Kenwood Press

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Living with Wildlife: 12/15/2015

Books about wildlife

Perfect Christmas gifts for nature lovers

If I ever had to make a choice between having books or animals in my life, of course, I would choose animals. It would be a difficult choice though, because my life has been as enriched by books as it has been by animals. I can’t imagine life without either, and fortunately I don’t have to. About the only thing on my Christmas list every year is books. Books are part of the furniture at our house and even if I don’t get around to reading them right away, I love being surrounded by them as well as looking forward to having the time to read them.

Even though novels are always my first choice of reading material, in order not to get in a rut, I alternate novels with non-fiction. Naturally, books about wildlife, and biographies and/or autobiographies about people who work with wildlife always appeal.

As it is the Christmas season, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite wildlife titles in this column as a gift suggestion for someone who is interested in wildlife.

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina. I recently finished this wonderful book, which came out this year. Safina is a distinguished scientist, and is obviously a scientist with a heart. This book, which focuses on elephants, wolves and whales, is written for the citizen scientist and is chock full of amazing facts. At times it is difficult to read, especially when it comes to the problems we have caused for these amazing species who were here on this earth so many millions of years before we were.

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas who wrote The Hidden Life of Dogs, has this to say about the book: “Beyond Words is a must-read. Animals think, mourn, dream, make plans, and communicate complex messages in much the same way that we do. Readers who knew this already will rejoice, others will learn the truth, and the more of us who capture this message, the sooner we will change the world.” Count me in the category of people who are rejoicing.
Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story by Dame Daphne Sheldrick. This memoir by a real hero of mine was such a good read. Dame Sheldrick is a wildlife rehabilitator in a big way: she is the first person ever to successfully rehabilitate baby elephants. She has been the subject of many television shows such as Nature and 60 Minutes, as well as newspaper and magazine articles. Her work is well known and highly regarded. Her life story is interesting on every page – not just about the elephants, and the orphans’ nursery that she eventually established – but also her personal story about leaving her first husband to marry David Sheldrick, a famous park warden. The tales of many of the individual elephants are often magical, poignant, and sometimes heartbreaking.

I especially liked the photo sections of the book. Dame Daphne is shown in most photos walking alongside elephants while wearing little cotton frocks, which is what women wore in the 50’s and 60’s. Nowadays women who work with wildlife, especially elephants, would not be caught dead in a dress.

In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell. A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Marzluff at a wildlife rehabilitators conference. He was the keynote speaker and he delighted and amazed us with tales of crows and ravens, birds that he has studied for decades. He is a professor at the University of Washington. Many of you may have seen the documentary featuring his work on the TV program Nature: A Murder of Crows.

Earlier this year I wrote a column featuring the raven family that we have been following for years. They are fascinating birds and highly intelligent, as are crows. Observing our raven neighbors, as well as the many crows we have here, made me want to learn more about them. In the Company of Crows and Ravens certainly fills in any blanks and so much more. The book is beautifully illustrated with drawings by Tony Angell.

The Marzluff book is older so may not be available in bookstores. My favorite place to order books is The stores on this website are all independent booksellers. Often the prices, especially if the book is used, are real bargains and many offer free shipping as well.

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