On Animals by Susan Orlean [7/10]

Susan Orlean is a brilliant writer and indefatigable researcher driven by her startlingly varied fancies. “On Animals” gathers up sixteen essay articles from the last quarter century, mostly from The New Yorker. A self-confessed animal lover, albeit one more typically at home in an American city, Orlean writes about laboring donkeys in Morocco, her own chicken-owning experiences, the strangeness and popularity of pandas, a “lion whisperer,” the world of taxidermy, and pigeon racing in Boston. She is a smooth, individualistic stylist, able to throw in barbed humor whilst expounding history and technicalities in a readable yet intelligent manner. I was most swept up by the author’s wry but heartfelt narrative of the life of Keiko, an Orca whale who achieves stardom, and a spotlight essay on Biff, a prizewinning show dog. Entertaining and educational (in the best way), On Animals is sure to delight anyone curious about our non-human earthly neighbors.

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