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Animal Vegetable Criminal

When Nature Breaks the Law

Mary Roach


What’s to be done about a drunken elephant? A monkey caught mugging passersby? A trespassing squirrel?

We’ve never been good at sharing the planet… In the past, when wild animals ‘broke the law’, they might be given lawyers and put on trial. But now, what’s the solution when nature gets in our way? In this fresh, funny and thoroughly researched book, dive into the weird and wonderful moments when humanity and wildlife bump up against one another.

Follow Mary Roach as she explores laser scarecrows, robo-hawks, human-elephant conflict specialists and monkey impersonators. Travel to the bear-busy back alleys of Aspen, the gull-vandalized floral displays at the Vatican and leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Himalayas, and discover hope for compassionate coexistence.

  • Publication date: October 6, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861543649
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication date: October 14, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786078346
  • RRP: £16.99
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication date: October 14, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786078353
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 320


‘A provocative and engaging exploration of our evolving relationship with the rest of nature.’


‘Combining diligently researched scientific reporting with the sniggering wit of a stand-up comic… Animal Vegetable Criminal loves an eyebrow-raising anecdote.’

The Times
‘Bestseller Roach sheds light on nature’s malefactors in this often funny, always provocative survey…Roach’s writing is wry, full of heart, and loaded with intriguing facts… This eminently entertaining outing is another winner.’
Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘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 realise that hours have passed and your face slightly hurts from smiling too hard. In Animal Vegetable Criminal, 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, science journalist and author of I Contain Multitudes
‘Hilarious! With Animal Vegetable Criminal, 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, author of The Splendid and the Vile

‘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.’

New York Times Book Review

‘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.’

New Scientist

‘A hugely enjoyable exploration of what happens when the nature we’ve decided to love doesn’t love us back. By turns hilarious and horrifying – and often profound – Roach’s entertaining journeys are full of delightful curios and I was swept up in her joyful writing.’

Gaia Vince, author of Transcendence

‘Traveling from a bear seminar in Reno to a bird-infested island in the Pacific that plagued the American military during World War II, among many other venues, Roach joyfully explores how human culture and wildlife, including plant life, have either found ways to coexist or are constantly at odds. Throughout, Roach highlights people who are genuinely passionate about the work, and she also includes suggestions for readers on how to deal ethically (and effectively) with their own wildlife issues, wherever they live.

From the terrifying to the frustrating, a great starting point for understanding the animal world.’

Kirkus, starred review

‘A witty and thought-provoking look at the darker side of animal behaviour through the ages. Highly entertaining and informative – excellent popular science writing.’

Stephen Moss, naturalist and author

‘As hilarious as it is thought provoking, Animal Vegetable Criminal is a brilliant read. Only Mary Roach can make such an obscure subject so intriguing. From battles with birds to marauding macaques, Roach reveals what happens when nature breaks human laws, with fascinating results.’

Monty Lyman, author of The Remarkable Life of the Skin

‘I sometimes wonder what animals have done wrong to deserve humans and what we do to them. But I know that humanity has done something right to deserve Mary Roach, the best guide possible to the fascinating but sometimes fraught interactions between human, animal and nature. She prowls through this intersection of worlds with the sleek grace of a leopard, diving into garbage cans, Indian elephant politics and mass murders of murders of crows, with her usual wit and wisdom. There’s only one downside to this delightful and brilliant book, and that’s that the animals can’t read it too.’

Rose George, journalist and author of Nine Pints

Mary Roach

Mary Roach is the New York Times-bestselling author of several popular science books including Packing for Mars and Gulp, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton prize. Grunt was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Science & Technology Book Prize. She has written for the GuardianWiredBBC FocusGQ and Vogue. Her most recent book is Animal, Vegetable, Criminal.

Author page

More books by Mary Roach

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