Cover Image: On Animals

On Animals

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Member Reviews

Susan Orlean can write about anything she wants to and it is going to be an engaging, interesting read. I loved The Library Book and so I couldn't wait to read On Animals. It did not disappoint.

Each chapter could stand alone with one on dogs, another on mules and donkeys, and one on chickens (I'm still rolling with laughter over "Chicken Orlean.") Don't miss the chapter on the Tiger Lady! There are sixteen chapters and each is fascinating.

Orlean's style is so accessible and as a reader I feel like I'm sitting in the room talking with her. You may also consider the audiobook as the author has done the reading for this one.

Loved On Animals and thank NewGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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I wasn't sure what to expect with this book.  My initial thoughts were something similar to the popular "Chicken Soup for the Soul" type of books. Nope, On Animal was not even close.  These were longer essays or articles on a variety of topics.  Once again, I thank NetGalley for introducing me to a "new to me" author who has been well published for years (decades).  Like any assembly of essays, you are bound to like some more than others.  I really liked the homing pigeon essay; I had no idea that there was a highly transmittable rabbit disease; it was interesting to read about all the controversy regarding the Free Willy killer whale (Keiko).  There was a little bit of overlap in a couple of essays; that was bound to happen as well.  They were originally written over the course of decades and then I just read them all at the same time.  Anybody who has a love of animals will likely enjoy this book and find something new.

Thank you to NetGalley, Susan Orlean the author and Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this advance read copy of On Animals.  Release date is 12 Oct 2021.
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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).
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A collection of interesting  essays Susan Orleans has written about animals and her love for them.  Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for this ARC.
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On Animals features sixteen essays on animals, domestic and wild from the past two decades. Susan Orlean's writing is brilliant, thoroughly research, and engaging. I love her humor and flow of stories. This was a really delightful read for any animal-lover!
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I learned a whole lot of fascinating things about many different kinds of animals and their relationships with humans!
Some stuff I sort of knew (like the training of USMC to utilize mules and other pack animals in mountainous terrains like Afghanistan), and pigeons not used in war like they were in The War To End All Wars, but where racing pigeons have sold for over $200,000. Then there's the history of chickens in the suburbs, a woman who had acres of tigers in New Jersey, the world of dog shows and proper breeding (as opposed to *puppy Mills*), regulations and stories regarding animals (even locusts and worms!) while filming movies/TV (organization Animal Humane).
The writing style is easy and characteristic of her New Yorker articles but does, rarely, sanitize a bit.
I requested and received a free review copy from Simon and Schuster Publishers via NetGalley. Thank you!
Now I have to get a copy for Zelda with her farm!
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The newest work from prolific Susan Orlean is a series of essays on animals- mostly wild animals, farm animals- not usually thought of as pets. Each essay is a unique glimpse into the history and life of each animal as well as an interesting anecdotal story.

There is an essay about the lions in Africa, and one particular man who lives among a few as virtual pets. Another essay is about the tigers of New Jersey (of which there are more than you'd think!), and a woman who ran her own personal preserve, under public and legal pressure, for years. We become informed about the various types of whales, and one individual whale named Keiko (the whale from the original 'Free Willy' film) who traveled across the globe before setting himself free. There is also an essay about show dogs, dog breeders, and the life of a famous show dog with his trainers and his family, and an essay about the working donkeys of Morocco.

The final chapter is about Orlean's own home and being caretaker to various species of animals. She has a personal fondness for chickens and has transferred her family of animals from New York to Los Angeles multiple times as her human family has moved. 

Highly recommended to animal lovers who wish to learn more about the less popular animals and animal cultures of the planet.
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Interesting compilation of essays on different animals. Some essays are really interesting and others are of average interest, however, this interest will probably vary by individual reader. The author writes well.
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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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Glad I got a chance to read this. Some chapters were a little more interesting than others. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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This was a fun treat of a read! It’s not particularly deep or intricately woven. But each of these pieces is thoughtful and engaging. A great book to keep nearby to dip in and out of in the rush of everyday life. I’m excited to read this author’s backlist. Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book.
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I was hoping for more of Orlean’s sweeping style but alas, these essays were a bit dull by comparison. One at a time they’re okay but I didn’t enjoy reading them all at once.
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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.
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A fun collection of essays about animals ranging from mules to pigeons to tigers to bunnies to camels and lots in between.  The focus is on the interactions between people and animals and how they fit (or are made to fit) within our world.  Told with Orlean's signature style of humor, detail, and personal involvement, it's a fun and edifying read.  Good for fans of Mary Roach.
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