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The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy
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The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy

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3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  138 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Why would someone want to create or own the mounted skin of a dead animal? That’s the question Dave Madden explores in The Authentic Animal. Madden starts his journey with the life story of Carl Akeley, the father of modern taxidermy. Akeley started small by stuffing a canary, but by the end of his life he had created the astonishing Akeley Hall of African Mammals at The A ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by St. Martin's Press
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J.M. Hushour
Dec 30, 2013 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it
Let's start with a quote because either you're gonna love this book...or you're gonna hate it. Let this quote decide for you: "From the back, the buffalo's scrotum swings jauntily to the side, as though the animal were barreling through the grassland, and as his tail is raised the anus is clearly visible, as crisp and articulated as the straw insert on a thirty-two ounce Big Gulp lid."

This is how Madden describes a taxidermy installment in a natural history museum. This is exactly the kind of sn
...more
Vanessa
Oct 28, 2016 Vanessa rated it it was amazing
Really excellent, even though it wasn't exactly what I expected. I imagined this book would be more about taxidermy itself and perhaps modern practitioners and unusual uses of taxidermy, but other than a chapter primarily about the World Taxidermy Championships, it focuses on Carl Akeley - often considered the father of modern taxidermy - and natural history museums. I still loved it. Dave Madden is an excellent writer. His prose can get a bit overwrought at times, but he handles this subject ...more
Joan
Dec 17, 2011 Joan rated it it was amazing
note to self: notice how the author makes amusing anecdotes about a practice that is taken for granted (taxidermy), yet is probably both hated and revered at once. This book will most likely not get a lot of favorable attention, but yet maybe the author doesn't want that. He might simply want to tell us (in exasperating detail) how this practice came about. However, we don't really talk about it. We'll talk about zoos more than taxidermy. They might even laugh at it. Do we laugh when we see dead ...more
Seth Madej
Dec 22, 2015 Seth Madej rated it it was amazing
This is the first of a bunch of books by my friends that I'll be reading over the next month or two, none of which I'll give star ratings nor say anything bad about, but all the compliments I pay them will be true, like this one: Dave's fun and friendly look at taxidermy is one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently.

Most popular niche nonfiction is usually content to introduce us to its topic and ask, like a stranger making small talk at your bar mitzvah table, "Isn't that interesting?"
...more
Carrie
Feb 08, 2012 Carrie rated it liked it
Well...this should be interesting. It WAS interesting, funny, provocative. Interesting how taxidermists & biologists tend to leave a swath of dead animals in their path in the name of science or getting the perfect specimen. Think Log from (of?) the Sea of Cortez by Steinbeck, for example.

The whole great-white-hunter thing from back in the day was a cringefest to read, with one guy killing hundreds of animals and just leaving them there. He finally saw the light when he killed a family of g
...more
J.A.
May 24, 2012 J.A. rated it really liked it
"The difficulty with a great number of books that attempt to catalogue or illuminate a given industry or segment of our society is that they often end up opening more threads than they close, so we read to learn or uncover and yet end up with a bigger reading list of equally interesting secondary sources. But Dave Madden’s The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy avoids this pitfall by selecting the subject of taxidermy, a practice with enough of a lifespan to tell ...more
Katie
Sep 13, 2012 Katie rated it it was ok
I would actually give this 2.5 stars; I'm not sure if some of my problems with it were more a byproduct of my own (perhaps unreasonable) expectations. I do think the title and description of the book are both misleading -- I wanted this to be an examination of taxidermy, both past and present, and the physical process involved in it. I wanted to know what makes taxidermy enthusiasts tick, both in Western cultures and non. And there are very brief sections that kind of explore the "collector ...more
Linnae
Jan 31, 2014 Linnae rated it it was ok
Probably more than most people ever wanted to know about the art and history of taxidermy. I've never really understood the urge to put an animal head on your wall. I went on a date once with a guy who took me to Cabela's, (an outdoor/hunter's outfitter type mega store) to look at all the dead animals taxidermy. There wasn't a second date.

I thought this book might help gain some perspective on it. It did, in a way. I can see a little better why some people would choose to become a taxidermist: t
...more
pearl
Sep 26, 2012 pearl rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, taxidermy
Its structure--or lack thereof--made for a rambling and unfocused... well, what was it after all? Not a treatise on taxidermy exactly; rather, a personal account of a man who finds himself entranced by the obsessive magic of a niche art/skill/hobby/business, who, however, never actually partakes in it otherwise. What I wanted was more taxidermy talk itself, more method, exposition, &c. But this wasn't bad of course. The writing thrills with the enthusiasm of someone freshly devoted. It was ...more
D.A.
Feb 04, 2016 D.A. rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite odd histories, and a fascinating quirky intelligently written book. I want to say, "you'll never look at dead animals the same way again," but I really don't know how it is that you look at dead animals. Here, though, one writer's penetrating, intelligent if slightly morbid look at this bizarre human habit of killing creatures and then trying to make them look alive again. Looking forward to Dave Madden's forthcoming book of short stories, "If You Need Me, I'll be Over There."
Melody
Sep 13, 2011 Melody rated it really liked it
Wow. Surprisingly literary, incredibly well-written story of taxidermy. Traces the life of Akeley along with many others, and delves into modern taxidermy rather deeply. Don't read this one if you haven't a strong stomach for viscera, for flesh-eating insects, and above all, for trophy hunting.

I don't really know what I expected after picking this up by serendipity in my local library. I only know that I was pleasantly surprised by both the content and the literary quality of this book. Highly r
...more
Jeramey
Dec 11, 2011 Jeramey rated it liked it
I read this shortly after reading Blechman's "Pigeons". For whatever reason, I expected them to be much the same. If you're going to read one book outside of your normal subject matter, I would go with Pigeons.

This is a good story, but it gets lost at many points along the way. I'm not sure the book is ordered in the most logical way either, with lots of tangents towards and away from its quasi main character.
Erin
Oct 10, 2012 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2012
Okay, this was a super interesting book on something I never think about. I picked it up because I read a review (in Bookcase I think) and decided it sounded like fun. If you have ever wondered about taxidermy or how we got all these things in museums or even if you are just a bit curious, this is the book for you.
Claire Webber
Sep 07, 2011 Claire Webber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I read it in a little over three sittings, and throughly enjoyed being buoyed about history, museums, and rural garage skin-shops by Madden. He's a very present narrator who disappears when he isn't called upon, then reappears at the proper moment with a literary, self-aware voice. Fascinating stuff!
Kelsey
May 01, 2016 Kelsey rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-books-read
3 1/2 stars, really. Extremely readable and full of charming tidbits that make for excellent dinner conversation. Perhaps a little scattered, but my chief complaint was a lack of illustrations. Surely a little insert of color photos could have been added? I ended up googling many of the taxidermy works mentioned.
Bridgitte
Nov 07, 2012 Bridgitte rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory, non-fiction, 2012
A really fascinating, strange book. I picked it up because it includes a history of Carl Akeley, among other things, and it has a ton of great detail. Madden culled a lot of primary sources to piece together a (albeit sometimes overstepping) historical narrative while also contemplating the place of taxidermy and animal-human relationships today.
David Rickert
Nov 04, 2011 David Rickert rated it it was amazing
I haven't the slightest interest in taxidermy, but I read a review of this book somewhere and thought it would be an interesting read. The book didn't disappoint. This is a fascinating look at something that many people find a little strange, perhaps a bit repulsive, but definitely a practice and hobby that is part of our cultural fabric. Very absorbing.
Kevin
Sep 21, 2011 Kevin rated it liked it
An informative, engaging, yet uneven book about the art of stuffing dead animals. It could have used better organization and less mythologizing of taxidermy legends and injections into the narrative by its author. Still, an enjoyable read.
Mary
Sep 07, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book. I found it to be educational and help me understand taxidermy and the people who do it. This book is a great read for anyone who hunts, love animals or just want to understand taxidermy.
Andrea Patrick
May 28, 2012 Andrea Patrick rated it really liked it
If you like Mary Roach's books, you'll probably like this one by Dave Madden. Covers history of, current competitive aspects of, major players in, and influences of taxidermy, particularly in natural history museums.
Michelle
Jan 15, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
I really found this book an enjoyable read. I learned so much more than I ever realized was out there to learn about the history of taxidermy! It mostly follows the life of Carl Akely who's life makes for an incredible story.
Tim
Oct 30, 2014 Tim rated it really liked it
Madden writes an interesting, balanced perspective on animal rights with the intricacies of the taxidermy hobby.

Also a interesting protrayal of early 20th century game hunting and its excesses.
Cindy
Dec 14, 2011 Cindy rated it really liked it
This would have been a much better book were pictures included. Plan to read it near a computer so you can google for visuals as you read.
Owen
Apr 11, 2013 Owen rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure
Interesting read, As someone with an interest in hunting taxidermy fascinates me. This has given me much to think about.
Mr. Shoemaker
Who could have guessed? a fascinating non-fiction book about taxidermy. Beautiful creative non-fiction. Thanks for the recommendation, Mr Rickert!
Rachel
Nov 18, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it
Is it weird when I say "I didn't like this book as much as I liked the last book I read about taxidermy"?

Yes. Yes, it is.
Rhiley
Rhiley rated it really liked it
Feb 21, 2016
Julee  Jaeger
Julee Jaeger rated it it was amazing
Aug 25, 2012
David Edwins
David Edwins rated it liked it
Sep 06, 2012
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