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On Animals

‘Every essay in this book is magnificent… Mesmerizing.’ New York Times

‘How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages,’ writes Susan Orlean. Since the age of six, when Orlean wrote and illustrated a book called Herbert the Near-Sighted Pigeon, she’s been drawn to stories about how we live with animals, and how they abide by us. Now, in On Animals, she examines animal-human relationships through the compelling tales she has written over the course of her celebrated career.

These stories consider a range of creatures the household pets we dote on, the animals we raise to end up as meat on our plates, the creatures who could eat us for dinner, the various tamed and untamed animals we share our planet with who are central to human life. In her own backyard, Orlean discovers the delights of keeping chickens. In a different backyard, in New Jersey, she meets a woman who has twenty-three pet tigers something none of her neighbours knew about until one of the tigers escapes. In Iceland, the world’s most famous whale resists the efforts to set him free; in Morocco, the world’s hardest-working donkeys find respite at a special clinic. We meet a show dog and a lost dog and a pigeon who knows exactly how to get home.

Equal parts delightful and profound, enriched by Orlean’s stylish prose and precise research, these stories celebrate the meaningful cross-species connections that grace our collective existence.

The Animal's Companion

A unique and compelling exploration of why humans need animal companions – from dogs and cats to horses, birds and reptiles – as seen through the eyes of bestselling author Jacky Colliss Harvey.

In The Animal’s Companion, the acclaimed author of Red: A Natural History of the Redhead explores the human desire to share our everyday life with pets, a history that can be traced back to a cave in France where evidence has been unearthed of a boy and his dog taking a walk together, some 26,000 years ago.

From those preserved foot and paw prints, Colliss Harvey draws on literary, artistic and archaeological artefacts to sweep readers through centuries and across continents to examine how our relationships with our pets have developed, but also stayed very much the same. Through delightful stories of the most famous, endearing and sometimes eccentric pet owners throughout history, she suggests fascinating new insights into one of the most long-standing of all human love affairs.