Animals, In Depth

by Sy Montgomery

How to Be a Good Creature. Sy Montgomery is the author of the 2015 Pulitzer-prize finalist The Soul of an Octopus, as well as the bestselling The Good Good Pig and many other books.  Her most recent work is How to Be a Good Creature, in which she recounts her experiences with thirteen animals and the roles they’ve played in her life.  Dogs, pigs, spiders, weasels and more: these were the friends that helped her through depression, major life transitions, and difficult times.  In the end, they’re her teachers.  From them she learned about compassion, empathy, joy, and what it means to be a good creature in the world.

by Frans de Waal

Mama’s Last Hug. In Sy Montgomery’s recent appearance at the Town House Forum in Strafford, VT, she noted the influence on her of the work of the Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal.  His most recent book is Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves.  In past works, de Waal explored the range of animal intelligence.  Here he continues to make the case that non-human primates experience empathy along with a range of other emotions that have often been associated only with human beings.  In his extensive work with primates he has seen evidence of as sophisticated a capacity as a sense of fairness.  This is a fascinating work that confirms the sense so many of us have of the complex emotional and even moral lives of animals.

by Hilary Kearney

QueenSpotting. This is a book with a long title about a very small creature.  Unlike the above two works, it’s intended for practical use.  Anyone who keeps bees knows that it’s critical to be able to track the movements and life cycle of the hive’s queen.  This book covers every aspect of the life of the hive and the queen’s role in it, but what makes it especially fun is that it has 48 fold-out close-up photographs of hundreds of bees–like the most difficult jigsaw puzzle ever–to give practice in visually locating the queen in the midst of the swarm.  It’s fun to try, and it’s about as close as most of us will get to beekeeping without owning a hive.

– Jared J.

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