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Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story about Looking at People Looking at Animals in America [Hardcover]

Jon Mooallem
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (16 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420442X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204425
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Wild Ones Field notes from an age of extinction, tracking the ever-shifting meaning of America's animals throughout history to understand the current moment. "Wild Ones" is a tour through the environmental moment and the eccentric cultural history of people and wild animals in America that inflects it. Full description

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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 18 Sep 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  70 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, engaging, and thought-provoking 17 April 2013
By R. Schwenk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As suggested by the subtitle, this book looks at the people who devote themselves to the conservation of endangered species in the United States and Canada. Mooallem has spent huge amounts of time with these conservationists, interviewing them, following them, even helping out as a volunteer. We get to learn a lot about some endangered species, what it takes to keep them from going extinct, and how dedicated the people are who work to save them.

The book is exceptionally well-written. Mooallem tells many compelling stories, introduces us to a string of memorable characters, past and present, and meditates eloquently on the philosophy of conservation and our relationship with nature. He was motivated to explore this topic when he observed that Isla, his young daughter, is surrounded by pictures, books, and toys depicting wild animals, some of whom will undoubtedly go extinct during her lifetime. This proves to be a rich vein for philosophical meditation as he ponders what kind of world we are leaving for our children and how will they feel about our negligence.

Mooallem explores the history of conservation from the time when all wild animals were killed for sport and economic reasons through the passage of the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s and on to the present. The idea that a species could go extinct was never considered by the early European settlers of the New World. The abundance of wildlife and the vast domain of wilderness conspired with the notion that God would never allow a species to disappear. The extinction of the passenger pigeon and the near extinction of the bison became a sort of wake-up call to human empathy for wild things. Ironically, long before the Europeans arrived, North America had suffered calamitous extinctions (see the The Ghosts Of Evolution Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, And Other Ecological Anachronisms) possibly caused by the first arrival of humans.

The author introduces us (sympathetically) to the many obsessed characters working to preserve such varied creatures as polar bears, butterflies, and whooping cranes. We get to see just how hard they work, how much they have to struggle to save what they can, and how often people generously assist them. The sad story is that the struggle seems so futile. How much human intervention into the lives of these animals can we perform and still consider the creatures wild? Most veteran conservationists end up feeling like it's all been a waste of time.

There is one problem with the book: Readers may lose hope that conserving species is worthwhile. Strangely, this demoralizing "truth" may be crucial to convincing people that humanity's footprint is far too large. If polar bears cause us to get serious about global warming, then they may turn out to be the real conservationists.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 2 July 2013
By DM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Let me skip to the punchline: This book is brilliant. Such an entertaining read. So smart, so funny. It's really profound, too, but that part of it sneaks up on you, because you're having such a good time traveling around the country with Mooallem, meeting all these vivid characters, listening to the author tell crazy true stories from our history. It's a perfect weekend or vacation read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I bought this book. Read it. Then I bought two more for friends. You should too. 13 Aug 2013
By David Klatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Here's a note I just wrote to my brother to get him to buy this book:

This guy, Jon Mooallem, takes a look at three animals and their habitats -- the polar bear, the Lange's metalmark butterfly and the whooping crane -- and tells the stories of the people who live near them and work to preserve them, which brings him to bigger questions, including why we humans work our asses off (or not) to preserve some animals and not others.

This book is full of stories about the early days of Americans interacting with nature, stories we tell ourselves about the natural world, and one in particular that reveals just how far out of his way Thomas Jefferson once went to show a French official just how much bigger the moose are over in America.

If you like looking at animals (cool), or watching people look at them (creepy, but OK), take a look at this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read! 17 May 2013
By Brett Farrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Sometimes these "people looking at people who..." books can be very dull and full of far to many of the authors opinions and biases but this book manages to look fairly and generally subjectively at all parties concerned and with a style that makes putting this book down very dificult to do. The authors journeys are riveting and he always takes you to the begining of each creatures conservational origins (when people first started to care about them). There is a great amount of detail through out so you don't feel left out of reach of any of what the author is talking about but it all also explained in laymens terms so you are never confused. This was a wonderful book and I will keep it in my library for ever.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quirky look into the world of 'saving' animals... 1 Sep 2013
By Sart Dart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As Mooallem writes about those who look at animals, I find myself falling straight into the category of people who are most interested in big fuzzy things: polar bears. (I guess he nailed it!) Mooallem has captured we human animal-viewers so well. His book is about animals, and people, and people looking at animals, and people trying to save animals, and animals disregarding the lines and laws and rules and boundaries that we humans try to put up to protect, control, herd, coerce... love(?) that which we want to see in the wild. This book does not preach, it does not try to convince. It is simply a window into the world we most likely thought was much simpler than it actually is. We thought it was just wild, but in reality those "Wild Ones" are micromanaged by the nitty-gritty nuances of eccentric human ideas of how to save them. Some ideas work, some don't, some hearts continue, some pitter out with dismay. And yet, after this breakdown of strange human behavior, I still found excitement in picking up a stunned bird, holding it for five minutes, developing a "relationship" with it, looking it in the eye, until it flew off when it was ready. An unusual moment in the interface of humans and animals.
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