Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem

Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America. Jon Mooallem's subtitle pretty much sums up his book's topic and its appeal. Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction covers similar ground, but oh, is it ever depressing. I was grateful for Mooallem's lighter approach. He is indeed "weirdly reassuring" as he investigates human responses to three species: polar bears, an endangered butterfly, and whooping cranes.

Mooallem wanders off onto fascinating tangents, like the origin of the toy teddy bear. The author has a young daughter and he noticed that she is surrounded by animal imagery on her things and in her picture books. What real animals will be left in the natural world when she grows up? He brought her along with him on his road trips while writing this book to give her the opportunity to see rare animals.

You can hear Mooallem read some of this work together with musical accompaniment online via the 99% Invisible podcast. That's how I learned about Wild Ones. I'm so glad that I did.

I listened to the Penguin unabridged audiobook [10 hr. 16 min.] narrated by Fred Sanders. It would be a great all-ages choice for a family road trip.

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