A gazillion books about animals are published each year, and a lot of them focus on the ways
we relate to the non-human creatures in our lives. Here are some new books that will appeal to your brainy animal loving friends.
Beauty and The Beast: Human-Animal Relationships as Revealed in Real Photo Postcards, 1905-1935. Reading this book by Arnold Arluke and Robert Bogdan is like going for a ride in a time machine. With the appearance of the Eastman Brownie camera in 1900, Americans went nuts taking pictures of the important things in their lives - including their animals. This extraordinary book uses 350 beautifully reproduced photo-postcards to illustrate the gamut of our relationships with other species. I was not surprised that people would purchase photos of pet dogs and cats. But who knew they would send their friends postcards of veterinary anatomy classes, flayed whale carcasses, and copulating horses? The book is a triumph of art and anthrozoology, and it reveals that, when it comes to human-animal relationships, how much things have changed over the last 100 years....and how much they have stayed the same.
The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial View of Animal Pleasure. Books by animal activists are usually depressing chronicles of the litany of ways humans inflict suffering on other species. But in
The Exultant Ark, Jonathan Balcombe rests his case for animal rights on the notion that they experience the good things in life. Each chapter is devoted to a particular type of pleasure including play, eating, companionship, and sex. The chapters begin with a brief summary of the research on the topic, followed by stunning pictures by some of the world's best nature photographers. (My favorite is a photograph of a tiny beetle reaching for a droplet of nectar.) This is one of those rare volumes that will look good on your coffee table but might also change the way you think.
Loving Animals: Toward A New Animal Advocacy. This controversial book by Duke University's Kathy Rudy will appeal to your friends who like the challenge of thinking deeply about ethical issues.
Rudy comes at animal protection from an approach that I normally dislike, critical theory - a field which is often characterized (in my view) by impenetrable prose and academic posturing coupled with a smattering of bullshit. Rudy is an exception. Loving Animals is a refreshingly accessible combination of scholarship and Rudy's personal experiences with thorny problems such as what to do with unadoptable shelter dogs, the private ownership of exotic animals, and the ethics of eating humanely raised farm animals. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, Rudy takes on some of the sacred cows in the animal protection movement, and her call for a spirituality-based approach to animal ethics has infuriated some animal rights purists. Though you may not agree with Rudy on all the issues, this book is a treat for head and heart.
of adorable creatures in casts. They range from kittens and puppies to a gopher tortoise and a three-toed sloth. This book may not be the ticket for all of your animal-loving pals, but your more sentimental friends might find it irresistible. It might also be the purrr-fect gift for your buddies whose sense of humor leans towards South Park and The Onion. The author writes in the introduction, "Most people see the words ‘animal with casts' and think ‘How cute' and ‘How awful' at the same time.'" She is right. This book both moving and funny - in sick sort of way.
Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard To Think Straight About Animals. Lest I forget - consider giving all your friends my book on human-animal relationships. Recently out in paperback, it has the advantage of being the cheapest book on this list. Rather than toot my own horn, see what these reviewers (and these) have to say about it:
--Steven Pinker - "A fascinating, thoughtful, and thoroughly enjoyable exploration of a major dimension of human experience."
--Sam Gosling - "Hal Herzog does for our relationship with animals what Michael Pollan in The Omnivores Dilemma did for our relationship with food."
--Temple Grandin - "Everyone who is interested in the ethics of the relationships between humans and animals should read this book"
--Marc Bekoff - "Read this book, read it again, and share it widely. It is that important."