Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World
by Brooke Borel
University of Chicago Press, 2015 ($26)

They are many city dwellers' worst nightmare: the dark spots on the mattress and itchy blotches on arms and legs that indicate a bed bug infestation. Journalist Borel suffered through multiple invasions that set her on a quest to understand the history and biology of the bugs, as well as the psychology of why they drive us crazy.

Borel attends a bed bug conference and surveys the myriad products designed to combat the critters (self-heating suitcases are one example). She also describes the depression, insomnia and even suicide attempts that infestations have provoked. Yet this scourge is nothing new; it turns out that bed bugs have been feasting off human blood throughout our history and may date back to the Pleistocene. “In a way, we created the modern bed bug: it evolved to live on us and to follow us,” Borel writes. “Understanding its path helps illuminate ours.”