Do you read more in the summer? I do. If you do too, here are a few animal-focused reads. Some are new, some are old, but all are worth your time. Here they are, in reverse alphabetical order:
What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins — There are more fish species than all mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians combined (you’ll notice insects are not mentioned because they outnumber everyone. Everyone). Ethologist Jonathan Balcombe goes under the sea, and unlike in The Little Mermaid, there are no talking fish or mermaids, only the real, complex, social experiences of our underwater cousins.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves — I have awkward conversations about this book. I read it not knowing diddly-squat about it, and when something happened, it bowled me over. Pulled me in. Left lasting memories. Since then, I can't stop recommending this book, but I also don't want to say what it's about because maybe you don't want to know either. So can this be sufficient?
Ok fine. To quote its author, Karen Joy Fowler, here's what the book is about: “We’re not the only ones who live here.” Enjoy.
Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets — “Is keeping pets actually good for the pets themselves?” I agree with the author, ethicist Jessica Pierce, that the answer is not always as clear-cut as we might think.
Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon — Unlike less emotive dogs — say the Clumber Spaniel or a hound — pit bulls strike a chord. Whatever chord that is, dogs characterized as pit bulls sit in a complex historical framework, one that Bronwen Dickey takes on in Pit Bull.
Dog Is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship — “Dogs have been our muses, our mentors, and our faithful companions,” explain the editors of this collection of essays, short stories, and commentaries from experts on dog behavior like Patricia McConnell, experts of humor like Margaret Cho, and experts of story like Ann Patchett. Dog Is My Co-Pilot hit the shelves in 2003 from the editors of The Bark magazine, and it remains timeless. I came across my copy, just in time for summer.
Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs — This book could not have been written 50 years ago because the dog of today did not exist back then. What is the dog of today? Sure there are village dogs and street dogs, but David Grimm looks at dogs of the 21st Century who are family members with lawyers, dogs who get taken to the vet for complex surgeries, and dogs who have entire industries geared toward their needs (or our perception of their needs). What’s next for them? Citizenship?
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? — What are all the other animals up to? How and why do they do what they do? And does what they do tell us anything about what they think? Or how they feel? Frans de Waal’s book is an intimate look into non-human animal behavior and cognition and also considers where we fit in.
Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves — Laurel Braitman, a science historian, takes readers inside the mental and emotional lives of non-human animals, and as with us, it’s not always pretty.
As an added bonus: for academic texts on abnormal behavior and mental well-being in animals, check out Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals (ed. Franklin McMillan) and Stereotypic animal behaviour: Fundamentals and Applications to Welfare (eds. Georgia Mason and Jeffrey Rushen).