Reading List #1

Much as I’ve always loved animals, I’ve been a lifelong book worm too. Here are a couple of my recent animal-related reads which will hopefully also interest any readers out there.

  1. Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin.

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As anyone who reads my blog regularly knows, I am a huge fan of Temple Grandin’s work. I’ve just started on Animals in Translation and accidentally left it at my mum’s house – she returned it to me “in case you were getting withdrawal symptoms”. Dr Grandin writes in a wonderfully clear and informative yet personal style. She has done so much for animal welfare by looking at how animals think and applying this to farms and slaughterhouses. Her books are thoroughly referenced whilst still reading easily – I’ll stop now before this becomes a homage to Temple Grandin blog post instead of a reading list!

2. My Family and Other Animals, by Clare Balding.

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Clare Balding’s autobiography is again incredibly readable and a definite page-turner. The endoresement from Caitlin Moran on the cover (another author I love, although not in any way related to animals!) that “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want a horse,” rings true as you read the chapters each focussed on an animal from Clare’s past, bringing in the story of her childhood and adult life. It’s an emotional story but one you’ll want to read to the end.

Of course, the title is a play on Gerald Durrell’s “My Family and Other Animals,” which my parents bought for me as a child. I treated it as a license to bring any number of creatures into our house and I’m sure Mr Durrell played a big part in sending me off to uni to study Natural Sciences.

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3. The Truth About Cats and Dogs, by Emma Milne

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This is my other current read and paints the very sorry picture around pedigree dogs, especially brachycephalics and breeds with serious health issues. Dr Milne’s view on the veterinary profession has been strongly influenced by these problems and she provides clear descriptions of the different flaws we’ve bred into our pets. Although she definitely hammers home the downsides of becoming a vet her style is very chatty and readable whilst communicating the facts so I’d recommend this to other wannabe vet students like myself.

4. Down Among the Donkeys, by Elisabeth Svendsen

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I have a little area on my bookshelves that I think of as the “awesome inspiring women’s autobiographies” section. Clare Balding sits there, and Ellen McArthur, Caitlin Moran and Elisabeth Svendsen. The founder of the donkey sanctuary, Ms Svendsen has turned her hand to all kinds of things from running a hotel to working with disabled children to bring them the benefits of donkey time. Whilst reading this I was amazed over and over again by her positive “have a go” attitude. I know it probably doesn’t jump out as a gripping read but it’s genuinely interesting and helps you to believe that all sorts of things are possible if you just give them a try.

5. The works of “James Herriot”

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Okay, okay, I’m sorry. But after reading umpteen times “do NOT mention James Herriot on your vet school application,” “the admissions tutors don’t care if you’ve read James Herriot,” “EVERYONE HAS READ JAMES HERRIOT DO YOU HEAR US?” I thought I’d better pick them up and see what the fuss was about. Because surprisingly, I’d never read them (except, weirdly, one chapter about rubbing a cow’s udder with goose fat that I realised I must have seen somewhere before).

And they were fantastic. I knew in advance there was no such person as James Herriot – he was the creation of real vet Alf Wright – nor Siegfried or Tristam, and that Alf Wright was barely qualified in the setting of the thirties rather than hurtling all over deepest darkest Yorkshire, and that many of the stories need taking with a pinch of salt. And I realise that very few vets practice so generally anymore, with the profession becoming more and more specialised and unlike the role of Jim Herriot. But did that ruin it for me? Not at all. The charm and trials presented by clients, their mannerisms and generosity, drew plenty of similarities with my own rural chilhood experiences. There may be embellishment to the cases but it’s grounded in Alf Wright’s long veterinary career and the changes he saw take place over that time. As you can see I couldn’t stop after the first book – I had to get the sequels and I’m sure I’ll return to them to re-read again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and picked up a recommendation or two – I may do another as I have been re-reading lots of books from my first time at uni recently also. Thanks for reading, until next time!

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