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In the tradition of the bestselling book The Botany of Desire comes this fascinating exploration of the world underground and one of its most amazing denizens. The earthworm may be small, spineless, and blind, but its role in the ecosystem is profound. It tills the soil, destroys microscopic organisms that cause plant disease, breaks down toxins, and turns soil into rich compost, creating the most fertile areas on earth. In her witty and offbeat style, Amy Stewart shows just how much depends on the humble worm. The august Charles Darwin devoted his last years to the meticulous study of these creatures, admiring their remarkable achievements. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures, he declared. With Darwin as her inspiration, Stewart weaves her own backyard investigations with those of the obsessed oligochaetologists, unearthing the complex life that exists beneath our feet.
"You know a book is good when you actually welcome one of those howling days of wind and sleet that makes going out next to impossible"
– The New York Times
"Each page reveals a new fact about our soil-dwelling friends [...] It's not all facts and figures though. The author tells a gripping story of her growing fascination with these creatures, which shape our very existence as they work their way through the soil on which we all depend"
– BBC Gardeners' World
"She writes illuminatingly of all the things about which one had only a vague notion: the earthworm's hermaphroditic status, its ability to regenerate section of its body if cut, its capacity to find food without the senses of smell, sight or hearing"
– Ursula Buchan, Spectator
"An ideal read for anyone with the slightest interest in worms, gardening or the environment – fun, light-hearted, fascinating and informative all at the same time"
– Gardening Which
"An admirable portrait of that tireless ploughman: the earthworm [...] A nifty piece of natural history. Earthworms of the world can stand a little taller."
– Kirkus Reviews