Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Born Free [Book Review]

Relationships cross many different species, and animal-human relationships may be the most special. For today’s “Book Review Thursday”, Animal Culture would like to share a very special book about a human-lion relationship.

First, however, we would like to share one of our favorite videos, just to get the heart pumping and the tears flowing. *Note: The shirtless guy in the end of the video is George Adamson, the husband of the below book’s author, Joy Adamson.*

Happy Reading, All!

Title: Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds

Author: Joy Adamson

Synopsis: “Joy Adamson’s story of a lion cub in transition between the captivity in which she is raised and the fearsome wild to which she is returned captures the abilities of both humans and animals to cross the seemingly unbridgeable gap between their radically different worlds. Especially now, at a time when the sanctity of the wild and its inhabitants is increasingly threatened by human development and natural disaster, Adamson’s remarkable tale is an idyll, and a model, to return to again and again.” 

ISBN: 0375714383

Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds (Story of Elsa, #1)


The Adamsons – Joy and George – became recognized from the hit book, A Lion Called Christian, in which they had helped rehabilitate Christian, a pet lion, back into the wild (see video above).  However, their work with lions did not start with Christian, and Born Free takes you back to the beginning.

And it all began with Elsa.  Born Free is the account and adventure of lioness Elsa’s life, and the difficult task Elsa provided for her human parents, Joy (the author) and George (her husband) Adamson.  Raised by the Adamsons since she was a baby, Elsa treated them as her lion pride, and they treated her as their child, however never forgetting the fact that she was a wild lion.  Her life with them flew by as she grew from a cub into a full-size, and eventually a wild, lioness.

The story itself is touching, and it transports you through its writing.  Joy Adamson has written quite a few books, and her written language reads like she is having a face-to-face conversation with the reader.  Her writing flows, and it feels as if you are experiencing Elsa’s life with the Adamsons.  Joy is a professional painter and photographer as well, and her beautiful pictures of Elsa, Africa, and the unlikely family’s adventures are scattered throughout the pages, which makes it an even more intriguing read.  The ending of the book, which is comprised of letters from George to Joy, adds an even more personal touch to the readers.  

Animal stories have a way of providing a different perspective to the world – especially if they are true – and Born Free is one of those books that will touch your heart and stay in your mind for a while after it is read. The ending of the book, and ultimately the Adamson’s time with Elsa, made the entire book worth it, and you will walk away with tears in your eyes and a happy heart.

Purchase it at Amazon.com here: Born Free

Have you read this book? What was your take on it? Join the discussion below!

*Note: The synopsis was taken from Goodreads.com. The review was written by © Kalie Lyn 2011, originally published on her personal blog, Palm Trees & Bare Feet.*

A Primate’s Memoir [Book Review]

There is honestly nothing better than a funny book, except maybe a funny book about animals. For today’s “Book Review Thursday”, we at Animal Culture have brought you a gut-wrenching (the good kind), hilarious memoir.

This one needs little introduction, so Happy Reading, All!

Title: A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons

Author: Robert Sapolsky

Robert M. Sapolsky

We couldn’t resist posting this little gem of the author himself! (Photo Via: Goodreads.com)

Synopsis: “Over two decades, Sapolsky survives culinary atrocities, gunpoint encounters, and a surreal kidnapping, while witnessing the encroachment of the tourist mentality on the farthest vestiges of unspoiled Africa. As he conducts unprecedented physiological research on wild primates, he becomes evermore enamored of his subjects — unique and compelling characters in their own right — and he returns to them summer after summer, until tragedy finally prevents him. By turns hilarious and poignant, A Primate’s Memoir is a magnum opus from one of our foremost science writers.”

ISBN: 0743202414

A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons


This is the true story of one man’s life among the baboons of Kenya. Scientist Robert Sapolsky had only prepared to study the mental and physical behaviors of the baboons, but instead he found a life of adventure and formed his own primate family. From developing close bonds with the baboons, to learning the way of the Masai people (and often messing with them), Sapolsky takes readers on his more than twenty year journey through Africa.

Naturally hilarious and honest, A Primate’s Memoir is an exciting and entertaining read. His writing is quick and to the point, and his witty, often sarcastic humor makes this book that much more enjoyable. Each chapter contains a unique story, and whether he is being kidnapped and shot at, or playing a “wizard” in the Masai village, Sapolsky’s true-life tales never disappoint.

The chapters highlighting his time with the baboons are entertaining and raw. Sapolsky describes each member of his primate troop as if he were describing close human friends, and even admits to developing a baboon crush, along with a special human-baboon friendship. However, it is not all fun and games, and his research of the baboons is detailed throughout, allowing the reader an in-depth look into the exhilarating, yet tiresome days of a scientist.

A Primate’s Memoir is a funny, clever, and ultimately heartbreaking account of Robert Sapolsky’s experience in wild Africa. Highly recommended, this is definitely a book for animal lovers and science enthusiasts alike.

Purchase it at Amazon.com here: A Primate’s Memoir

Have you read this book? What was your take on it? Join the discussion below!

*Note: The synopsis was taken from Goodreads.com. The review was written by © Kalie Lyn 2011, originally published on her personal blog, Palm Trees & Bare Feet.*


Unlikely Friendships [Book Review]

First off, Animal Culture would like to apologize for our hiatus. With our author, Kalie Lyn, traveling back to the United States from Spain, and readjusting to her busy work schedule as an animal care giver and pet groomer, life outside of the blogosphere has been quite hectic. But we are back, and ready to get the animal show back on the road!

We start back up with “Book Review Thursday”, and boy, do we have a book for you! From former National Geographic senior writer, Jennifer S. Holland, comes 47 different heartwarming stories of inter-species animal friendships.

So grab a hot cup of tea (since Spring doesn’t seem to be here yet), along with a furry cuddle buddy, and enjoy this week’s book recommendation!

Title: Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom

Author: Jennifer S. Holland

Synopsis: “Real friendship knows no bounds, and it’s not only humans who need it. Unlikely Friendships tells one story after another of animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways and thrive on the warmth, closeness, and trust that come with being true friends.” 

ISBN: 0761159134

Unlikely Friendships : 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom


It’s the front cover of Unlikely Friendships that grabs your attention first, and instantly makes you fall in love with the book. Once those pages are flipped open, the intriguing yet often little known world of the animal kingdom is revealed, and each of the 47 stories captivates you, making you want to discover more.

Explore the unique friendships of birds and mammals (The Owl and the Greyhound), domestic and wild animals (The Sled Dog and the Polar Bear), and predators and prey (The Leopard and the Cow). Complete with breathtaking photographs, the stories of these real-life inter-species friendships are truly fascinating. The author, Jennifer S. Holland, not only entertains, but also educates with facts about each different animal featured in the book, and exposes the world of animal emotions, something that is usually reserved for humans only.

Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland is one of those books that you pass on to others, and one that will definitely bring your mind and heart joy.  A highly recommended read, you will yearn for more cuteness once you are finished!

Purchase it at Amazon.com here: Unlikely Friendships

Have you read this book? What was your take on it? Join the discussion below!

*Note: The synopsis was taken from Goodreads.com. The review was written by © Kalie Lyn 2014.*

When Elephants Weep [Book Review]

Animal Culture is guilty of committing anthropomorphism, ascribing human emotions to animals, and you know what? We don’t care! Yes, we know that animals are a whole other species from humans. We know they lead a more savage, wild life. And we also know that they are unable to build societies, and rule nations, making them less intelligent beings than we are. However, we can not deny their emotions.

While they may feel and express them differently than we humans do, animals do have them. Joy, sadness, excitement, fear, animals – from spiders to elephants – exhibit similar emotions as humans.

In today’s “Book Review Thursday”, we will explore these animal emotions, and the evidence behind them. We will witness birds love, elephants cry, and wild animal parents protecting their young, even if that means risking their own lives.

Happy Reading All!

Title:  When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Elephants

Author: Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Synopsis: “From dancing squirrels to bashful gorillas to spiteful killer whales, Masson and coauthor Susan McCarthy bring forth fascinating anecdotes and illuminating insights that offer powerful proof of the existence of animal emotion. Chapters on love, joy, anger, fear, shame, compassion, and loneliness are framed by a provocative re-evaluation of how we treat animals, from hunting and eating them to scientific experimentation. Forming a complete and compelling picture of the inner lives of animals,When Elephants Weep assures that we will never look at animals in the same way again.” 

ISBN: 0385314280 

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals


Every pet parent will admit to committing anthropomorphism – ascribing human emotions to animals – on a daily basis.  We can see that our dog feels happy, that our cat feels playful, or that our turtle feels content; most people do not deny that non-human animals share some basic human emotions.  However, in the scientific community, committing anthropomorphism is essentially looked upon as a sin.

In When Elephants Weep, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson challenges people – scientists, researchers, and non-scientists alike – to come to terms with the fact that animals do seem to have emotions.  Focusing on the basic human emotions people are most able to relate to, such as joy, love, anger, fear, shame, etc., this book provides compelling examples of non-human animals portraying and experiencing emotions much like people do.  Some of these anecdotes that Masson provides as he argues that animals do have emotions and feelings include: the love shown in animals who mate for life, the fear evident in the animals’ eyes during dangerous encounters, and the sorrow they feel when one of their kind passes away.

Included with the examples are scholarly explanations from biologists, ethologists, and animal behaviorists of the emotions animals have been seen portraying.  Masson’s theory that animals do experience emotions is backed up by some of the leading people whom have dedicated their lives to studying animals.  While he gives detailed examples, and convinces the reader of his point, he is not biased in any way.  He also provides anecdotes and opinions from acclaimed scientists and researchers whom do not believe animals can feel emotions, and through this, he allows the reader to keep an open mind.

When Elephants Weep is one of those books that you continue to think about long after you have read it. However, this is not just a book for those with passions for animals; this is also a book for those simply curious about emotions and how those emotions affect every living thing, and also for those wishing to dive into a world known little by humans.

Purchase it at Amazon.com here: When Elephants Weep

Have you read this book? What was your take on it? Join the discussion below!

*Note: The synopsis was taken from Goodreads.com. The review was written by © Kalie Lyn 2011, originally published on her personal blog, Palm Trees & Bare Feet.*

Babylon’s Ark [Book Review]

Animal Culture is in Madrid, Spain with author, Kalie Lyn. We mark our second “Book Review Thursday” with a book about animals affected by war.

Almost two years ago, in 2012, Kalie Lyn read this book while living in Spain. Reading while traveling to and from home on the metros and trains, she would be mentally transported from the crowded, hot public transportation to a place where the books would take her. This specific book took her to Baghdad, Iraq, where one man risked his life to save the lives of animals.

Happy Reading All!

Title:  Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo

Author: Lawrence Anthony

Synopsis: “When the Iraq war began, conservationist Lawrence Anthony could think of only one thing: the fate of the Baghdad Zoo, located in the city center and caught in the war’s crossfire. Once Anthony entered Baghdad he discovered that full-scale combat and uncontrolled looting had killed nearly all the animals of the zoo.
But not all of them. U.S. soldiers had taken the time to help care for the remaining animals, and the zoo’s staff had returned to work in spite of the constant firefights. Together the Americans and Iraqis had managed to keep alive the animals that had survived the invasion.” 

ISBN: 0312358326

Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo


When tragedy strikes, whether it is war or a natural disaster, the lives of people are everyone’s first priority.  However, humans are not the only ones affected during tough times, and it seems that animals, who suffer as much if not more, are often forgotten about or left behind.  In Lawrence Anthony’s Babylon’s Ark, the true-life rescue of the animals in war-torn Baghdad reminds us how truly devastating war can be on every being.

Beginning with the frantic rush to try to save Baghdad’s zoo, Lawrence Anthony captivates you from the first page.  His reasons for going to Iraq are honorable, and his struggles throughout his journey bring both tears of sorrow and sighs of relief as the lives of neglected animals are fought for in a city that is already fighting.  However, the book not only highlights the animal’s lives, but also the people of Baghdad and the city itself.  Brave soldiers, Iraqis, and foreigners are thrown together in an unlikely situation, as they not only help the zoo’s animals, but also the mistreated and abandoned animals of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein and his sons.

Lawrence Anthony writes with such passion that the 245 page book took me only days to read as I hesitated to put it down, and the pictures comprised in the middle bring all the scenes to life.  The ending was my favorite as Anthony dedicated a chapter to how everyone could make a difference not only for animals and people, but for Planet Earth in general.  Babylon’s Ark definitely sheds a different light on the Iraq war, and is a highly recommended read for all avid readers and animal lovers.

Purchase it at Amazon.com here: Babylon’s Ark

Have you read this book? What was your take on it? Join the discussion below!

*Note: The synopsis was taken from Goodreads.com. The review was written by © Kalie Lyn 2012, originally published on her personal blog, Palm Trees & Bare Feet.*

In the Shadow of Man [Book Review]

Eighty years ago today, on April 3rd, 1934, a real-life heroine was born.

Our story starts in England, where a young girl dreamed of Africa. At the tender age of 26, her dream became a reality and she left everything and everyone she knew to move to the remote forests of Tanganyika (now known as Tanzania).

Instead of a cape, she wore rugged shorts and button down tops. Instead of supernatural powers, she had her mind. Instead of bearing a weapon, she bore binoculars and a notebook. And instead of fighting crime, she fought for the research and understanding of wild chimpanzees.

This real-life heroine, who turns 80 years old today, is none other than Jane Goodall. World renowned primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall shaped the way we see primates, specifically chimpanzees. She discovered their ability to make and use tools, something that, at the time, was only thought to be a trait of man. She noted down their social and societal similarities to humans, both good and bad, such as friendship, play time, and even war. However, most importantly, she changed the way we saw animals as a whole. Instead of simple, mindless creatures, Jane Goodall taught the world that animals are emotional, complex beings.

Today, on April 3rd, 2014, we celebrate the life of Dr. Goodall, and her years of hard work, dedication, and research in the animal community. Animal Culture was created for animal lovers and for people who strive to preserve the welfare and rights of all animals, something Jane Goodall worked hard to do.

So, to commemorate the first “Book Review Thursday” of Animal Culture, nothing would be more fitting than to feature one of the many books by Jane Goodall.

Happy Birthday Jane Goodall & Happy Reading All!


Title:  In the Shadow of Man

Author: Jane Goodall

Synopsis: ”This best-selling classic tells the story of one of the world’s greatest scientific adventures. Jane Goodall was a young secretarial school graduate when the legendary Louis Leakey chose her to undertake a landmark study of chimpanzees in the wild. In the Shadow of Man is an absorbing account of her early years at Gombe Stream Reserve, telling us of the remarkable discoveries she made as she got to know the chimps and they got to know her.” 

ISBN: 0547334168

 In the Shadow of Man



Almost everyone has heard of Jane Goodall and her work with the chimpanzees.  However, the stories of the chimpanzees themselves, and what made Jane fall in love with them in the first place, is something not everyone is familiar with.  In the Shadow of Man is a book about those stories, and about the early years, which would become many years, of Jane Goodall’s study, research, and fascination with human’s closest living relatives.

Not only is this book informational and descriptive about the complex lives of chimpanzees, but it also reads like an entertaining tale as you follow the lives of the different chimps Jane Goodall comes to know and love.  You learn the stories of Flo, the old chimp mother, and her family; you grow to love one of Jane’s favorite chimps, David Greybeard; and you feel the pain Jane Goodall felt when nature takes its course in the chimpanzee world.

Not only are the chimps the center of the book, but readers also get a glimpse into the personal life of Jane Goodall herself.  You follow her on her beginning adventures when she first steps into the Gombe forest, and continue on her journey through research, marriage, and the birth of her own son.  Throughout the book, it feels as if Jane is actually speaking to you, the reader, and it is this aspect of In the Shadow of Man that sparks you to keep reading.

Filled with adventure, surprise, facts, and detailed accounts of the behaviors and lives of wild chimpanzees, this book is for animal-lovers, scientists, and avid readers alike.  Whether you are familiar with Jane Goodall or not, In the Shadow of Man is a highly recommended read, and one that is worth your time and money.


Purchase it at Amazon.com here: In the Shadow of Man


*Note: The synopsis was taken from Goodreads.com. The review was written by © Kalie Lyn 2011, originally published on her personal blog, Palm Trees & Bare Feet.*
*Sources: Janegoodall.org*