Braitman’s gradual accretion of reasons to believe in animal emotional states that we can relate to, including the loopy...

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ANIMAL MADNESS

HOW ANXIOUS DOGS, COMPULSIVE PARROTS, AND ELEPHANTS IN RECOVERY HELP US UNDERSTAND OURSELVES

Through experiential and anecdotal evidence, science historian and senior TED fellow Braitman takes measure of the emotional thunderstorms that cramp or even curtail the normal lives of animals.

“Every animal with a mind has the capacity to lose hold of it from time to time,” writes the author in this investigation into the literature of abnormal animal behavior, both the scientific and the observational. There is much here that will remind readers of Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson—a gift for storytelling, strong observational talents, an easy familiarity with the background material and a warm level of empathy—and Braitman emphasizes that it doesn’t require an enormous leap of faith to feel our kinship with these beasts, particularly the suffering ones. Her recital of the historical tales of animal mental disorders is engaging, and into it she threads the experiments of cognitive ethologists, neurologists and behavioral biologists, as well as the troubling story of Oliver, her Bernese mountain dog who exhibited considerable signs of madness. What was at play in her dog’s behavior—a constricted gene pool, the neurological misfirings of breeding? Braitman infuses her narrative with humorous ruminations—“we felt like perverts at the dog park—dogless people who came to look at dogs, luring other people’s pets over to be petted with clandestine pockets of treats”—and she takes anthropomorphism just so far while casting a wary eye on “Pet Pharm” and the long, ignoble past of doping our pets. The author may gesture toward what “animals might tell us about ourselves,” but she is thankfully willing to allow them their mystery, “that other animals have many special abilities that we don’t have and this may extend to emotional states.”

Braitman’s gradual accretion of reasons to believe in animal emotional states that we can relate to, including the loopy ones, gives pause and sparks curiosity.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2700-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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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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