STARRED REVIEW
November 2017

Behind their eyes

By Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst

Who doesn’t like to imagine that animals have humanlike qualities? In his new book, The Inner Life of Animals, author Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees) postulates that animals of all shapes and sizes do indeed share many of the same characteristics as humans, such as love, grief, empathy, courage and gratitude.

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Who doesn’t like to imagine that animals have humanlike qualities? In his new book, The Inner Life of Animals, author Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees) postulates that animals of all shapes and sizes do indeed share many of the same characteristics as humans, such as love, grief, empathy, courage and gratitude.

The book is laid out as a series of short chapters, each focusing on a different emotional state and how it relates to animals. Using research studies and his own experiences as the manager of a woodland area in Germany, Wohlleben carefully lays out his opinions and reasoning of his belief that animals are similar to people in the way they interact with their surroundings. For animal lovers, his fascinating, enjoyable prose serves as affirmation that their furry friends are complex beings.

However, those who are scientifically minded might be a little more skeptical, since it is commonly thought that animal behavior is instinctive. Wohlleben anticipates this, raising the argument that it is difficult to prove that all humans experience things in the exact same way. Since we share comparable genetic code with animals, he theorizes that they also have varying degrees of sensations, but it is difficult for them to communicate how they are feeling.

Wohlleben raises other interesting connections, resulting in a narrative that is both entertaining and provocative. For example, he points out that emotions are linked to the unconscious part of the brain. Since “every species of animal experiences unconscious brain activity, and because this activity directs how the animal interacts with the world, every animal must also have emotions.” Wohlleben’s insightful observations will hopefully help build a better understanding of animals and their emotional world.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Peter Wohlleben.

This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Inner Life of Animals

The Inner Life of Animals

By Peter Wohlleben
Greystone Books
ISBN 9781771643016

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