Reflecting on Animals: Five Timely Titles | Wyatt’s World

It seems that books on the nature, intellect, and soul of animals are on the rise, with several new titles joining hits such as Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus and Virginia Morell’s Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel. Here are five previously published and forthcoming works. geniusofbirds.jpg51316

  • The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin).
    After reading Ackerman’s finely achieved account of birds’ amazing capacity for knowledge, the term birdbrain will be a compliment. This globe-trotting narrative is full of accessible science and wonderful stories of birds, from the lowly yet seemingly GPS (global positioning system)–enabled pigeon to crows that make tools.
  • What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe (Scientific American: Farrar).
    Coming in June is ethologist Balcombe’s investigation of fish, from creatures swimming the perimeter of aquarium walls to those in open bodies of sea and stream. Centered on observation and science, Balcombe’s research posits that these aquatic animals are more sentient than we first thought.
  • Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal (Norton).
    Creating the biggest splash right now is de Waal’s consideration of how blind humans have been to the confounding intelligence of animals—largely because we have lacked the insight and empathy to figure it out. From crows and dolphins to sheep and chimpanzees, de Waal’s work explicates the ways in which people are surrounded by other forms of wisdom.
  • Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets by Jessica Pierce (Univ. of Chicago).
    Given the perceptive nature of so many animals, is it ethical to keep them as pets? Pierce explores this unsettling question, prodding readers to think carefully through what it means to own a pet and how the lives of animals in our care are affected.
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone).
    After animals, will plants be the next topic of interest? Due out in September but already making news is this study of the nature of trees. Forester and ancient forest advocate Wohlleben presents a science-based study investigating how trees communicate and nurture one another through social networks.
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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at