Fuzz by Mary Roach

At long last I read a work by eminent non-fiction author Mary Roach! She’s been on my to-read list for a long time because of her reputation for entertaining and accessible explanations of various topics, and I finally took the plunge with her most recent, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law.

In this wide-ranging volume Roach explores the field of “wildlife-human conflict” – the zone in which the natural world infringes on human activity and the various methods used to control, combat, or understand that invasion. This includes the predators you’d expect: bears, elephants, leopards, and the like, but also invasive non-native species, dangerous trees, destructive birds, and the cute creatures with unexpected impacts on the ecosystem. Also covered are a wide variety of anti-wildlife strategies including frightening devices (most notably a screaming tube dude), lasers, monkey birth control, poisoned beans, and many more. The book ultimately coalesces around a meditation on humanity and its various approaches to nature – those who coexist, those who condemn, and those who struggle to know determine the right decision.

I enjoyed Roach’s humor, and that the book challenges the idea of human supremacy while still sympathizing with those whose livelihoods (or just their lives) are endangered by wildlife behaviors. I also appreciated the global scope of Roach’s survey and how vividly she renders the people she works with along the way.

If you’re a non-fiction reader, science lover, animal lover, or looking for an entertaining learning experience, give this book a try.

A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall

Perhaps I thought about this blogging assignment a bit less conventionally, because the pet I read about is, if you didn’t guess it from the title, a lion.   A Lion Called Christian by Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall tells the story of how the two men bought a male lion cub named Christian from a department store in London back in the ’70s (who knew they sold lions?!) and cared for him for several months.  For the bulk of this time, the guys and their lion lived above a furniture store, where Christian got to play and interact with the customers.  Ace and John learned how to train Christian, feed him, and play with him in a safe way.  As Christian got older and more restless, the two men knew that something had to change and found a way to move him to Africa after being “rehabilitated” and learning how to survive in the wild with a pride.

This book was very interesting and I learned a lot about lions from it.  Even though I’m sure Christian’s story is unusual, it was fun to hear about how lion cubs play and interact.  The end was very inspiring; it was clear that Ace and John had nothing but Christian’s best interests at heart.  Though I hate to spoil the ending of the book for you, I simply must direct you to this YouTube video.  It’s actually how I originally heard Christian’s story, and it’s really heartwarming.