The Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke


Published by Basic Books

5 stars


Mary Roach meets Bill Bryson in this “surefire summer winner” (Janet Maslin, New York Times), an uproarious tour of the basest instincts and biggest mysteries of the animal world

Humans have gone to the Moon and discovered the Higgs boson, but when it comes to understanding animals, we’ve still got a long way to go. Whether we’re seeing a viral video of romping baby pandas or a picture of penguins “holding hands,” it’s hard for us not to project our own values–innocence, fidelity, temperance, hard work–onto animals. So you’ve probably never considered if moose get drunk, penguins cheat on their mates, or worker ants lay about. They do–and that’s just for starters. In The Truth About Animals, Lucy Cooke takes us on a worldwide journey to meet everyone from a Colombian hippo castrator to a Chinese panda porn peddler, all to lay bare the secret–and often hilarious–habits of the animal kingdom. Charming and at times downright weird, this modern bestiary is perfect for anyone who has ever suspected that virtue might be unnatural.

I read this book at the perfect time, having just finished watching ‘The Invaders’ on Netflix about invasive species of animals and how they ended up far, far away from their natural habitats. Specifically, the first episode is about a colony of hippos now roaming wild in Colombia after a Pablo Escobar imported four horny hippos over to his private zoo in the 80s/90s, their offspring having since made a break for freedom and taking over the countryside.

This book contains a chapter about exactly that! But in even greater detail, which I greedily read and devoured.


Each chapter is dedicated to a misunderstood animal, starting with a quote containing the common misunderstandings about the animal and then the rest of the chapter is about the scientific findings disproving them and leading us to the truth.

Cooke’s writing style is hugely entertaining, casual and so, so quotable (Hey, did you know that vultures will projectile vom rotting meat at predators?). Everything is well grounded in scientific research and her own personal findings while globetrotting and working with the BBC, so you feel like you’re being educated as you go along, without being bogged down with citations and scientific jargon. There are puns about beaver testicles, you’re in safe hands when it comes to jargon.

I adore this book and will be recommending it to friends, you can take a rest between chapters to digest all the information without losing your thread. I’ve got everything crossed that one day she’ll write a memoir so I can read more about her escapades!


*Thank you Netgalley for a free copy of this book*

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