From the terrifying to the frustrating, a great starting point for understanding the animal world.

FUZZ

WHEN NATURE BREAKS THE LAW

Tracing the line between wildlife and the law, the acclaimed science writer examines how humans interact with the natural world.

“What is the proper course when wild animals break laws intended for people?” So asks Roach in a book that, in the author’s characteristic style, ranges widely, from wild animal attacks to the inherent dangers of certain plants to ways in which we have treated animals that most humans consider vermin. The author begins by examining “the intractable nature of human-wildlife conflict—as it is known today by those who grapple with it professionally.” Roach discusses well-known conflicts such as bear attacks before moving on to an account of her visit to a tea plantation in West Bengal, India, “a place where ‘the elephant in the room’ is not a metaphor.” As in her previous bestsellers such as Grunt and Stiff, the author has clearly done her homework, speaking to professionals across a variety of disciplines, including members of the military; nuns, priests, guards, and other workers at the Vatican; and those with job titles that sound “like something you’d hear if you asked an animal-besotted ten-year-old, What do you want to be when you grow up?” (The lucky fellow in question, who has a doctorate in wildlife biology, researches mountain lions and gray wolves, two apex predators.) Traveling from a bear seminar in Reno to a bird-infested island in the Pacific that plagued the American military during World War II, among many other venues, Roach joyfully explores how human culture and wildlife, including plant life, have either found ways to coexist or are constantly at odds. Throughout, Roach highlights people who are genuinely passionate about the work, and she also includes suggestions for readers on how to deal ethically (and effectively) with their own wildlife issues, wherever they live.

From the terrifying to the frustrating, a great starting point for understanding the animal world.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00193-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

ON ANIMALS

The beloved author gathers a wide-ranging selection of pieces about animals.

“Animals have always been my style,” writes Orlean at the beginning of her latest delightful book, a collection of articles that originally appeared in “slightly modified form” in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New Yorker, where she has been a staff writer since 1992. The variety on display is especially pleasing. Some essays are classic New Yorkerprofiles: Who knew that tigers, near extinction in the wild, are common household pets? There are at least 15,000 in the U.S. Her subject, a New Jersey woman, keeps several dozen and has been fighting successful court battles over them for decades. Lions are not near extinction, however; in fact, there are too many. Even in Africa, far more live in captivity or on reserves than in the wild, and readers may be shocked at their fate. Cubs are cute, so animal parks profit by allowing visitors to play with them. With reserves at capacity, cubs who mature may end up shot in trophy hunts or in stalls on breeding farms to produce more cubs. In “The Rabbit Outbreak,” Orlean writes about how rabbit meat was an American staple until replaced by beef and chicken after World War II, whereupon rabbit pet ownership surged. They are now “the third-most-popular pet in the country, ranking just behind dogs and cats.” Readers may be aware of the kerfuffle following the hit movie Free Willythat led to a massive campaign to return the film’s killer whale to the wild, and Orlean delivers a fascinating, if unedifying account. The author handles dogs like a virtuoso, with 10 hilarious pages on the wacky, expensive, but sometimes profitable life of a champion show dog. Among America’s 65 million pet dogs (according to a 2003 report), 10 million go astray every year, and about half are recovered. Orlean engagingly recounts a lost-dog search of epic proportions.

Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982181-53-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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