A well-presented investigation into how dogs came to be.

THE GENIUS OF DOGS

HOW DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN YOU THINK

Hare (Evolutionary Anthropology/Duke Univ.) and Woods (Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo, 2010) delve into the rich cognitive world of dogs and how they domesticated themselves through natural selection.

Dogs are the authors’ special subjects—Hare founded Duke’s Canine Cognition Center, and Woods is a research scientist there—and they examine the scientific studies of dogs' communication skills (from visual signals to categorization), their empathy and cooperative talents, between their ability to infer, find solutions and display flexibility. But one question the authors tackle with the greatest vigor: Why the dog at all? If dogs evolved from wolves—which were threats and competitors of humans in the carnivore guild—why did domestication become an option? What forces drove it? Hare and Woods clearly reintroduce readers to the old garbage-eater-on-the-outskirts-of-camp theory of wolves and man finding common ground but from a very specific angle. It was the friendliest of the wolves, those that could coexist with humans, that benefitted from this stable food supply. A relaxed wolf, one that had come to understand the communicative intentions of human behavior, was a wolf with more offspring. It wasn’t long before wolves started to change physiologically. Their breeding cycles changed, their heads became smaller, they became distinctive to the human eye and could be ignored or encouraged. “Humans did not set out to domesticate wolves,” write the authors. “Wolves domesticated themselves. The first dog breed was not created by humans' selection or breeding but by natural selection.” Interestingly, the same anatomical signatures that differentiate dogs from wolves are seen in bonobos and chimpanzees and humans and their forebears.

A well-presented investigation into how dogs came to be.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-525-95319-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

THE BOOK OF EELS

OUR ENDURING FASCINATION WITH THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CREATURE IN THE NATURAL WORLD

An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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