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190 × 135 × 15 mm
208 pages
99 illustrations, 85 in colour
28 May 2018

Bat Tessa Laird

Bats have been misunderstood and maligned in the West for centuries. Unfair associations with demons have seen their leathery wings adorn numerous evil characters, from the Devil to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But these amazing animals are ecological superheroes. Nectar-feeding bats pollinate important crops like agave; fruit-eating bats disperse seeds and encourage reforestation; and insect-eating bats keep down mosquito populations and other pests, saving agricultural industries billions of dollars. Ranging from the size of a bumblebee to those with a wingspan the length of an adult human, they are the only mammals possessing true flight and are found on all continents except Antarctica.

In Bat, Tessa Laird challenges preconceptions about these amazing animals, combining fascinating facts of bat biology with engaging portrayals of bats in mythology, literature, film, popular culture, poetry and contemporary art. She also provides a sobering reminder of the risks bats face worldwide, from heatwaves and human harassment to wind turbines and disease. Illustrated with incredible photographs and artistic representations of bats from many different cultures and eras, this celebration of bats contains much to enthral converts and sceptics alike.

‘Tessa Laird’s dazzling study takes in everything from Colombian breast plates to Chinese matchboxes, not to mention the Australian newsreader who raised an orphaned flying fox.’ — Times Higher Education

Bat is an important addition to the valuable Animal Series published by Reaktion Books. It is thought-provoking, surprising, and deeply pleasurable to read – both for more introductory readers and for those deeply into animal studies. Laird feels and engages with bats not as objects but as subjects, lively and enchanting. She compellingly brings alive, or rather, shares the life of bats with her readers. Her writing – its understandings, insights, and questions – reveal a transdisciplinary dexterity and a theoretical sophistication . . . This deceptively small book is exuberant and generous.’ — Antenna

‘Currently, bat populations the world over are rapidly declining and with the twin threats of habitat loss and climate change, many of the 1,331 species that comprise the remarkable diversity within the order Chiroptera are critically threatened. The timeliness of Laird’s text, then, and its call to re-examine our relationships with bats, could not be more important, or relevant. Accompanied by exquisite photography and illustrations, Bat will provide the bat connoisseur with captivating material they would never otherwise encounter, and the general reader with a three-dimensional insight into these fascinating creatures. Given Laird’s contention that bats often ‘operate as strange mirrors to humanity’, this book serves as an erudite provocation to consider our reflections differently.’ — Animal Studies

‘Did you know that the collective noun for bats is a “cloud”, or that in the first scientific classification of mammals, bats were placed close to humans because, like us, they have two nipples? The book Bat, by Tessa Laird, is full of similar tidbits that you will want to share with others. It is also engrossing, eloquent and beautifully illustrated. Bat contains hundreds of delightful bat facts, but they are so grounded in context that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. One cannot help but become intrigued and eventually transformed. I know I will never look at bats the same way again.’ — The Conversation

Bat is an interesting dissection of the many different sides of bats, from both a biological and a cultural view point. The book is full of intriguing, bizarre and astonishing facts about bats, from biology, pop culture, mythology, literature and art. The main focus is on the interaction of bats and human life - the way they are portrayed within different cultures, the effect that has on the cultural opinion and what that means for their protection in the law or lack thereof . . . Bat is a celebration, showing the positive side of bats and uncovering many of the mysteries they have been shrouded in for so long.’ — BTO News

‘There is much more to learn in this captivating volume. Some examples are the discussions of the complex evolution of bats, the account of how echolocation was established, including the bizarre experiments of Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani, how Batman rose to fame, the comparison of bat flight and Star Wars, and the ideas that philosophers have about bats . . . Part of Reaktion Books’ ambitious Animal series, this exhaustively researched volume is appropriate for college or advanced high school readers. It would be a valuable addition to a classroom library . . . Profusely illustrated with captivating photographs.’ — American Biology Teacher

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Tessa Laird is Lecturer in Critical and Theoretical Studies at the School of Art, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne. Tessa was a noted New Zealand art critic for over twenty years, and her book A Rainbow Reader appeared in 2013.