Staff Picks: Animal Lives
Tue, 03/07/2023 - 3:30pm by lucroe
There is so much to gain from being immersed in and observing nature, besides an overall appreciation of its beauty and wonder, there is the hope that we can become better stewards of our environment. To study nature is not only to understand ourselves and our place in it, but to learn about our fellow creatures as well. Here are but a few of the more recent plethora of books that open up our minds to a new understanding of animals, whether it is the dog in our house, the crustacean in the sea, or ants in the garden, these books fascinate.
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? By Frans de Waal | Request Now
Dutch primatologist and frequent writer on animal behavior, de Waal here tackles the way research has been conducted on animals in the past (along with its bias), and how tests should be species specific rather than humancentric. In vignettes, he shows how intelligence tests when given correctly to fit the species, show not only that animals are much smarter and that previous tests were flawed, it challenges the idea that humans are the superior intellect. He also points out through research that animals show empathy, cooperation, and problem-solving capabilities. Well worth the read along with his book on animal emotions called Mama’s Last Hug.
The Creative Lives of Animals by Carol Gigliotti | Request Now
Creativity in the animal kingdom is the topic of this captivating study. Gigliotti uses the term creativity to mean that unique behaviors of one can possibly affect others “…at cultural, species, and evolutionary levels.” Various topics she discusses are animal architecture (think beaver dams as architectural ingenuity), communication, emotion, intelligence (abstract reasoning in birds), playfulness (octopus playing hide ‘n seek), and sexual energy.
Bitch : on the Female of the Species by Lucy Cooke | Request Now
Cooke explores sex and gender in animals with humor and candor. She discusses the diversity of genitalia in animals, like the opossum's two ovaries, two uteri, two cervices and two vaginas. Other topics include female sexual aggression (female spiders devouring their mate after sex), homosexuality, reproduction by cloning, sex-swapping animals, animals that have three or more separate genders, and menopause (only experienced by some whales and humans). She also includes the scientists who have been marginalized for studying sex and gender which they affirm have always varied throughout the animal kingdom.
An Immense World : how Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around us by Ed Yong | Request Now
This Carnegie Award winning book about animal senses and how animals use and experience the world through them written by Pulitzer Prize winning science journalist, Yong does not disappoint. Outside the senses we use, there are magnetic senses as used by sea turtles. There are animals that see at different speeds than we do, like the killer fly. Catfish have taste buds all over their bodies which make them ‘swimming tongues’. And the amazing sensory world of animals, including our own, goes on and on! Eloquent and deeply thought provoking, Yong’s book deserves the accolades as one of the best books of 2022. If you like Yong’s book, try How Far the Light Reaches which focuses on ocean creatures.