The Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke

*I did receive a digital version of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.*

    Humorous or comedic nonfiction is a very underrated genre that has some absolute gems in it. Lucy Cooke’s The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife is certainly among these gems. This book is a close-up examination of some of the most bizarre traits and behaviors of some of our friends in the animal kingdom. With each animal profile, the author looks at both our past and current understanding of that species and we our predecessors got it completely wrong and where we are still in the dark on why some animals do the things they do. And let me tell you, it cannot be overstated how hilarious some of the early naturalists’ thought and musing were, especially on creatures they had no actual contact with!

    It’s honestly hard to pick out any real flaws with this book. Perhaps the author refers back to the antics and writings of the 18th century naturalists of Lazzaro Spallanzani and Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon too often. However, it would be a shame to have not included how crazy some of these earlier scientists thought and performed their experiments. Spallazani was an Italian biologist/physiologist with some… unorthodox ways of setting up experiments. It should be noted that many of these experiments would be considered animal abuse now, so keep that in consideration. The Comte de Buffon on the other hand was a French naturalist and writer who authored a thirty-six volume encyclopedia of Natural History, many of the volumes dealing with the animal world that include some insanely comical anecdotes and assumptions.
    The Truth About Animals isn’t all just fluff though. It has an excellent balance of the comedic and hard science. There are many appearances of dedicated scientists both past and present making serious headway into furthering our understanding of the natural world. These vignettes of current scientists in the field add a nice dimension to the work by demonstrating that even crazy sounding science (such as biologists having to castrate wild hippos in Columbia!) is serious work with important implications. Lastly, this book leaves you wanting more despite how jam packed the book is with information on the animals covered in the book. Some of this information will be permanently burned into your brain such as the sloth version of Tinder… I particularly enjoyed the chapter on moose as they are an animal that I see somewhat frequently where I live. Many myths about moose are busted and I certainly learned new things about these northern giants, particularly when it comes to whether or not they can get drunk off all the apples they eat.
    Overall, The Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke was a blast to read and was a lot of fun. Not too many science books can claim that. The humorous references and anecdotes are spot on and show both the folly of our predecessors as well as how much further we still need to go ourselves. I highly recommend this book if you want an enjoyable book about the animal kingdom and you don’t mind some laughter with your learning.
    5 out of 5 stars.

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