Another recommendation question
October 2, 2010 11:29 AM   Subscribe

What are some mature, well-written books/films/etc. about mankind's bond to animals/nature?

Ideally the most prominent purpose of the art is exploring this relationship. Honestly, I'm only familiar with books like Marley & Me, which are fine, but not exactly what I'm looking for. I'd rather it be a deeper exploration of the bond.

I don't care if it's broad, like a group of people's connection to the nature around them, or a specific person and their animal.
posted by Echobelly to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Never Cry Wolf
posted by sharkfu at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're up for non-fiction, you might like Ishmael. Controversial philosophy, but very engaging.
posted by sorrenn at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

A Language Older Than Words, Derrick Jensen
The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram
posted by natteringnabob at 11:33 AM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I second A Language Older Than Words. That is one of my favorite books. Anything else by Derrick Jensen.
posted by long haired child at 11:35 AM on October 2, 2010

Another non-fiction book: Being With Animals by Barbara J. King.
posted by gudrun at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2010

If you're looking something a bit more philosophical, there's Donna Haraway's When Species Meet.
posted by synecdoche at 12:09 PM on October 2, 2010

Dean Koontz's A Big Little Life is about his relationship with his late Golden Retriever, Trixie. She was a former service dog he and his wife adopted, and she really affected his life and inspired some of his writing.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2010

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.
posted by Madame Psychosis at 12:22 PM on October 2, 2010

posted by larry_darrell at 12:22 PM on October 2, 2010

You might want to try The Philosopher and the Wolf. It's a nice book that balances the emotional site with a philosophical angle. The author is a "real" (academic) philosopher, writes in an engaging way and you can't beat the not-domesticated-animal-as-a-pet/companion aspect.
posted by mmkhd at 2:30 PM on October 2, 2010

Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire.
posted by vytae at 4:23 PM on October 2, 2010

Three books about dogs: Laurens van der Post's "A story like the wind" is a great book about a boy and his dog.

I like Jack London's "White Fang" too.

You might be interested in books written by people interested in animal behaviour too - such as Konrad Lorentz's "Man Meets Dog" - this is written back in the 50s and is the grandfather of most of the "dogwatching" type books that have appeared more recently.
posted by rongorongo at 4:26 PM on October 2, 2010

I haven't read it myself, but I was having a conversation about this same topic the other day and I had A Wolf in the Parlor recommended to me.
posted by blackunicorn at 4:40 PM on October 2, 2010

Ill Nature by Joy Williams
posted by gwint at 6:53 PM on October 2, 2010

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver! I loved, loved, loved this book. It's fiction, but every storyline in it is basically an exploration of the characters' relationships with the natural world and each other. Kingsolver is also a pro at slipping in lots of fascinating facts about the flora and fauna that abound in her stories. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by troublewithwolves at 7:14 PM on October 2, 2010

I have to second Being with Animals even though I haven't read it, because Barbara King was my professor in college (biological anthropology and primate behavior, woohoo!), and she is an awesome lady. She also assigned a lot of terrific books in her classes, and two in particular that might be of interest to you are Jane Goodall's Through a Window and Sue Savage-Rumbaugh's Kanzi.
posted by naoko at 7:45 PM on October 2, 2010

With a scientific perspective, The Biophilia Hypothesis, by E.O. Wilson.
posted by feidr2 at 7:49 PM on October 2, 2010

Anything by Rick Bass will fit this criteria. You might also check out Gary Snyder, especially The Practice of the Wild as a good jumping off point. Also, Thoreau's always a good place to start if you want to look at a the beginnings of the modern American conception of nature. Another great author is Annie Dillard - one of my favorite essays by her, Living Like Weasels is available online. For a slightly more theoretical approach, you might check out Rebecca Solnit, especially "Wanderlust" or "A Field Guide to Getting Lost".
posted by ajarbaday at 7:52 PM on October 2, 2010

Werner Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man, about bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell, is amazing.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:56 PM on October 2, 2010

Also! PRI's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" has some great podcasts on variations on this subject. Check out, for example Finding Home, Animal Minds or Everyday Nature. For that matter, RadioLab did a really great podcast on animal encounters also called Animal Minds.
posted by ajarbaday at 7:59 PM on October 2, 2010

Maybe Naturalist by Edward O. Wilson. It's been over ten years since I read this, but I remember how clearly the book communicated Wilson's love of ants and general friendship or partnership with the natural world that he felt even as a young child.
posted by belau at 9:55 PM on October 2, 2010

I'll third A Language Older Than Words.
posted by dobbs at 10:24 PM on October 2, 2010

I was profoundly impressed by Annie Dillard's>Pilgrim at Tinker Creek when I first read it well over 30 years ago. I have loved Dillard, her writing and her thoughts about nature ever since.
posted by Lynsey at 10:28 PM on October 2, 2010

I'll second Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: stone cold classic. For a book about a relationship with one particular animal, I'd recommend The Peregrine, by J. A. Baker. I also particularly like Richard Mabey's Nature Cure, which is about the writer's struggle with depression and his relationship with the natural world.
posted by hydatius at 2:00 AM on October 3, 2010

Here's a Finnish classic:
Seven brothers is a humorous novel depicting orphan brothers, which first appeared in four volumes in 1870. To evade the Lutheran Church's requirement, that they learn to read and write before confirmation, the brothers flee to the wilderness. After encountering all kinds of disasters, they return to society – matured and ready to take responsibilities. Kivi's individualism and his unconventional approach won him many enemies among the Fennoman movement, which emphasized agrarian and conservative values. Kivi also challenged taboos concerning what was considered decent. His independent country boys were considered too wild – they were not modelled on an idealized picture of the people, but revealed their ignorance, laziness, tendency to heavy drinking, and 'Roussean' resistance to bourgeois values. Moreover, Kivi's mixture of comical, mythological, and tragic was not understood. Nowadays Seven Brothers has been interpreted at many levels. -
--JUHANI: On one corner of the earth a day of peace still gleams for us. Ilvesjärvi lake yonder, below Impivaara, is the harbour to which we can sail away from the storm. Now my mind is made up.
--LAURI: Mine was made up last year already.
--EERO: I'll follow you even into the deepest cave on Impivaara, where it is said the Old Man of the Mountains boils pitch, with a helmet made of a hundred sheepskins on his head.
--TUOMAS: We'll all move there from here.
--JUHANI: Thither we'll move and built a new world.
posted by Anything at 11:02 AM on October 3, 2010

posted by null14 at 11:27 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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