . . . The journey with Laufer is one well worth taking." --Audubon "From the natural history and ecology of the butterfly to the very real threat of butterfly extinction, the world of museum collections, and more, this social, political and natural history is a key acquisition for both general lending libraries and those interested in science issues." --Midwest Book Review
A true tale of beauty and obsession, smugglers and scientists, and nature's most enigmatic creature.
About the Author
Peter Laufer PhD is the author of more than a dozen books, including Forbidden Creatures (Lyons Press, forthcoming) and Wetback Nation: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border. He is the James Wallace Chair in Journalism at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. More about his work, which has received the George Polk, Edward R. Murrow, and other awards, at peterlaufer.com.