I got Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson for my birthday, and it is great! There is just something about laughing out loud while reading a book on the evolutionary biology of sex.
She discusses some of the evolutionary adaptations of sex, including advantages and disadvantages of many mates, mating for life, staying around to care for your offspring, and more. Many of the species discussed were of course insects, but there was plenty of variety.
I did find it curious, however, that she did not really discuss species that change gender during their life. Factors that influence the gender of offspring were discussed, but little if anything about the advantages changing horses midstream so to speak, which is something about which I wanted to know more.
Here is a very brief excerpt from the chapter "How to Make Love to a Cannibal":
Rule number one: Never get eaten during foreplay.
Dear Dr. Tatiana,
I'm a European praying mantis, and I've noticed I enjoy sex more if I bite my lovers' heads off first. It's because when I decapitate them they go into the most thrilling spasms. Somehow they seem less inhibited, more urgent--it's fabulous. Do you find this too?
I Like 'Em Headless in Lisbon
Some of my best friends are man-eaters, but between you and me, cannibalism isn't my bag. I can see why you like it, though. Males of your species are boring lovers. Beheading them works wonders: whereas a headless chicken rushes wildly about, a headless mantis thrashes in a sexual frenzy. Why can't he be that way when he's whole? Well, it's hard to have wild sex if you're trying to keep your head....
As for Mr. Praying Mantis, he's had a stroke of bad luck. When he's posessed of his head, his brain sends messages to his private parts telling him how to behave. This holds his libido in check until he's in position. When he loses his head, the messages that inhibit sexual behavior cease--and he turns into a sex fiend. The result is that he can couplate when there's almost nothing of him left. Yet although this sounds like proof that he has evolved a spectacular adaptation to being eaten, the "lose head, have sex" reflex is actually rather common among male insects. Something analagous even happens in humans: throttle a man and like as not he'll get an erectoin, not from erotic pleasure in dying, but because "Down, boy" signals from the brain stop coming.
Reading this book led me to wonder why textbooks are not written more in this style, or at least a style that doesn't put the reader to sleep immediately.
To sum things up, this is the ultimate geek book. I loved it.