Silk & Venom by James O’Hanlon

Now here’s a book you’ll want to have in your book collection.

James O’Hanlon has travelled around Australia and the globe uncovering the secret lives of insects and spiders. If it is small, mysterious and lacks a backbone, James has an insatiable desire to find out what it is and what it does. He has published over 30 academic papers and his popular science writing has appeared in ABC News, Australian Geographic, The Conversation and Biosphere Magazine. He is an award-winning science communicator and was the 2021 recipient of the Varuna–New England Writers’ Centre fellowship.   James is also host of our very own Boilerhouse podcasts

In his latest book, Silk & Venom, James  takes us from his backyard to all corners of the globe (and even outer space!) to explore these fascinating creatures and show us why they’re not so scary after all. You’ll encounter everything from miniscule jumping spiders with super intelligence to giant tarantulas whose venom could one day save your life.

James takes us on a journey There are more than 50 000 species of spiders. They surround us in our daily lives and, contrary to popular belief, the vast majority are completely harmless to humans.

Clearing up spider myths and misconceptions, James O’Hanlon introduces readers to the beauty of their lives, including remarkable hunting techniques, the fascinating engineering of spider silk and the spiders that live in extremes — from underwater to the slopes of Mount Everest.

Here are some comments by our learned readers:

‘Within the first few paragraphs, I knew that this book was going to be brilliant. With a fresh and creative approach, Silk & Venom takes away fear and instead fills the reader with amazing eight-legged tales and stories.’ Sami Bayly

‘A thrilling meander through lesser-known aspects of the lives of Australia’s numerous and fascinating spiders, which over the years have been grossly and unfairly maligned. I for one have a new appreciation for these diminutive predators, which play a vital role in Australia’s ecosystems.’John Pickrell

‘If, like me, you love natural history, ALL OF NATURAL HISTORY, you’ll adore James O’Hanlon’s enthralling Silk & Venom. It is surprising and funny, and will make every part of the garden (and even dark crevices indoors) look so much more intriguing — and safe.’Robyn Williams

If you’d like to hear James talk about his book, Gregory Dobbs caught up with James recently and they chat about why spiders are awesome and don’t deserve their scary reputation.  Have a listen to the podcast interview here.

He was also interviewed on ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler. Listen here