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
Susan Orlean--the beloved New Yorker staff writer hailed as a national treasure by The Washington Post and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Library Book--gathers a lifetime of musings, meditations, and in-depth profiles about animals. How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages, writes Susan Orlean. Since the age of six, when Orlean wrote and illustrated a book called Herbert the Near-Sighted Pigeon, she's been drawn to stories about how we live with animals, and how they abide by us. Now, in On Animals, she examines animal-human relationships through the compelling tales she has written over the course of her celebrated career. These stories consider a range of creatures--the household pets we dote on, the animals we raise to end up as meat on our plates, the creatures who could eat us for dinner, the various tamed and untamed animals we share our planet with who are central to human life. In her own backyard, Orlean discovers the delights of keeping chickens. In a different backyard, in New Jersey, she meets a woman who has twenty-three pet tigers--something none of her neighbors knew about until one of the tigers escapes. In Iceland, the world's most famous whale resists the efforts to set him free; in Morocco, the world's hardest-working donkeys find respite at a special clinic. We meet a show dog and a lost dog and a pigeon who knows exactly how to get home. Equal parts delightful and profound, enriched by Orlean's stylish prose and precise research, these stories celebrate the meaningful cross-species connections that grace our collective existence.