Chip Nataro wears a Yankees baseball cap and Lafayette baseball jersey while carrying a golf club and having what appears to be faux snakeskin draped over his shouldersBy Swati Pandey ’23

It’s a tradition for books authored by Lafayette professors to be announced at faculty meetings—books reflecting new knowledge and insights in their academic disciplines.

Chip Nataro livened up that tradition last year with a publication that was far, far afield from his position as Marshall R. Metzgar Professor and acting head of the Chemistry Department: You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Book: My COVID-19 Odyssey Through Sharksploitation Films.

What followed this announcement?

“Worry about my sanity,” says Chip. “Well, a little bit.”

The book is a collection of his humorous reviews of over 100 “sharksploitation” films. The title is an adaptation of a line from the movie Jaws: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

The undertaking began in March when Chip decided to watch Supershark and shared his review of this “pretty ridiculous” movie with fellow members of the Leadership Council of the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists. His review was a hit, so he watched more films and wrote more reviews. The positive reception by friends and colleagues spurred him on.

The cover image of the book You're Gonna Need a BIGGER Book by Chip Nataro, which has an illustration of a shark“They enjoyed it. And so after about 10 reviews, it became clear that this endeavor was going to take some time,” Chip says.

But what makes a movie a sharksploitation film?

“In all honesty, I don’t know. But someone using sharks as a central theme to make a ridiculous movie is definitely an important element of an enjoyable sharksploitation film,” Chip explains.

There are good movies, and there are bad movies, and then there are “good bad movies.” Chip is particularly fond of the latter.

“A bad movie can be good if it doesn’t take itself too seriously,” he explains with much enthusiasm. “There should be sharks chomping a lot of things and a lot of people. There needs to be sharks or people to root for or against. That being said, I don’t need too much plot getting in the way.”

Chemistry professor and author Chip Nataro smiles.“But some movies can be really bad,” he adds. “Shark Exorcist, the second movie that I reviewed, was absolutely brutal. Nevertheless, I watched it all. I’m surprised that I got over the hurdle of that and watched more sharksploitation films.”

“I always kind of liked shark movies, but never quite realized how many there were,” Chip says. “But writing a book like this one is crazy even for me!”

How would he describe the whole experience, which—who knows? —could include a book signing at his next big chemistry conference?

Chip replies with a big grin: “Oh, that’s easy: Jawsome!”

He’s donating proceeds from book sales to Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars Program “even though it won’t be much.”

But his goal all along, as Nataro writes in the preface of his book, “was that if I could give one person a laugh or give them just a moment where they were able to escape from whatever was worrying them, I had done my job.”

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