New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean is known for her accessible, learned writing style, and it shines in this collection of essay about her relationship with animals. Written early in her career until fairly recently, these essays showcase her compassionate but realistic perspective on lives involving the raising and caring for a variety of animals, both common and exotic. Due to Orlean's polished, effective prose, she can cover a number of topics that seem mundane and make them fascinating - I was pulled into the world of dog shows, regaled about the differences between the horse and the mule. I felt for a young woman forced to give up her homing pigeons. I learned about the legal battles of keeping pet tigers in an age long before the greasy flash of the "Tiger King" television show. And we got to see a little bit of Orlean's personal life too, as she describes what it's like caring for many creatures in her home. This read was fascinating, quick, and tidy - a neat length for an essay collection. You can tell that each essay was picked with care; there are no "lesser" entries. I'd recommend this for any animal lover who wants to learn more about the history of husbandry as well as strange, forgotten quirks of forgotten animal-related history. My favorite fact I walked away with? For a brief time in the Victorian period, it was considered extremely manly to care for chickens. However, the trend died once men realized how messy they are.
(Note on subject matter: includes animal abuse)
—Whitney Sheppard, Snail Readers Circle
About the Author
Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award-winning film Adaptation. She lives with her family and her animals in Los Angeles and may be reached at SusanOrlean.com and Twitter.com/SusanOrlean.