Book picks similar to
The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion by Wendy Williams
How to Be Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human
Melanie Challenger - 2020
But we are also an animal that does not think it is an animal. How well do we really know ourselves?How to Be Animal tells a remarkable story of what it means to be human and argues that at the heart of our existence is a profound struggle with being animal. We possess a psychology that seeks separation between humanity and the rest of nature, and we have invented grand ideologies to magnify this. As well as piecing together the mystery of how this mindset evolved, Challenger's book examines the wide-reaching ways in which it affects our lives, from our politics to the way we distance ourselves from other species. We travel from the origin of homo sapiens through the agrarian and industrial revolutions, the age of the internet, and on to the futures of AI and human-machine interface. Challenger examines how technology influences our sense of our own animal nature and our relationship with other species with whom we share this fragile planet.That we are separated from our own animality is a delusion, according to Challenger. Blending nature writing, history, and moral philosophy, How to Be Animal is both a fascinating reappraisal of what it means to be human, and a robust defense of what it means to be an animal.
The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives
Stephen Buchmann - 2015
They have done so since before recorded history. Flowers are used to celebrate all-important occasions, to express love, and are also the basis of global industries. Americans buy ten million flowers a day and perfumes are a worldwide industry worth $30 billion dollars annually. Yet, we know little about flowers, their origins, bizarre sex lives, or how humans relate and depend upon them.Stephen Buchmann takes us along on an exploratory journey of the roles flowers play in the production of our foods, spices, medicines, perfumes, while simultaneously bringing joy and health. Flowering plants continue to serve as inspiration in our myths and legends, in the fine and decorative arts, and in literary works of prose and poetry. Flowers seduce us—and animals, too—through their myriad shapes, colors, textures, and scents. And because of our extraordinary appetite for more unusual and beautiful “super flowers,” plant breeders have created such unnatural blooms as blue roses and black petunias to cater to the human world of haute couture fashion. In so doing, the nectar and pollen vital to the bees, butterflies, and bats of the world, are being reduced. Buchmann explains the unfortunate consequences, and explores how to counter them by growing the right flowers. Here, he integrates fascinating stories about the many colorful personalities who populate the world of flowers, and the flowers and pollinators themselves, with a research-based narrative that illuminates just why there is, indeed, a Reason for Flowers.
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet
John Bradshaw - 2013
Today there are three cats for every dog on the planet, and yet cats remain more mysterious, even to their most adoring owners. Unlike dogs, cats evolved as solitary hunters, and, while many have learned to live alongside humans and even feel affection for us, they still don’t quite get us” the way dogs do, and perhaps they never will. But cats have rich emotional lives that we need to respect and understand if they are to thrive in our company.In Cat Sense, renowned anthrozoologist John Bradshaw takes us further into the mind of the domestic cat than ever before, using cutting-edge scientific research to dispel the myths and explain the true nature of our feline friends. Tracing the cat’s evolution from lone predator to domesticated companion, Bradshaw shows that although cats and humans have been living together for at least eight thousand years, cats remain independent, predatory, and wary of contact with their own kind, qualities that often clash with our modern lifestyles. Cats still have three out of four paws firmly planted in the wild, and within only a few generations can easily revert back to the independent way of life that was the exclusive preserve of their predecessors some 10,000 years ago. Cats are astonishingly flexible, and given the right environment they can adapt to a life of domesticity with their owners—but to continue do so, they will increasingly need our help. If we’re to live in harmony with our cats, Bradshaw explains, we first need to understand their inherited quirks: understanding their body language, keeping their environments—however small—sufficiently interesting, and becoming more proactive in managing both their natural hunting instincts and their relationships with other cats.A must-read for any cat lover, Cat Sense offers humane, penetrating insights about the domestic cat that challenge our most basic assumptions and promise to dramatically improve our pets’ lives—and ours.
Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans
Brian M. Fagan - 2010
The prolonged encounter between the Cro-Magnons and the archaic Neanderthals and between 45,000 and 30,000 years ago was one of the defining moments of history. The Neanderthals survived for some 15,000 years in the face of the newcomers, but were finally pushed aside by the Cro-Magnons' vastly superior intellectual abilities and cutting-edge technologies, which allowed them to thrive in the intensely challenging climate of the Ice Age.What do we know about this remarkable takeover? Who were the first modern Europeans and what were they like? How did they manage to thrive in such an extreme environment? And what legacy did they leave behind them after the cold millennia? The age of the Cro-Magnons lasted some 30,000 years?longer than all of recorded history. Cro-Magnon is the story of a little known, yet seminal, chapter of human experience.
The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses
Peter Brannen - 2017
In The Ends of the World, Peter Brannen dives into deep time, exploring Earth’s past dead ends, and in the process, offers us a glimpse of our possible future.Many scientists now believe that the climate shifts of the twenty-first century have analogs in these five extinctions. Using the visible clues these devastations have left behind in the fossil record, The Ends of the World takes us inside “scenes of the crime,” from South Africa to the New York Palisades, to tell the story of each extinction. Brannen examines the fossil record—which is rife with creatures like dragonflies the size of sea gulls and guillotine-mouthed fish—and introduces us to the researchers on the front lines who, using the forensic tools of modern science, are piecing together what really happened at the crime scenes of the Earth’s biggest whodunits.Part road trip, part history, and part cautionary tale, The Ends of the World takes us on a tour of the ways that our planet has clawed itself back from the grave, and casts our future in a completely new light.
Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
Bill Schutt - 2017
Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism--the role it plays in evolution as well as human history--is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we've come to accept as fact. In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism's role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona's Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party--the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti). Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother's skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species--including our own.Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.
The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us
Adam Rutherford - 2016
All of those organisms are rooted in a single origin, with a common code that underwrites our existence. This paradox - that our biology is indistinct from all life, yet we consider ourselves to be special - lies at the heart of who we are.In this original and entertaining tour of life on Earth, Adam Rutherford explores how many of the things once considered to be exclusively human are not: we are not the only species that communicates, makes tools, utilises fire, or has sex for reasons other than to make new versions of ourselves. Evolution has, however, allowed us to develop our culture to a level of complexity that outstrips any other observed in nature.THE BOOK OF HUMANS tells the story of how we became the creatures we are today, bestowed with the unique ability to investigate what makes us who we are. Illuminated by the latest scientific discoveries, it is a thrilling compendium of what unequivocally fixes us as animals, and reveals how we are extraordinary among them.
Beaks, Bones and Bird Songs: How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their Behavior
Roger Lederer - 2016
What we don’t see is the arduous, life-threatening challenges they face at every moment. Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs guides the reader through the myriad, and often almost miraculous, things that birds do every day to merely stay alive. Like the goldfinch, which manages extreme weather changes by doubling the density of its plumage in winter. Or urban birds, which navigate traffic through a keen understanding of posted speed limits. In engaging and accessible prose, Roger Lederer shares how and why birds use their sensory abilities to see ultraviolet, find food without seeing it, fly thousands of miles without stopping, change their songs in noisy cities, navigate by smell, and much more.
Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization
Andrew Lawler - 2014
Socrates' last words were about it. Charles Darwin and Louis Pasteur made their scientific breakthroughs using it. Catholic popes, African shamans, Chinese philosophers, and Muslim mystics praised it. Throughout the history of civilization, humans have embraced it in every form imaginable—as a messenger of the gods, powerful sex symbol, gambling aid, emblem of resurrection, all-purpose medicine, handy research tool, inspiration for bravery, epitome of evil, and, of course, as the star of the world's most famous joke.In Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?, science writer Andrew Lawler takes us on an adventure from prehistory to the modern era with a fascinating account of the partnership between human and chicken (the most successful of all cross-species relationships). Beginning with the recent discovery in Montana that the chicken's unlikely ancestor is T. rex, this book builds on Lawler's popular Smithsonian cover article, "How the Chicken Conquered the World" to track the chicken from its original domestication in the jungles of Southeast Asia some 10,000 years ago to postwar America, where it became the most engineered of animals, to the uncertain future of what is now humanity's single most important source of protein.In a masterful combination of historical sleuthing and journalistic exploration on four continents, Lawler reframes the way we feel and think about our most important animal partne—and, by extension, all domesticated animals, and even nature itself.Lawler's narrative reveals the secrets behind the chicken's transformation from a shy jungle bird into an animal of astonishing versatility, capable of serving our species' changing needs. For no other siren has called humans to rise, shine, and prosper quite like the rooster's cry: "cock-a-doodle-doo!"
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Frans de Waal - 2016
But in recent decades, these claims have eroded, or even been disproven outright, by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long.People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different forms that are often incomparable to ours? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you’re less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of a echolocating bat? De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal’s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal—and human—intelligence.
Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution
Rebecca Stott - 2012
. . a book that enriches our understanding of how the struggle to think new thoughts is shared across time and space and people.”—The Sunday Telegraph (London)Christmas, 1859. Just one month after the publication of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin received an unsettling letter. He had expected criticism; in fact, letters were arriving daily, most expressing outrage and accusations of heresy. But this letter was different. It accused him of failing to acknowledge his predecessors, of taking credit for a theory that had already been discovered by others. Darwin realized that he had made an error in omitting from Origin of Species any mention of his intellectual forebears. Yet when he tried to trace all of the natural philosophers who had laid the groundwork for his theory, he found that history had already forgotten many of them.Darwin’s Ghosts tells the story of the collective discovery of evolution, from Aristotle, walking the shores of Lesbos with his pupils, to Al-Jahiz, an Arab writer in the first century, from Leonardo da Vinci, searching for fossils in the mine shafts of the Tuscan hills, to Denis Diderot in Paris, exploring the origins of species while under the surveillance of the secret police, and the brilliant naturalists of the Jardin de Plantes, finding evidence for evolutionary change in the natural history collections stolen during the Napoleonic wars. Evolution was not discovered single-handedly, Rebecca Stott argues, contrary to what has become standard lore, but is an idea that emerged over many centuries, advanced by daring individuals across the globe who had the imagination to speculate on nature’s extraordinary ways, and who had the courage to articulate such speculations at a time when to do so was often considered heresy.With each chapter focusing on an early evolutionary thinker, Darwin’s Ghosts is a fascinating account of a diverse group of individuals who, despite the very real dangers of challenging a system in which everything was presumed to have been created perfectly by God, felt compelled to understand where we came from. Ultimately, Stott demonstrates, ideas—including evolution itself—evolve just as animals and plants do, by intermingling, toppling weaker notions, and developing over stretches of time. Darwin’s Ghosts presents a groundbreaking new theory of an idea that has changed our very understanding of who we are.
Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures
Virginia Morell - 2013
Morell probes the moral and ethical dilemmas of recognizing that even “lesser animals” have cognitive abilities such as memory, feelings, personality, and self-awareness--traits that many in the twentieth century felt were unique to human beings.By standing behaviorism on its head, Morell brings the world of nature brilliantly alive in a nuanced, deeply felt appreciation of the human-animal bond, and she shares her admiration for the men and women who have simultaneously chipped away at what we think makes us distinctive while offering a glimpse of where our own abilities come from.
The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Sharks' Teeth to Frogs' Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From
Edward Dolnick - 2017
People knew the basics: men and women had sex, and sometimes babies followed. But beyond that the origins of life were a colossal mystery. The Seeds of Life is the remarkable and rollicking story of how a series of blundering geniuses and brilliant amateurs struggled for two centuries to discover where, exactly, babies come from. Taking a page from investigative thrillers, acclaimed science writer Edward Dolnick looks to these early scientists as if they were detectives hot on the trail of a bedeviling and urgent mystery. These strange searchers included an Italian surgeon using shark teeth to prove that female reproductive organs were not 'failed' male genitalia, and a Catholic priest who designed ingenious miniature pants to prove that frogs required semen to fertilize their eggs. A witty and rousing history of science, The Seeds of Life presents our greatest scientists struggling-against their perceptions, their religious beliefs, and their deep-seated prejudices-to uncover how and where we come from.
When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson - 1994
Not since Darwin's The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals has a book so thoroughly and effectively explored the full range of emotions that exist throughout the animal kingdom.From dancing squirrels to bashful gorillas to spiteful killer whales, Masson and coauthor Susan McCarthy bring forth fascinating anecdotes and illuminating insights that offer powerful proof of the existence of animal emotion. Chapters on love, joy, anger, fear, shame, compassion, and loneliness are framed by a provocative re-evaluation of how we treat animals, from hunting and eating them to scientific experimentation. Forming a complete and compelling picture of the inner lives of animals, When Elephants Weep assures that we will never look at animals in the same way again.
The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator
Timothy C. Winegard - 2019
As the mosquito transformed the landscapes of civilization, humans were unwittingly required to respond to its piercing impact and universal projection of power.The mosquito has determined the fates of empires and nations, razed and crippled economies, and decided the outcome of pivotal wars, killing nearly half of humanity along the way. She (only females bite) has dispatched an estimated 52 billion people from a total of 108 billion throughout our relatively brief existence. As the greatest purveyor of extermination we have ever known, she has played a greater role in shaping our human story than any other living thing with which we share our global village.Imagine for a moment a world without deadly mosquitoes, or any mosquitoes, for that matter? Our history and the world we know, or think we know, would be completely unrecognizable.Driven by surprising insights and fast-paced storytelling, The Mosquito is the extraordinary untold story of the mosquito's reign through human history and her indelible impact on our modern world order.