Taking herself as a starting point, science journalist Holmes considers how we are like mammals--and how we are not. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Holmes (Suburban Safari) has been "uncomfortable with the notion that I was an animal apart, a sort of extraterrestrial on my own planet." Hence, she examines her "animal self," hoping to "clarify my identity in the natural world." As in her previous works, she uses the mundane to make larger points about life and the human condition. Beginning each chapter in a scientific mode, she then glides into more personal reflections ("I'm most aware of my brain when I encounter its limitations") and then compares humans with other animals: "My wad of wiring is so hot and bothered that it puts all the world's other brains to shame. Or does it?" Holmes thus continually underscores that humans are not nearly as different as many would have us believe. For example, a surprising number of species communicate fairly well, and prairie dogs actually have a sizable vocabulary. Holmes's optimistic conclusion is that we are the only species capable of thinking about the effect of our actions and acting against narrow self-interest, even if we don't always do so. Holmes makes the scientific personal in prose that is juicy and humorous, if occasionally a bit too cute. (Jan. 20) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Head on, Holmes confronts the notion that human beings are just another mammal, essentially creating a field guide for Homo sapiens. Eleven chapters focus on a physical description, the brain, perception, range, territoriality, diet, reproduction, behavior, communication, predators, and ecosystem impacts. Each one begins with a clinical description (from one-half to a full page) of the subject discussed, which is then examined in detail by looking at a sample of Homo sapiens (the author herself) and then at different theories that explain why Homo sapiens are the way they are. Holmes is good at providing all sides of the story-often, all current theories-even those that contradict one another. In addition, she compares Homo sapiens to other animals, revealing our species' strengths and weaknesses, and our environmental impact-the good and the bad. The book combines comparative anatomy, biology, anthropology, and psychology and presents the information in a witty and humorous style that will attract even the most disinterested readers. This volume would be an excellent selection as a biology class review book.-Kelliann Bogan, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.