Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Animal Wise by Virginia Morell

Animal Wise by Virginia Morell

Non-Fiction (2013)

How and what animals think is a topic I thought I'd be interested in.   Initially comparing it to my favorite book about animal emotions, When Elephants Weep by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, I struggled with the scientific aspect of Animal Wise. Despite it's subtitle, "The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures," in the book Morell states that although cognition and emotion operate on the same pathway of the brain, less is known about emotion because researchers have not discovered how to study it. And it is because of this proclaimed inability to study animal emotions that critics of Masson's book regard him as guilty of anthropomorphizing.  I myself am guilty of such, which is probably why I enjoyed his book as much as I did.  That said, Animal Wise is a well researched, well-documented book based on actual animal experiments.

Several animals are highlighted in the book:  Dolphins, Ants, Chimpanzees, Rats, Fish, Birds, and Parrots specifically, Elephants, Dogs and Wolves. My favorite chapters were on ants - it's incredible how much they "communicate" and work together - and rats, which I despise, but found interesting that they love to be tickled! And I love everything about elephants, another chapter favorite. Morell may have stated why the animals highlighted were chosen; if so, I don't remember.

Putting aside my initial disappointment that this book was less about animal emotions and more about cognition, I was finally able to enjoy it. It's wonderful to learn how deeply invested scientists and biologists are in understanding the animal world. As this book proves, animals know a lot more than we think they do.

I recommend this book if you have a serious love for animals. It will strengthen your love and broaden your knowledge.

Rating:  4/5

Thank you to Crown Publishing for this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not otherwise compensated.


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