Arrivals: Five new books that speak to our animal instincts

Arrivals: Five new books that speak to our animal instincts
These new titles explore one of our most intimate relationships — the deep connection we have with our fellow creatures.

The Animal’s Companion: People & Their Pets, a 26,000-year Love Story, Jacky Colliss Harvey

The Animal’s Companion: People & Their Pets, a 26,000-year Love Story, Jacky Colliss Harvey  (Running Press)

Jacky Colliss writes, with affection and wit, of man and beast’s enduring relationship, focusing on all aspects of our bond — from choosing to losing — and has great stories about notable people and their animal companions. As a child, Abraham Lincoln ran away with his pig when he learned it was to be slaughtered. Friedrich Engels taught his dog to, in his words, “growl hideously” in the presence of an aristocrat. Lots more where those came from. This is a book to pick up and put down, perhaps with a special someone purring in your lap, asleep at your feet or perched on your shoulder. The author has cats named Bird and Daisy and divides her time between London and New York.

Mama’s Last Hug: Animal and Human Emotions, Frans de Waal

The title refers to Mama, a chimpanzee matriarch at a zoo in the Netherlands. As Mama, 59, lay dying, she was visited by biologist Jan van Hooff, 80, who had known her for 40 years. With great affection, the two hominids embrace and console each other. In his introduction, Frans de Waal (who also knew Mama) describes the scene, a moving prelude to his latest examination of the emotional similarities between animals and humans. This is the Dutch-American zoologist’s 11th book on animal sentience and consciousness. The heart-rending video of Mama and van Hooff’s final meeting can be seen on YouTube (keep a tissue close at hand).

Mutual Rescue: How Adopting a Homeless Animal Can Save You, Too, Carol Novello with Ginny Graves

A former tech executive, Carole Novello is the president of the Humane Society Silicon Valley and a fervent believer in the reciprocal benefits of animal-human companionship. This book offers umpteen case histories of people who have been helped by animals in times of grief, illness, injury, addiction and more. The book opens on Feb. 28, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. That was the day students returned to school for the first time since the massacre that killed 17 people two weeks before. The teenagers were greeted by a team of trained therapy dogs, all rescues, on duty to give emotional comfort. Novello is also the founder of Mutual Rescue, an educational campaign to rescue animals (and humans).

Humanimal: 4 Billion Years, 20,000 Genes, and the New Story of How We Became Us, Adam Rutherford

Adam Rutherford, a British geneticist, science broadcaster and author, is an amiable guide to this look at the ways in which we are members of the animal kingdom yet unequivocally at the head of the class, creaturewise. He begins with the easy stuff (toolmaking and sexual proclivities), then walks us through the tricky evolutionary journey that began two billion years ago when one cell climbed inside another. Interesting fact: most of a male giraffe’s sexual encounters are homosexual (and involve lots of necking).

I Love Birds!: 52 Ways to Wonder, Wander and Explore Birds with Kids, Jennifer Ward, illustrations Alexander Vidal

I Love Birds! is aimed at kids 4 to 8 but it’s a fine book for any human interested in learning about the avian world. There are 52 chapters, beginning in spring, ending in winter, and it’s chock full of information (each chapter has a Help Me Understand sidebar), activities (creating a simple bird bath, getting up early to hear the dawn chorus) and ideas for note taking (starting a life list, sketching birds). Parents and offspring can become avid birders in the space of a single year.
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