Friday, February 5, 2016

10 Favorite Animal Books from 2015

Everyone loves lists, and I guess I’m no different! I read about thirty books in 2015, but there were ten that really stood out. Here they are, in chronological order, with easy links to the website. To read all of my reviews, go to the Blog on the website. 

1. A WOLF CALLED ROMEO, by Nick Janis
The true story of an enormous black wolf who befriended domestic dogs in Alaska, raising concerns, questions, and alarms among residents. Although you know any interaction between wildlife and mankind will likely end badly for the wildlife, this is still a compelling and, in some ways, uplifting account and not to be missed.

2. LAST CHAIN ON BILLIE by Carol Bradley
I believe this book, as well as social media outcry over the use of elephants for entertainment, was instrumental in Barnum & Bailey’s phasing out of elephant acts. The animals are still being slaughtered and abused throughout the world, and work must continue to ward off extinction, but learning about individuals who have devoted their lives to making a difference in the world of animals is always an inspiration. Long live Billie!

3. H IS FOR HAWK by Helen Macdonald
Of the memoirs I read and reviewed in 2015, this one definitely ranks at the top. Macdonald is an extraordinary nature writer, as well as a poet—a combination of talents that will take a reader’s breath away at times. We can feel the chill English air and feel the prickles of nettles and the grip of talons from her goshawk. We also understand the author’s intense grief and slow, almost reluctant, crawl out of melancholy. Paper edition available March 2016.

 4. LAST CHANCE MUSTANG by Mitchell Bornstein
When Mitch Bornstein first meets Samson, the wild mustang, every alarm in my body went off. “Don’t go near him!” I wanted to yell, knowing, however, that he would go near the horse, and of course he would succeed in gaining his trust. Just look at the cover photograph, and you know the outcome. But still, it’s hard to read the opening without heart-pounding fear. This is a vitally important book about what’s happening to our wild horses. It’s a counter argument to those proponents of decreasing the wild horse population “for their own good,” and to the belief that horses, not cattle, are damaging the last remaining wilderness in this country through overgrazing. Read Mitchell Bornstein’s account of Samson’s slow rehabilitation, and then check out the Bureau of Land Management’s persistent denials concerning the tactics in dealing with the last remaining wild horses in this country. It is
eye-opening, to say the least.

5. THE DOG MASTER by W. Bruce Cameron
Cameron’s latest novel touches on some current theories about early mankind’s domestication of wild animals—particularly wolves. But what makes this book so compelling is the excellent writing and well-rounded characters. The various tribes are intertwined in an altogether believable fashion, with wolves at the center.  His expert storytelling will enthrall and delight.

6. LET THE TORNADO COME by Rita Zoey Chin
This memoir was published in 2014, but I hadn’t known about it until last year. More than just the story of a troubled horse and troubled woman, this is a portrait of an underside in our country that we too often ignore. Chin’s story is riveting, heartbreaking, and ultimately victorious. Whether or not you are a horse person, this is a book that will engross you and move you as few books can do.

7. RESCUE ROAD by Peter Zheutlin
One of the great things about social media is that it has allowed easy access to authors or author’s subjects. In this case, thanks to Zheutlin’s account of riding shotgun with Greg Mahle of Rescue Road Trips, I was able to then follow Mahle on Facebook and see him, virtually, in action. His work is harrowing and difficult, but the joy is obvious, too. Here, in his story, as told by a journalist whose own pup had traveled the road, is another reason not to abandon hope, but keep on truckin’. There are so many to rescue, but they are finding homes.

Any of you who have come by my booth at an event asking for gift ideas or fun books to read on a trip knows that I always recommend the Chet and Bernie Series by Spencer Quinn. Beginning with DOG ON IT, and proceeding to this, the eighth book in the series, this outstanding detective series narrated by a particularly talented dog never fails to hold the reader by the collar and not let go.I guarantee it!

You don’t need to be a paleontologist to find this book fascinating. You don’t even really need to be a horse lover. But of course, it’s a huge bonus if you are, because then you will look at your horse with even more respect and admiration after learning about his origins and his connection to human evolution, and his intelligence. Journalist Wendy Williams poses the questions, Why is there such an intense bond between humans and horses? When did it form? Her search for answers takes her all over the world, and leads her to some startling conclusions.

10. THE SECRET LIVES OF BATS by Merlin Tuttle
OK, all you bat haters out there, I dare you to read this book and proclaim yourself still a bat blaster! The passion Tuttle has for his subject is contagious. I marveled at his stamina, apparent boundless energy, and overall kindness when dealing with stupid people who are determined to destroy the creature he finds so lovable. And his photographs are truly breathtaking. Do not discount a bat book out of childhood fears or myths. This will entertain and educate you. I promise you’ll never look at a bat the same way again!