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The joys of a good animal story

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As I was posting today's review ("The Zoo on the Road to Nablus"), I was feeling a bit defensive. I couldn't help asking myself: Am I subjecting Monitor readers to too many books about animals?

I am an animal lover, pure and simple, so for me personally, the answer is no. The other answer I could give would be to point to reader response – which seems to indicate that many if not most of our readers share my enthusiasm for good stories about animals. When these books are good, they are often very good – well written and able to teach us much about ourselves as well as to help us better understand the members of the animal kingdom.

However, to further reassure myself, I thought I'd try a little numerical analysis. So I calculated. I've been the Monitor's Book editor for almost 3 years now. In that time, I have written full reviews of 100-plus different books. Of those, only nine have been books mainly focused on animals. So, no, I haven't gone over the top.

But as I counted, what was more interesting to me than the numbers was the variety of content. The "protagonists" of those nine books have included an elephant ("Jumbo: The Greatest Elephant in the World" by Paul Chambers, a chimpanzee ("Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human" by Elizabeth Hess), a donkey ("The Wisdom of Donkeys" by Andy Merrifield), stray dogs ("Street Dogs" by Traer Scott), tigers ("Tigers in Red Weather" by Ruth Padel), a pig ("The Good Good Pig" by Sy Montgomery), reindeer ("The Reindeer People" by Piers Vitebsky), and – of course – a book about a dog named Marley.

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