15 January 2014

Book Review: The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart

Book Review: The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart
Earthworm or bookworm!?
Sometimes I'm reading a book - or attempting to - and it's just a real effort to pull myself away from whatever I'm doing, even the most tedious task to sit down and plough through the pages.

This book, however, is absolutely magical. The Washington Post say that this book is 'an enjoyable, enlightening educational experience'. I not only applaud the excellent example of alliteration, but wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment.
Like most people, I had a general sense that earthworms were good for the soil. That they helped aerate the ground. But other than that I knew nothing about them. Even when I participated in the Opal Earthworm Survey last year, I had very little knowledge of earthworms and struggled to identify the worm I had found in my survey plot. I mainly did the survey to find out the pH of my soil - which was very helpful to me!

I heard about Amy Stewart via the Brilliant Botany YouTube videos and immediately went to my library website to see if they had any of her books. The only book of Amy's that they did have was this book and when Lucy mentioned she would be in the vicinity of the library I added collecting this book to her list of chores!

As readers of my blog will know, anything about Darwin will interest me. So when the book began with a chapter on Darwin and his worm experiments I was hooked. I struggled to put the book down. As every chapter dug deeper (pun intended) into the lives and activities of the various worm species; Darwin was there in the background providing a thread to tie the whole book together.

Amy discusses the biology of the worm, how different worms lived at different depths and ate different things, how the European travellers introduced European worms to the US and how they have benefited some areas, while destroying others. She explains eloquently how worms are keystone species and engineer the ecosystem they live in, which can be great for agriculture in New Zealand, but devastate the rice terraces in the Philippines.

We hear interesting facts about Megascolides australis one of the biggest worms in the world - how people know they're present by the deep gurgling sound that comes from their burrows and how it has a museum dedicated to it! We also hear very important developments in the usage of earth worms including the trials for using worms to turn cattle-waste and human waste into a clean and rich vermicompost that is safe to use in gardens and agricultural fields.

Overall, what I came away with was a deep appreciation about worms and a desire to learn more. That in part is due to the wonderfully readable writing style of the author and in part to the worms being so interesting. Even if you couldn't care less about worms, I'd say give this book a go. You might surprise yourself and find that you find worms interesting too - even if you don't I dare you to say that it's not a good read.

Have you read this book or others on a similar subject? I'd love to hear your thoughts and book recommendations down in the comments.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation, Tim, turns out I'm currently looking for a read (besides work). I just checked the catalogue -- our public library has a copy!

    1. Excellent! I'm sure you'll like it. I'd really like to know what you think of it when you've read it :) She's written quite a few books since then and I'm looking forward to reading them when I have the time!


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