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Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals
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Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals

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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  145 ratings  ·  41 reviews
“Hilariously informative. . . . This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.”—Outside

In this thrilling foray into the animal kingdom, Richard Conniff takes readers on an adventure-packed journey as he courts the most dangerous animals and lives to tell the tale. He lets African wild dogs sniff his neck to test the idea that they are vicious man-eater
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 28th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published April 8th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Betsy
Some of the essays I’ve enjoyed quite a lot but I tend to get fidgety when too much technical information is included, with the exception of the chapter on termites! I would enjoy reading essays here and there much more than reading the collection straight through. Some of the writing is in the same humorous vein as Mary Roach, the author of Stiff, Spook and Bonk. I had hoped that more of the essays would stress the high danger aspect that seems to be promised by the subtitle but with a few exce ...more
Myke
My only complaint is that I was hoping he would go into some detail about the box jellyfish and its lethality, but that's ok. Great book to pick up, read, put down, and repeat as it's broken up in to perfectly sized portions each regarding a different animal or experience.
Brittany
This is not a book to mow through in an afternoon or an evening. I'm sure you could (especially if you were trapped on a plane) but I got a lot more out of this book when I slowed down and started taking breaks to ponder and reflect in between each story.

Conniff has written for all sorts of cool places including National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and Outside. In this book, he features a range of stunningly interesting fauna and ideas. He seems to have consciously steered clear of the ob
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Cat Chiappa
This is one of the most enjoyable pieces of nature writing I have read in a long time. Each essay was incredibly interesting and often funny. I really appreciated the variety as well, he covers everything from charismatic megafauna like leopards and lemurs to cringe inducing aniamls like mites, ants and jellies. I would recommend this book to anybody who has an interest in the natural world.
Lynda
I have always enjoyed Richard Conniff's stories in Smithsonian magazine so I bought this book. It is a series of essays that he wrote telling tales from his writing adventures. I now have a new appreciation for the mites that live in my eye lashes.
Barbara Bennett
Love the individual chapters on different animals, especially--of course--the cheetah one. I never thought I could be so entranced by a description of a spider spinning a web, but Conniff has a way of making it fascinating.
Iowa City Public Library
Richard Conniff, a winner of the National Magazine Award and writer for Smithsonian, National Geographic and other magazines has collected many of his best travel and nature writing essays in Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals. He takes the reader from Botswana to the Amazon to Madagascar to the top of his head as he chronicles his adventures in the wild. Yes, he does swim with piranhas and no, they do not eat him, in fact all piranhas are not alike and ...more
G. Penn
I've enjoyed reading Richard Conniff's articles in the New York Times and decided to check out his books. Conniff leads an interesting life of adventure and natural history study to many parts of the word most people never have an opportunity to visit, such as Africa, and places close to home such as the coastal U.S. and New Orleans. In Swimming with Piranhas... Conniff uses dry wit and humor to engage the reader in his adventures to study natural history. Who wouldn't be intrigued by "When I fi ...more
Linnae
Essays on everything from quantifying the pain of various insect bites, to tracking African wild dogs, to some of the absurdities of the scientific naming system. An entertaining writing style, coupled with profiles of some of the best known members of the animal kingdom (with a few lesser-knowns thrown in), make this a winner.

The same tarantula hawk's venom has a totally different effect on humans. "If you get stung by one," Schmidt says, "you might as well lie down and just scream. The good ne
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Melody
Jul 03, 2009 Melody rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dad
Well-written, insanely informative and lots of fun. Conniff is wry, self-deprecating and endearingly goofy. For me, the standout chapter was The Value of a Good Name. If you have the slightest interest in nomenclature and science, you owe yourself this slice of real-life hilarity. I learned things about Piranhas (including the fact I've been pronouncing it wrong all these years), how to find spiderwebs (fill a sock with cornstarch- shake gently over your yard- boggle at the fecundity), what happ ...more
Ashley
I really liked this one - it covered so many different animals and was packed with fun factoids. Sadly, I wasn't able to keep the book long enough to make note of all these fun facts before this one was due back at the library.

However, I'm not as scared of spiders as I once was (though the egg-laying thing on/in other animals is terrifying), piranhas probably won't eat you, and jellyfish will eat other jellyfish. Also, you probably shouldn't Google image some of the more obscure species Conniff
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Sarah
I sure wish I had this book for a textbook back in the Biology days. Conniff really knows how to teach readers about science. He's been through so much with animals for research for writing his articles. Each chapter is about a different animal. My favorite was the first one about wild dogs in Africa and I think the chapters about monkeys were close behind. Who doesn't want to learn more about termites, leopards, cheetahs, and dung beetles? I'm not really sure if I can find any students to read ...more
Elizabeth
this collection of previously published essays about the animal world is quite interesting. conniff's informal tone pulls you into each situation without the distraction of scientific jargon. he has essays devoted to jellyfish, hummingbirds, wild dogs, insects! i found some of the information quite enlightening. an easy read. you can read the essays out of order and still come away with a sense of cohesion.
Ryan
Coniff is a good writer, very eloquent and it shows in the language - effective in conveying the mood, and humorous. However there were more misses than hits for me in this collection of essays about various animal groups from microbes to mammals. Also, I often found the insights into his day to day work experience, his notes from the field if you will, more interesting than the main articles themselves.
David Bedno
It sounds like it should be some kind of 60s personal revelation story or poetry collection, but what it actually is is a collection of essays by one of the leading natural history writers. From wild dogs in Africa, to jellyfish in Monterey Bay and, yes, pirhanas in South America (and many points in between, including your very own head), it's an entertaining look at the world we live in.
Turi
Richard Conniff's live has taken him around the world, reporting on animals and the people who study them. He's had some opportunities to do "dumb stuff" (as he puts it), like allowing himself to be bitten by fire ants or stung by jellyfish. But he also presents his experiences in a way that is not only entertaining, but gives us some of the fascinating science behind the creatures.
Brian Switek
Not everyone gets the chance to sit down with wild dogs, take a dip with piranhas, or chase lemurs through the forest. And I imagine that some might not want to even if they were afforded the invitation. But if you like to imagine such adventures, at least, you'll enjoy Conniff's entertaining and intelligent essays on wildlife and those wild enough to study it.
Brett
Misleading description of this book makes the reader assume it will be about encountering dangers in the wild. This is not the case. It is more of an account of one man's small adventures and the wonders of the animal kingdom from spiders to wild dogs. Not a page turner but had an interesting highlight here and there.
g-na
The title of this book is a bit misleading as it is not strictly about the author's adventures with wildlife, but more like his encounters with wildlife and the people that study animals. He goes into detail about various researchers and their subjects, but I do wish he had included more amusing/amazing anecdotes.
Beth
Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time is a wonderful collection of natural history essays, but some stories are definitely more entertaining than others - sometimes Conniff gets caught up in "just the facts" and at other times, his writing just shines and he has such a nice turn of phrase.
Rachel
The title of this book is misleading. The author didn't really do that many dangerous things but he does travel for scientific reasons and shares a lot of interesting information that he found out. He is very humorous with some great turns of phrase that are laugh out loud funny.
Cindy
Love his writing. It's like a funnier version of David Attenborough. My favorite parts were those about the cats - cheetahs and leopards. I almost couldn't read the section on all the creepy crawly things that live on our skin. Blequlg. I want to scrub all over.
Kris
For some reason, I have been leaning towards memoirs and other first-person non-fiction. I quite enjoyed this collection of animal-related essays. The author is a nature writer (Nat. Geo., Outside, etc.) who relates his experiences in a humorous but informative way.
Brett Price
This book was soooo amazing. Growing up all i did was watch animal planet. This book brought me back to my childhood with all the authors encounters and stories. Definitely a must read for those with an interest in science, animals, or frankly nothing else to do.
Donna Jo Atwood
If you like books by naturalists like Gerald Durrell, or travel books by Bill Bryson, you will probably enjoy this book. You will be entertained and learn a little something about our world at the same time.

Task 15.1
Sarah
i would have read more of this (skimmed it) but i had to return it to the library. i will say that i was expecting more of an "adventure" book, and it wasn't really that, at least what i got through. it was more of a memoir.
Kristine
Mildly amusing, but I was hoping for less chapters that were about following some scientist around who is cataloging ants, classifying dung beetles, etc. and a bit more adventure and humor mixed in with the science.
Liz
This book is a great study of man's quest to do dumb things even though we are supposed to be the most evolved species. This book made me laugh out loud and thank God my kids didn't do this dumb stuff.
Jennifer
Extremely accessible and interesting animal essays that were not only fun to read but full o' facts. Good stuff, this. If you like travel essays or popular science nonfiction, this is for you.
Janna
It took a little while for me to get in the grove of this book, but it was worth it. I liked reading about all the out of the way places and animals I probably wouldn't normally care about.
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Richard Coniff, a Guggenheim Fellow and winner of the National Magazine Award, writes for Smithsonian and National Geographic and is a frequent commentator on NPR's All Things Considered and a guest columnist for the New York Times. His books include The Natural History of the Rich, Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time, and The Species Seekers. He lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
More about Richard Conniff...
The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide Spineless Wonders: Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature

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