Hot Best Seller

On Animals

Availability: Ready to download

Susan Orlean—the beloved New Yorker staff writer hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Library Book—gathers a lifetime of musings, meditations, and in-depth profiles about animals. “How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages,” writes Susan Orlean. Since the a Susan Orlean—the beloved New Yorker staff writer hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Library Book—gathers a lifetime of musings, meditations, and in-depth profiles about animals. “How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages,” writes Susan Orlean. Since the age of six, when Orlean wrote and illustrated a book called Herbert the Near-Sighted Pigeon, she’s been drawn to stories about how we live with animals, and how they abide by us. Now, in On Animals, she examines animal-human relationships through the compelling tales she has written over the course of her celebrated career. These stories consider a range of creatures—the household pets we dote on, the animals we raise to end up as meat on our plates, the creatures who could eat us for dinner, the various tamed and untamed animals we share our planet with who are central to human life. In her own backyard, Orlean discovers the delights of keeping chickens. In a different backyard, in New Jersey, she meets a woman who has twenty-three pet tigers—something none of her neighbors knew about until one of the tigers escapes. In Iceland, the world’s most famous whale resists the efforts to set him free; in Morocco, the world’s hardest-working donkeys find respite at a special clinic. We meet a show dog and a lost dog and a pigeon who knows exactly how to get home. Equal parts delightful and profound, enriched by Orlean’s stylish prose and precise research, these stories celebrate the meaningful cross-species connections that grace our collective existence.


Compare

Susan Orlean—the beloved New Yorker staff writer hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Library Book—gathers a lifetime of musings, meditations, and in-depth profiles about animals. “How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages,” writes Susan Orlean. Since the a Susan Orlean—the beloved New Yorker staff writer hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Library Book—gathers a lifetime of musings, meditations, and in-depth profiles about animals. “How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages,” writes Susan Orlean. Since the age of six, when Orlean wrote and illustrated a book called Herbert the Near-Sighted Pigeon, she’s been drawn to stories about how we live with animals, and how they abide by us. Now, in On Animals, she examines animal-human relationships through the compelling tales she has written over the course of her celebrated career. These stories consider a range of creatures—the household pets we dote on, the animals we raise to end up as meat on our plates, the creatures who could eat us for dinner, the various tamed and untamed animals we share our planet with who are central to human life. In her own backyard, Orlean discovers the delights of keeping chickens. In a different backyard, in New Jersey, she meets a woman who has twenty-three pet tigers—something none of her neighbors knew about until one of the tigers escapes. In Iceland, the world’s most famous whale resists the efforts to set him free; in Morocco, the world’s hardest-working donkeys find respite at a special clinic. We meet a show dog and a lost dog and a pigeon who knows exactly how to get home. Equal parts delightful and profound, enriched by Orlean’s stylish prose and precise research, these stories celebrate the meaningful cross-species connections that grace our collective existence.

30 review for On Animals

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    "Humankind has ended up mediating almost every aspect of the natural world, muddling the notion of what being truly wild can really mean anymore." "Every corny thing that's said about living with nature--being in harmony with the earth, feeling the cycle of the seasons--happens to be true." These essays are bookmarked by the experience of buying her own farm and the animals she shared this time with. Her love of animals, her curiosity, her enthusiasm is readily apparent, it draws the reader into h "Humankind has ended up mediating almost every aspect of the natural world, muddling the notion of what being truly wild can really mean anymore." "Every corny thing that's said about living with nature--being in harmony with the earth, feeling the cycle of the seasons--happens to be true." These essays are bookmarked by the experience of buying her own farm and the animals she shared this time with. Her love of animals, her curiosity, her enthusiasm is readily apparent, it draws the reader into her various subjects. From racing pigeons, to pandas, mules, a show dog and his life and a missing dog. Never knew there were dog detectives, agencies. I found the chapter on lions both embracing and sad. I always dispisedd big game hunting, but after reading this I absolutely hate them. The chapter on donkeys in Morocco was so interesting her the donkeys are essential because in the Fez medina the streets are too narrow for other forms of transportation. A well researched book, she actually visited these places, met with the people within. It is at times humorous, sometimes despairing but always informative and interesting. ARC from Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    I think I’ll always have animals and I think I’ll always write about them. Their unknowability challenges me. Our affection for them intrigues me. I resist the urge to anthropomorphize them, but I do think they know something we don’t about living elementally. I’m happy to be in their company. I really liked what I’ve previously read by Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief, The Library Book), but I guess what I liked most about those books were their format: the intertwined threads that weave toge I think I’ll always have animals and I think I’ll always write about them. Their unknowability challenges me. Our affection for them intrigues me. I resist the urge to anthropomorphize them, but I do think they know something we don’t about living elementally. I’m happy to be in their company. I really liked what I’ve previously read by Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief, The Library Book), but I guess what I liked most about those books were their format: the intertwined threads that weave together straight facts, singular events, and Orlean’s personal involvement with the material that synergise into something special. I came into On Animals expecting more of the same, and it’s not. Rather than plumbing the depths of one overarching story, this is a series of fifteen articles that Orlean published over the years (in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Smithsonian Magazine) which all feature a lightweight look at some “animalish” topic. And taken one after another, this became a little repetitive and dull. I appreciate that Orlean has had a greater than average fascination with animals throughout her life, and that she has had the good fortune to travel the world as a journalist to investigate animal-related stories, but this collection didn’t add up to a satisfying book. Low three stars. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) As Orlean explains in her introduction, she and her husband eventually left their Manhattan apartment for an acreage in upstate New York, which they then populated with chickens, ducks, turkeys, guinea fowl, dogs, cats, and cattle. Despite having been raised in suburbia, Orlean took to farmlife and its duties, explaining that chicken-keeping seems to be enjoying a revival in the US: Chickens seemed to go hand in glove with the postfeminist reclamation of other farmwife domestic arts — knitting, canning, quilting. Keeping chickens was a do-it-yourself hobby at a moment when doing things for yourself was newly appreciated as a declaration of self-sufficiency, a celebration of handwork, and a pushback from a numbing and disconnected big-box life. And although she does reference the farm and her life there in some of the articles that follow, it doesn’t much serve as a true linking mechanism. The articles explore everything from show dogs to captive panda breeding, and most did have some interesting tidbits. In a story about a woman who hoarded tigers in deplorable conditions (long before anyone heard of the Tiger King), Orlean notes, “There are at least fifteen thousand pet tigers in the country — more than seven times the number of registered Irish setters or Dalmatians.” In an article on taxidermy — which didn’t much interest me overall — my attention was grabbed by, “One display, a coyote whose torso was split open to reveal a miniature scene of the destruction of the World Trade Center, complete with little firefighters and rubble piles, was surpassingly weird.” In an article on the historic treatment of animals used in Hollywood, Orlean quotes the (then) director of American Humane’s Film and Television Unit, Karen Rosa: “If you show up on set with twenty-five thousand cockroaches, you better leave with twenty-five thousand cockroaches,” she said. I wondered if she extended the same welcome to cockroaches at home. She shook her head. “A cockroach in my kitchen is one thing,” she said. “A cockroach in a movie is an actor. Like any other actor, it deserves to go home at the end of the day.” So, some of this was interesting and surprising, but as On Animals includes articles that go back to 1995, not all of the information is current. In an article on the use of oxen in Cuba, Orlean notes the friendship between Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez that guaranteed Venezuelan oil would flow freely to supply the abundance of Soviet tractors employed by most Cuban farmers. And after relating the whole inspiring story of Keiko the killer whale (of Free Willy fame), Orlean notes that she was disappointed to have arrived in Iceland just a month after Keiko had been successfully released into the wild. Keiko had followed a wild pod of orcas to Norway and Orlean ends this article on swelling violins: The children in Skaalvik Fjord who swam on his back and fed him fish reportedly found him delightful, as has everyone who has ever known Keiko. He played with them for a night and a day, the luckiest whale in the world, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago. (It takes only a minute on a search engine to learn that Keiko didn’t thrive in the wild and his case makes the whole rewilding enterprise appear suspect; that seems the more interesting story, but it’s beyond the scope of this book.) So, there were some interesting nuggets along the way, but I had to slog through the dross to find them; I was never excited to make that effort.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    Author and journalist Susan Orlean has always possessed an affinity for animals. More than that, as she asserts in the introduction to her new collection of previously published pieces “On Animals,” throughout her life, the non-human creatures have “always seemed to elbow their way onto center stage.” It makes sense, then, that within her new book, they easily and rightfully claim the starring role in these essays largely pulled from The New Yorker where Orlean has been a staff writer since the Author and journalist Susan Orlean has always possessed an affinity for animals. More than that, as she asserts in the introduction to her new collection of previously published pieces “On Animals,” throughout her life, the non-human creatures have “always seemed to elbow their way onto center stage.” It makes sense, then, that within her new book, they easily and rightfully claim the starring role in these essays largely pulled from The New Yorker where Orlean has been a staff writer since the early 1990s. Following up on the success of her 2018 bestseller “The Library Book,” “On Animals” begins on a pitch-perfect note with Orlean’s 2011 essay “Animalish,” a delightful piece about her gravitational pull toward animals serving as the book’s introduction. Click here to read the rest of my review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie Stielstra

    I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Though I never met her, Susan Orlean and I are exact contemporaries, and co-alums of the University of Michigan, 1976. We are both animal lovers. I settled in to this with some enjoyable anticipation. It didn’t last long. Within a few pages, I was cocking an eyebrow with puzzlement: as a student, she spends an unexpected windfall on an Irish setter puppy, while living in a rented college-town apartment, with crazy hours and unsympat I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Though I never met her, Susan Orlean and I are exact contemporaries, and co-alums of the University of Michigan, 1976. We are both animal lovers. I settled in to this with some enjoyable anticipation. It didn’t last long. Within a few pages, I was cocking an eyebrow with puzzlement: as a student, she spends an unexpected windfall on an Irish setter puppy, while living in a rented college-town apartment, with crazy hours and unsympathetic landlords (yes, I remember it well…). A few pages and years later, when she moves to Manhattan with her now-elderly setter, she worries because the dog had “never lived in an apartment.” A new boyfriend impresses her by bringing a friend with a fully-grown lion to her apartment. She decides she’d like to have only animals with red hair. And then she falls in love with chickens based on a Martha Stewart television show – whose chickens were always a marketing tool, and who sighs that she’ll “never get another Egyptian Fayoumi again” after the hen froze to death. Orlean seems oblivious to any problem with any of this. Throughout most of these essays, reprinted largely from The New Yorker and Smithsonian magazines, there is an unsettling sense of someone for whom animals are interesting and appealing, and some of whom she comes to be fond of, but who are more accoutrements, charming rural accessories, or colorful topics for an essay than individual, thinking, feeling, “complete” beings in their own right. She is frequently glib, surprisingly callous. There is an otherwise lovely vignette about the role of oxen in the agriculture of Cuba over the decades of pre- and post-Soviet dominion, and the character of these highly-valued animals – but she can’t resist a flippant comment about an ox who broke into a feed bin and “died happy of incurable colic.” Colic is a dreadful, painful way for an animal to die. Then there’s the fact-checking… or lack thereof. There were statements of fact or incident that were questionable at best; wrong or outdated at worst. She mentions buying hay for her chickens nests; straw would be much more likely, preferred, and cheaper. Biff the show dog “beg[s] for chocolate”; I thought everyone knew chocolate is not a good treat for dogs, and the brand of dog food Biff shills for is lousy quality, mostly corn junk food. She blithely offers that knee-replacement surgery has boosted the market for riding mules because mules have a smoother gait and thus are easier on the knees; no substantiation is given, and most riders with replaced knees are fine in the saddle – it’s the mounting and dismounting that can be dicey. And perhaps this is old fake news, but she suggests there may be a connection between cellphone towers and disoriented homing pigeons – again, with no factual support, and which has been fairly well debunked by Audubon Society researchers. And really, Susan, lions don’t sweat. The best essays are the ones in which Orlean herself features the least. The strange and awful Tiger Lady saga (pre-Tiger King!) is a disturbing portrait of the wild-animal-as-pet trade and obsession. The piece on rabbit-keeping in the U.S. is a clear-eyed look at the ambivalence of rabbit fanciers who can’t decide if their charges are much-loved pets or meat stock. Taxidermists come across as a pleasantly loony, obsessed, creative and artistic bunch – but she completely avoids the figurative (and maybe even literal) elephant in the room about where the “trophies” they create come from, how, and at whose hands. However, the piece on the Lion Guy forcefully depicts the tragic state of lions in the modern world, and the unconscionable horrors of canned safari hunts. The final section outlines a year or so in the life of Orlean’s hobby farm in the Hudson Valley: dogs, cats, poultry, and even a few cattle occupy her (though the cattle are actually a tax-avoidance project, as is a casual and joking reference to raising puppies for profit). Still, there is a weird lack of emotional connection to these, her very own personal menagerie. They take in a stray cat, and she seems to be mystified by why her resident cat hates the newcomer, whose sex she can’t even identify correctly. I will agree whole-heartedly with her assessment of the evils of ticks, though. I’d also like to know how Helen, the Rhode Island Red hen, is the lowest chicken in the pecking order on one page, becomes the top-ranking alpha hen a few pages later. And then, the family ups sticks and move to Los Angeles for a job opportunity. The animals have to be handed off, arranged for, and away they go. They spend a few more summers in New York, but it turns out to be too much trouble, so they sell up what we’ve been told is a much-loved, long-dreamed-for place, and that’s that. Animal lovers, if you are looking for dedication, loyalty, intimacy, and a recognition of animals as, in the inimitable words of Henry Beston, “finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth,” don’t look here. To be fair, she is never mawkish or sentimental, she does not anthropomorphize, and her approach seems to be one clinging to objectivity (with some factual issues), an eye for detail, and respect for the attitudes the human subjects may have toward their animal charges. But her own humanity has gaps, and she lacks “another and a wiser…concept of animals,” (Beston again) that respects them as they deserve.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Darla

    What animals have been a part of your life? If you grew up on a farm (like me) and have also raised three active boys (also me), then chances are you have observed and/or had ownership of a wide variety. There are animals who give us companionship, those who provide sustenance, those who provide services, some are just for looking at, and on and on. . . Susan Orlean has curated a collection of her own essays from over the years to gift animal lovers with the opportunity to read about her observa What animals have been a part of your life? If you grew up on a farm (like me) and have also raised three active boys (also me), then chances are you have observed and/or had ownership of a wide variety. There are animals who give us companionship, those who provide sustenance, those who provide services, some are just for looking at, and on and on. . . Susan Orlean has curated a collection of her own essays from over the years to gift animal lovers with the opportunity to read about her observations, investigations, and experiences. This is a book you can savor over a period of time, written with empathy, pithy observations, and humor. You will read about chickens, show dogs, tigers, mules, homing pigeons, animal actors, killer whales in activity (Free Willy!), oxen, taxidermy, lions, rabbits, pandas, donkeys, and the many varieties of animals on Susan Orlean's homestead in the Hudson Valley. Sounds like a great gift for that animal lover in your life. My only complaint: no pictures in the ARC. Will have to track down a physical copy once it is published. Thank you to Avid Reader Press and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Thoughts soon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    bookmammal

    Thank you Edelweiss Treeline for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. I love Susan Orlean’s writing and this collection did not disappoint. If you’re an animal lover, and/or if you enjoy beautifully crafted essays, you need to read this book. Simply wonderful from the first page to the last.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sue Em

    First and foremost, Susan Orleans is an incredible writer and an Indefatigable researcher. Her THE LIBRARY BOOK was simply riveting. This book collected her articles published over the years that focused on animals combined with ones about her personal experiences as an animal lover and caretaker of chickens, guinea hens, turkeys along with dogs and cats. Wide-ranging from rabbits to panda bears to donkeys to the lion whisperer to taxidermy, each article is personal and jam-packed with fascinati First and foremost, Susan Orleans is an incredible writer and an Indefatigable researcher. Her THE LIBRARY BOOK was simply riveting. This book collected her articles published over the years that focused on animals combined with ones about her personal experiences as an animal lover and caretaker of chickens, guinea hens, turkeys along with dogs and cats. Wide-ranging from rabbits to panda bears to donkeys to the lion whisperer to taxidermy, each article is personal and jam-packed with fascinating facts and tales. Highly recommended! Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I found all the essays in this book delightful. I enjoy Orlean’s writing style, especially her warm but slightly off-kilter humor. And I, like her, love animals and also find them amusing, so I guess this book was perfect for me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kirsti

    These are all reprints, but they were a delight to reread. Please note: Orlean is a meat eater, so while she admires and respects animals, she writes about them in a traditional way rather than advocating for their freedom. That didn't bother me, but I know it has bothered some readers and reviewers. These are all reprints, but they were a delight to reread. Please note: Orlean is a meat eater, so while she admires and respects animals, she writes about them in a traditional way rather than advocating for their freedom. That didn't bother me, but I know it has bothered some readers and reviewers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Not always delightful but always interesting collection of essays about animals. Some of the pieces are heartwarming, but others are difficult to read because of the ways people can be heartless towards animals. The collection begins and ends on positive notes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Keely

    In this collection of her writing on animals, Susan Orlean examines the largely unknowable lives of animals and our enduring relationships with them. The book’s essays explore everything from the day-to-day of a champion show dog, to the hardworking donkeys of the medina in Fez, Morocco, to the learning curve involved in the growing trend of hen keeping. This was a quick and entertaining read. Orlean is a consistently engaging writer, and in this book, her love for the animals she writes about re In this collection of her writing on animals, Susan Orlean examines the largely unknowable lives of animals and our enduring relationships with them. The book’s essays explore everything from the day-to-day of a champion show dog, to the hardworking donkeys of the medina in Fez, Morocco, to the learning curve involved in the growing trend of hen keeping. This was a quick and entertaining read. Orlean is a consistently engaging writer, and in this book, her love for the animals she writes about really shines through.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Belle

    Absolutely loved this journalistic approach to animal stories; a compilation of the author’s articles in The New Yorker. Like James Herriot meets Vanity Fair. This is a perfect gift for a niche market of animal lover and journalism. That group of people definitely exists. The humor is subtle if not a little dry. I was reading this under the hairdryer removing all evidence of my true age at my hairdresser’s shop, and I was laughing out loud so much she did want to know what I was reading. I was r Absolutely loved this journalistic approach to animal stories; a compilation of the author’s articles in The New Yorker. Like James Herriot meets Vanity Fair. This is a perfect gift for a niche market of animal lover and journalism. That group of people definitely exists. The humor is subtle if not a little dry. I was reading this under the hairdryer removing all evidence of my true age at my hairdresser’s shop, and I was laughing out loud so much she did want to know what I was reading. I was reading about Biff the Boxer and award winning show dog during his downtime.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lacey

    This was a good collection of essays that were interesting and amusing, but also there were some that were sad and infuriating. She not only talks about the joys of animals, but also the practice of big game hunting and other details of the end of some animal lives.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zahreen

    Another delightful book from Literati book club - I really enjoyed this short book of essays about these creatures that are so strange but yet so important to us. Susan Orlean is a great essayist.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christie Bane

    This book is a delightful and well-written escape into the world of animals. Each chapter is written in investigative journalism style, and covers animals as various as killer whales, pandas, a lost dog, chickens, mules… all set against the backdrop of the author’s Hudson Valley farm, which sounds like the most peaceful place in the world as well as the place of my dreams that can be filled up with all the animals you could possibly want. Susan Orlean is one of my favorite writers, and animals a This book is a delightful and well-written escape into the world of animals. Each chapter is written in investigative journalism style, and covers animals as various as killer whales, pandas, a lost dog, chickens, mules… all set against the backdrop of the author’s Hudson Valley farm, which sounds like the most peaceful place in the world as well as the place of my dreams that can be filled up with all the animals you could possibly want. Susan Orlean is one of my favorite writers, and animals are high on my list of favorite things to read about, so really it would have been surprising if I didn’t love this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    The introduction of this book begins promisingly: “…I was always a little animalish” and ends even more so: “I think I’ll always have animals and I think I’ll always write about them. Their unknowability challenges me. Our affection for them intrigues me. I resist the urge to anthropomorphize them, but I do think they know something we don’t about living elementally. I’m happy to be in their company.” Because I couldn’t agree more with these statements, I was j trifled but the book and couldn’t The introduction of this book begins promisingly: “…I was always a little animalish” and ends even more so: “I think I’ll always have animals and I think I’ll always write about them. Their unknowability challenges me. Our affection for them intrigues me. I resist the urge to anthropomorphize them, but I do think they know something we don’t about living elementally. I’m happy to be in their company.” Because I couldn’t agree more with these statements, I was j trifled but the book and couldn’t wait to start reading it. I’m sorry to say that by the time I had finished it, I was disappointed that the promise of the introduction didn’t materialize by the last chapter. While Susan Orlean writes intriguingly about diverse animals such as chickens, tigers, lions, panda bears, dogs and donkeys, many of the stories seem disjointed and lacking a conclusion. There was no thread tying them all together, and I really can’t say that I sensed any kind of “animalish” attraction to any of them aside from Orlean’s affection for her chickens. Happy endings are replaced by Hollywood imagery for example in the story of Keiko the killer whale star of Free Willy. While Orlean claims he was successfully reintroduced into the wild, internet research shows that he actually succumbed to pneumonia in Norway not long after he left captivity. Sadly, this book, while still readable, left me cold and unconvinced of the author’s “animalishness”.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cerealflakes

    This book suffered from being a cobbled-together collection of essays about animals from as long ago as 1995. From what I can tell, none of the essays have been updated in any way, which makes me wonder about some of the information in them. One of the essays, The Rabbit Outbreak, is from 2020, so I assume what she wrote about the virus raging through rabbits in the US is still mostly correct, but her essay on Keiko (Free Willy) was not updated to talk about his death. It just makes me wonder wh This book suffered from being a cobbled-together collection of essays about animals from as long ago as 1995. From what I can tell, none of the essays have been updated in any way, which makes me wonder about some of the information in them. One of the essays, The Rabbit Outbreak, is from 2020, so I assume what she wrote about the virus raging through rabbits in the US is still mostly correct, but her essay on Keiko (Free Willy) was not updated to talk about his death. It just makes me wonder what is no longer up to date in other essays.  That said, some of the essays are really interesting. Highlights were the essays about taxidermy, the woman and her tigers, and animals in movies and television. Be aware that animal abuse is written about and is hard to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    The stories are good, she an excellent writer. I don’t understand how her love of animals does not translate into not eating them!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    I enjoyed this read! I know I am enjoying a book like this if I find myself reading bits out to my husband. There were a lot of interesting facts about animals, and much to my surprise I enjoyed the chapter on mules the most 🤣🤣

  21. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    On Animals is a collection of essays that center on animals. Author Susan Orlean looks at the chickens, ducks, and guinea hens in her own backyard, as well as a woman who keeps twenty-three pet tigers. She goes to Morocco to take a look at hardworking donkeys, and follows a busy show dog. She visits Iceland to watch as a whale is set free, traces the steps taken to find a lost dog, and examines a pigeon who never gets lost. And all of these animals stories are told with Orlean’s beautiful style On Animals is a collection of essays that center on animals. Author Susan Orlean looks at the chickens, ducks, and guinea hens in her own backyard, as well as a woman who keeps twenty-three pet tigers. She goes to Morocco to take a look at hardworking donkeys, and follows a busy show dog. She visits Iceland to watch as a whale is set free, traces the steps taken to find a lost dog, and examines a pigeon who never gets lost. And all of these animals stories are told with Orlean’s beautiful style of writing after extensive research.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Master essayist and New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean gives us a delightful and enlightening collection of her essays on animals dating from 1995 to 2020. The essays first appeared in The New Yorker, The Smithsonian Magazine and something called Shutterstock.com. Every single one is a brilliant foray into the world of animals and the people who love them, not the least of whom is Orlean herself. She regales us with stories of life on her farm (not an actual working farm, but a large tract of Master essayist and New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean gives us a delightful and enlightening collection of her essays on animals dating from 1995 to 2020. The essays first appeared in The New Yorker, The Smithsonian Magazine and something called Shutterstock.com. Every single one is a brilliant foray into the world of animals and the people who love them, not the least of whom is Orlean herself. She regales us with stories of life on her farm (not an actual working farm, but a large tract of land containing a menagerie of life forms) in the Hudson Valley. Perfectly written, these stories are charming, funny and bittersweet. Her attitude and approach is best summed up when she sold the farm to move to L.A.: "I'd always dreamed that someday I would have animals all around me, in the house, in the yard, watching me in the garden, dotting the landscape, crowing in the morning, lowing in the moonlight, barking at the wind, and I had that there. I had reveled in their friendship and their strangeness; the way that they were so obvious and still so mysterious; their colors and textures, their fur and feathers; the sounds and smells of their presence. I liked the way their needs set the rhythm of every day, and how caring for them felt elemental and essential. Living among them, as I had on the farm, was just as satisfying as I imagined it would be." This is a very special collection, not just for animal lovers, but for anyone who appreciates good writing, humor and nature. Highly recommended. Thank you to Byrd's Books for a copy of this ARC.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tara Sypien

    I picked up this book knowing nothing about it, just knowing that I like the author's writing style and I like animals. I thought maybe it would be about pets and the bond between humans and animals. But it really wasn't about that at all. It was about a woman who hoarded tigers, the regulations on animals on TV, rabbit ebola, donkeys as workers, and the cost of freeing Willy plus so much more. I found this book very interesting and easy to read. I picked up this book knowing nothing about it, just knowing that I like the author's writing style and I like animals. I thought maybe it would be about pets and the bond between humans and animals. But it really wasn't about that at all. It was about a woman who hoarded tigers, the regulations on animals on TV, rabbit ebola, donkeys as workers, and the cost of freeing Willy plus so much more. I found this book very interesting and easy to read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Rubenstein

    I want to give this book a big hug. 🐓🐩🐅🐴🕊🎬🐳🐂🐂🐯🦁🐇🐼🐕‍🦺🐪🦃

  25. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Smith

    I think Susan Orlean and I would be good friends, and I can give an author no higher compliment than that. I found these tales to be sometimes touching, sometimes tough, sometimes enlightening, sometimes frightening, sometimes cheering, sometimes sad, but always, always written in a clear and open and empathetic voice, with finely sculpted prose, both evocative and intelligent. I plan to give copies to a few friends during the gift giving season so they can delight in it as did I. Caveat, I wish I think Susan Orlean and I would be good friends, and I can give an author no higher compliment than that. I found these tales to be sometimes touching, sometimes tough, sometimes enlightening, sometimes frightening, sometimes cheering, sometimes sad, but always, always written in a clear and open and empathetic voice, with finely sculpted prose, both evocative and intelligent. I plan to give copies to a few friends during the gift giving season so they can delight in it as did I. Caveat, I wish I had had the discipline to read it more slowly. To savor the essays one a week. Or, one a day even. But I gobbled the book up in a quick hurry because I so enjoyed it. Five stars

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    Susan Orlean is an entertaining writer on any subject, and this eclectic collection of previously published essays, on animals from backyard chickens and tigers (yes, backyard tigers) to working donkeys and animal actors, is a delight. My thanks to Netgalley for the digital arc.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scarlett Harris

    Chicken s̶o̶u̶p̶ for the soul

  28. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    The Amish population in America grew by 80% between 1992-2008, which consequently boosted the sale of mules (not John Deere tractors) to Amish farmers. In the essay “Riding High”—one of 16 compiled in On Animals—longtime New Yorker contributor and author Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief, The Library Book) begins with observing Afghanistan-bound soldiers taking a mule-packing military course in Nevada, moves on to the plowing habits of the Amish, and winds up with a modern-day mule auction—segueing The Amish population in America grew by 80% between 1992-2008, which consequently boosted the sale of mules (not John Deere tractors) to Amish farmers. In the essay “Riding High”—one of 16 compiled in On Animals—longtime New Yorker contributor and author Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief, The Library Book) begins with observing Afghanistan-bound soldiers taking a mule-packing military course in Nevada, moves on to the plowing habits of the Amish, and winds up with a modern-day mule auction—segueing seamlessly in a personable style that underscores her skill as a contemporary master of nonfiction journalism. What ties together these disparate elements—besides mules—is an overriding theme: we shape and are shaped by the animals in our lives, whether as pets, workers, or food. Some animals fall into multiple categories: rabbits, for instance, are the third most popular pet in America but are also the prime ingredient in rabbit fricassee (in fact, rabbit meat used to be a staple in grocery stores, until a certain Warner Bros. animated bunny came along and shifted perspectives). These hare lore info-nuggets appear in “The Rabbit Outbreak,” which examines the spread of a lethal and highly contagious rabbit virus that has been killing bunnies while COVID-19 has been felling humans (in an eerily familiar vein, Orlean details the fears of rabbit owners, the government red tape that vaccine approvals faced, and the inevitable misinformation posted on social media). The lion’s share of essays here were originally published in The New Yorker, while a few appeared in Smithsonian, including—speaking of lions—“The Lion Whisperer,” a profile of Kevin Richardson, an amiable man in South Africa who likes to roughhouse. With lions. Other essay subjects include New Jersey’s Joan Byron-Marasek and her big cats (she was a Tiger Queen long before the Tiger King), donkeys in Fez, Morocco (where narrow roads require the animals to serve as ambulances, garbage collectors, and the equivalent of Amazon delivery service), the Animal Humane Society’s work on Hollywood films (fish thespians cannot be required to do more than three takes a day), and pigeons (during WWII, pigeons were outfitted with mini-spy-cameras, serving the country as early drones). Orlean concludes with an often hilarious recounting of her years as a semi-farmer in upstate New York, where she had dogs, ducks, cattle, and chickens—the last including two Spring Flower birds of uncertain provenance (she was told they arrived from Sweden on a transatlantic flight courtesy of a woman with a “commodious” brassiere). While four of these pieces also appeared in Orlean’s earlier collections—The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup and My Kind of Place—most will be unfamiliar to the majority of readers. Sure to appeal to both animal lovers and fans of literary nonfiction, this is highly recommended. (Reviewed from an advance reading copy supplied by NetGalley).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jill Bowman

    I enjoyed reading these vignettes. Some more than others - and some I spent more time on Google, Google maps, and YouTube than I did on the stories themselves. I love animals too and I liked the oddball take on these stories. Not life changing, but interesting.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Interesting book. I enjoyed the chapter about whales most.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...