Book Review: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

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book cover

Title: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Author: Frans de Waal
Genre: Non-Fiction
Date of Publication: May 10, 2016
Publisher: W. W. Norton Company

~ My Thoughts ~

I loved this book. In my undergraduate degree, I only had space for a few electives, and one of the classes I took was “Primate Behaviour”. In this course, we were required to read two Franz de Waal books: Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape. Usually when I’m “forced” to read something, I don’t enjoy it–whether it’s because I don’t have the time to enjoy it or because I’m contrary that way is besides the point. My point is that I genuinely loved these books, so much that I’m continuing to read de Waal’s publications even after university.

One thing I love about de Waal’s books is that they’re so accessible to the general public, but not at the sacrifice of accuracy or including information about scientific process. He talks about things in layman’s terms, making them fun and engaging, all the while teaching the reader a ton of information on the topic.  As you may already know, I’m a librarian, and I do a lot of instruction in my job. In the ACRL’s Information Literacy Framework, one of the frames is “Scholarship as Conversation”. I doubt it’s even intentional in de Waal’s books, but the way he effortlessly talks about other researchers’ work and discoveries, how they contributed to general knowledge, how he himself has built off previous studies does a great job of showing how this conversation goes on in his field, and in science in general.

As for the contents of this book, I’ve learned so many things that I can use in casual conversation (though it depends on who you’re talking to). Anytime I see a crow I tell anyone who’ll listen about how they recognize human faces and hold grudges for generations.  

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I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in animal behaviour (not just apes in this book, but a variety of species), and to those who want to crack into reading nonfiction science books but aren’t sure of where to start.


Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

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