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Tag: animals

The Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke

Mary Roach meets Bill Bryson in this “surefire summer winner” (Janet Maslin, New York Times), an uproarious tour of the basest instincts and biggest mysteries of the animal world

Humans have gone to the Moon and discovered the Higgs boson, but when it comes to understanding animals, we’ve still got a long way to go. Whether we’re seeing a viral video of romping baby pandas or a picture of penguins “holding hands,” it’s hard for us not to project our own values–innocence, fidelity, temperance, hard work–onto animals. So you’ve probably never considered if moose get drunk, penguins cheat on their mates, or worker ants lay about. They do–and that’s just for starters. In The Truth About Animals, Lucy Cooke takes us on a worldwide journey to meet everyone from a Colombian hippo castrator to a Chinese panda porn peddler, all to lay bare the secret–and often hilarious–habits of the animal kingdom. Charming and at times downright weird, this modern bestiary is perfect for anyone who has ever suspected that virtue might be unnatural.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

This book reads like it was written by the love child of Charles Darwin and Mary Roach. There is humor, pathos, and animal facts aplenty. The author’s writing style is easy to read and captured my attention immediately. The love Cooke has for these beasties is quite obvious from the start. Hopefully, given the facts, others will learn to appreciate these maligned characters that occupy the animal world.

Each chapter is devoted (lovingly) to a misunderstood animal, where we find myths debunked through modern science. The reader will learn about sloths, bats, and hyenas, to name a few. The author will discuss how the animals were experimented on/studied over hundreds of years (Who knew that Aristotle was a proponent of spontaneous creation?) then get to modern times, where myths are debunked and the many reasons to love these animals are revealed.

Some of the experiments detailed can be a bit gory, such as when, in the 18th century, the Catholic priest Lazzaro Spallanzani practiced blinding bats in order to find out how they managed to find their way around in darkness. (He also coated them in varnish for another experiment, but I digress).  Other tales are edifying and satisfying, such as:

It may sound suspiciously like bogus medieval folk medicine, but from the 1940s through the 1960s the world’s first reliable pregnancy test was a small, bug-eyed frog. When injected with a pregnant woman’s urine, the amphibian didn’t turn blue or display stripes, but it did squirt out eggs 8-12 hours later to confirm a positive result.

Cooke’s book is full of factoids like that one. How can you not love this book? You will learn, you will laugh, and you will be full of obscure information. That sounds like a winner to me.

Yes, you want your own copy and can pick it up here.

The Soul of All Living Creatures by Vint Varga, DVM

Dr Vint Varga knows animals. He has practiced veterinary medicine for decades, first as an emergency room vet, then a specialist in veterinary behavior medicine.

Early on in his career, he realized that a strong connection could be made between humans and animals, enough to cause healing on both sides. The Soul of All Living Creatures is a quick read filled with real stories and real patients Dr Varga has seen during his career. Each chapter is titled with the name of a human emotional trait, and he goes on to explain how animals embody these traits as well. If we can learn to understand our pets better, we will learn something about ourselves in the process.

The introduction to the book has tear-jerking potential. Varga tells us about a dog that is hit by a car, and how the dog failed to thrive despite his excellent medical care. I’m not giving anything away here…but you will nod your head when you how things turned out.

Bloodhounds, mice , clouded leopards….all non human creatures are the same to the good doctor, as he illustrates the chapter’s subject (sensitivity, integrity, forgiveness, etc) with short tales about patients that he has seen and tried to fix/cure, with thorough analysis of the animal’s behavior and listening to those who know the creatures best.

Varga believes that “in the presence of animals, we find true acceptance” and so we can be ourselves in front of our dog or cat. He says that he remembers each case not only for what illness the patient had, but recalls the bond that was shared between the pet and the owner.

Interspersed throughout the book are short fables and folk tales that also illustrate Varga’s point, as well as little snippets of his own wisdom, such as “When one behavior is not expressed, another behavior will take its place” and “When we limit our experience to what we perceive, we let our senses define our existence”.  Despite all this home grown sentiment, the book is not overly touchy-feely. What is obvious is Varga’s love and compassion for those who cannot tell their own story, and how he does his best to help every one he can, even to the point of rescuing a tiny field mouse that was helpless on a busy road during a torrential rainstorm.

My only complaint with the book was that we never got to hear how most of the patients did after the treatment. It was as if they dropped off the face of the earth with no follow up. I was really curious to see if his instinct and healing methods worked. That being said, this book would make a great addition to an animal lover’s library.

If you would like to enjoy this book as I did, click here to get a copy of your own!

Interested in what the New York Times said about this book? Click here.

Thanks to the publisher, Broadway Books for providing me with this review copy. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.


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