Great White Snark

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I know I've used the Groucho Marx quote "Outside of a dog, books are man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read," before. It's just a brilliant quote. And then, it's also the inspiration for the title of a book I'm going to review.

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Bethany got me this book for Christmas. At first I was like, "meh" because I don't tend to like nonfiction. But the subject matter is definitely relevant to my interests, so I gave it a shot.

Overall, this is DEFINITELY worth reading, especially (or perhaps, particularly) if you have a dog. Part of what made this feel less clinical was the fact that I could read something and be like, "Oh, (insertnamehere) does this!" I also like that Horowitz debunks the wolf-pack explanation that's been defacto since about the 60's or 70's. She uses fresh, recent and credible research (her own and others') to uncover why dogs do what they do and how we can understand them better.

The key word of the whole thing is "umwelt," which luckily I've dealt with before in lit (my major wasn't totally useless! I felt all excited because I UNDERSTOOD SCIENCE. This is a big deal to people like me. HOORAY, SELF!). But basically, Horowitz breaks down how dogs experience the world.

Most of it was stuff I knew--dogs are olfactory creatures, they are dependent on attention, etc.--but it was the depth to which she explained these things that was interesting. Like, how dogs can smell age. I had NO idea, but apparently this is fact and what makes them good trackers; they can smell decay, so they track the scent of decay.

Anyway, it's very clinical and definitely scientific (it reads like a long research paper). At least, in my mind it was super sciencey. To someone who does science all the time, it's probably simple. Despite its jargon and analytic tone, it's accessible. I mean, I got it. So you can, too. And anyone with a dog will appreciate the inside look at their best friends. So do I recommend it? Yes. To anyone with a dog. If you're dogless, not only am I deeply sorry, but you probably won't find the motivation to read this in its entirety.

Also, this:
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I already kind of rec'd this in my last post, but this book was SO good. I couldn't put it down. I finished it within 24 hours, finishing it in the wee hours. It was amazing. The Bronte family is just fascinating. This is a fact-based, fictionalized account of how the publication of Jane Eyre affected the Bronte family--most particularly Charlotte but it does mention her father, Anne, Emily and Branwell at length, which is great. Diminutive Charlotte and nearly-mad Emily always tend to take the spotlight (plus their books are the most famous), but the insight into the other members of the Bronte family was really interesting.

Do you have to have read Jane Eyre? Not necessarily, but it CERTAINLY helps. The author tends to switch tenses and scenes a lot, so one minute Charlotte is nursing her ill father and the next Jane is in Lowood. So it helps to know the story (having read The Professor and Wuthering Heights would be helpful too). Anyway, anyone who likes Jane Eyre and the Bronte family should DEFINITELY read this book.

That's all. How boring am I becoming? I'm literally on countdown for school to start. CAN'T WAIT.

And that's sad.

Oh, here's this:
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