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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2009
I bought this book as a dog lover, being fascinated by the relationship between man and animals, and found this a truly delightful, inspiring, moving and most of all thoughtful read. I couldn't put this book down and suprisingly found it a more enjoyable read than most of the other, lighter, books I have bought this year. Buy it and prepare to reflect more deeply on the important questions in life, and what makes us who we are.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
I put this book on my Christmas list having read a couple of extracts in newspaper supplements; I'm very glad that I did.

The strange thing is that, because it felt like I'd read so much of the book in the published extracts, I felt I knew exactly what I was getting: a moving account of a man's experience living with a wolf. I nearly typed "owning" but, if you read the book, you will appreciate how inappropriate that term would be.

However, I was a long way off the mark in my expectations. Yes, the moving and funny accounts of life with an essentially wild animal were still there, there's definitely a wolf, but there's also the philosopher.

The author turns his expert mind on the experience of sharing 11 years of his life with Brenin to a wonderfully though-provoking extent. I found myself wanting to read the book to experience the journey of life with the wolf, but also wanting to check my progress to contemplate the issues on life and people raised.

It turns out living with a wolf shines a significant light on how we are as people. That Rowland's ultimate analysis of homo sapiens is somewhat unflattering (that our intelligence is driven by our need to understand our peers so that we can deceive them more and use them for our own purposes) doesn't make it wrong.

The book is both enlightening and uplifting and I recommend it whole-heartedly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2009
This is an incredible book, extremely moving, contains a lot of philosophying but is never boring. The author cleverly mixes philosophy with narrative creating a remarkable book. I imagine animal lovers will get the most out of this book but I urge everyone to read it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This is a book with three entwined strands. There is the story of Brenin, the author's wolf: his life and behaviour, and his impact on Rowlands' own life. There are philosophical discussions that spin off from anecdotes about the wolf. And, implicit in both, there is the journey, the pathology, of the misanthropic, solitary man who is telling us all this.

The writing is thoroughly engaging: often humorous, always (so far as one can judge) honest and diligent. Rowlands, philosopher that he is, examines his assumptions as he goes, questions his own interpretations of events even as he presents them. The philosophical excursions are not technical or ground-breaking: this is a work for a general audience, not one intended to advance his own field; but nor are they new-age bubblegum. The links between those discussions and the lupine anecdotes from which they arise are genuine and clear, not contrived as they easily could have been. This makes for a satisfyingly rounded book.

Rowlands does not hide his own failings as a human being (though he would question what could be meant by 'success'), and so we see not only how much he adjusts his life to accommodate his furry companion, but also how dependent he in turn, alcoholic and otherwise alone, becomes on the love of his 'pack-brother'. This is both moving and a little strange, as he is quick to acknowledge. The 'Lessons' he learns from the wolf (or from reflecting on the way it lives) have real substance. I felt he laboured his points towards the end, in discussing our relationship with time, but he makes a worthwhile case.

Withal, the most immediately thrilling parts are the tales of Brenin the wolf: Destroyer Of Furniture, long-distance runner, globe-trotting philosophy student. Rowlands' descriptions of the animal are filled with warmth and acute observation. I came away in no doubt as to the privilege it had been for this man to have the companionship of such a creature, even through a time of desperate illness, and of the boon the bond had been for both of them. And as it happens, the fact that it is these intense 'moments' that strike the reader most is vindication of Rowlands' thesis. A life-affirming read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is more of a diary than a novel, without the restrictions of a diary. It is thought provoking to a point where one would like to sit around the table and discuss Rowland's philosophy openly and patiently with open-minded friends, who have also read it.
It is not a book that one would read from cover to cover in one go; there is too much there to ponder over. It requires patience and time to absorb, accept or reject his thoughts.
I would strongly recommend "The Philosopher and The Wolf" to anyone prepared for a challenge. It is not difficult to read, but it just requires time.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2009
This is an IMPORTANT book. It is principally a philosophical work that breaks the mould of much of the trend of Western thought while addressing the historical reasonings that have brought us to our present beliefs. Like Peter Singer, the author is led to a clear defence of animal rights, but for a completely different reason. He presents a compelling case for a duty of consideration towards other sentient beings, explained in parallel to, and as a result of, his experience of living with a wolf. This is a moving, interesting and inspiring tale of friendship. Mark Rowlands, in his dealings with Brenin, the wolf in question - who is recognised by his "owner" as having a personality and rights -, does something so very many dog owners omit to do: he gives him company, instinctively understanding that the animal is not psychologically equipped for solitude. This in turn allows the author to get to know the wolf, understand him and grow to love him. This is ultimately a passionate love story and an attempt to explain what is important in life. A remarkable lesson from the philosopher and the wolf.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2009
I'm not into dogs or wolves for that matter, but found this book
enlightening vis-a-vis many aspects of human social interaction, and the
ways (sometimes positive but more often negative) that the human
species relates to other animals.

This is conveyed through a narrative of the 11 year 'journey' of
Brenan's life with the author.

This sort of book appeals because it relates philosophy to real-life
situations and so makes the subject accessible and enjoyable to the
layman. The non-specialist comes away having assimilated the essence
- if not the detail- of the philosophy, which would otherwise require
formal training to appreciate.

Rowland's narrative puts me in mind of Robert Pirsig's writing, though
I found this book to be a somewhat easier read.

Incidentally, I feel that it is inappropriate to strongly criticize
perceived 'errors' in the training method used. To treat this as a
canine trainig manual misses the point by a mile.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2009
This is an outstanding piece of work, a touching story woven into the fabric of some challenging philosophical thinking. Hard to put down and extremely well-written - very satisfying.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2009
The author steers just the right side of sentimentality with the story of his pet wolf. Everyone who has some dumb animal as his best buddy will empathise. The background story of growing up from being a beer swilling rugby playing, party animal to full on mid life existential crisis monger is told simply and apparently honestly.

I loved it
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2010
This book is an excellent insight into the mind of a wolf and how it differs to a domestic dog and to man. It is a thought provoking book and deserves to be widely read.
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