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Martin's Must Reads: 'On Animals'

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“Even before the cats, before the dogs, before the chickens, before the turkeys, before the ducks and the guinea fowl and the betta fish and the Black Angus cattle, I was always a little animalish.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are the opening lines to the first chapter of Susan Orlean’s collection of articles called On Animals. Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992 and most of the chapters in her book first appeared as essays in that magazine.

Her well researched chapters vary greatly on the topic of animals: from raising chickens, to a woman who collects tigers in Jackson, New Jersey, to the use of mules in wars, to a fourteen year old girl who raises and races homing pigeons in South Boston, to the American Humane’s Film and Television Unit, to the story of the millions of dollars that were spent to free the whale that starred in the movie "Free Willy," to the World Taxidermy Championships, to Kevin Richardson the lion whisperer, to lost dogs, and to donkeys who are the only taxis that can navigate the streets of Fez, Morocco.

Orlean is a wonderful writer, informative, funny and poignant..

She wrote, “Befriending a housefly, or a lion raises the question of what it means when we bond across species. Does it mean something beyond the amazing fact that it has been accomplished? ... Does it violate something fundamental,, namely, the natural order in which wild things eat us or sting us or at least avoid us, rather than snuggle with us? Or are such rare, extraordinary kinships valuable because they remind us of a continuity with living creatures that we easily forget?”

If you’re animalish, you must read On Animals by Susan Orlean.

Betty Martin was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a Lutheran pastor and his organist wife. Betty’s love of books was inspired by her father who read to all four children each night.
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