Alex & Me
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Alex & Me

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,811 ratings  ·  623 reviews
On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were "You be good. I love you."

What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex's case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous—two pioneers who opened an unpreceden...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2008)
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Lena
Irene Pepperberg was just finishing up a PhD in chemistry when a nature program on animal cognition caused her to abruptly change fields and begin the life-long study of the learning abilities of African Gray parrots. At the time she first purchased a 13-month old Gray from a Chicago pet store, prevailing behaviorist theory held that animals were strictly creatures of instinct, incapable of true language or higher order thinking. Pepperberg's work with her bird Alex, along with similar work bein...more
Jessica
So, here's what I expected: a touching memoir about the trials and tribulations -- and joys and moments of wonder -- of working closely with a remarkable creature.

I've heard it said that children often have an easier time bonding with animals than adults. If I were going to theorize, I'd say that maybe it's because although animals may have an inner life that resembles that of humans -- Alex certainly seemed to -- it's not often as developed in animals. They're too busy surviving to spend much t...more
Leanne Ellis
I loved it! I tried to read The Alex Studies years ago, but it was so heavy on the scientific detail and analysis that I lost interest. This is written for the non-scientist with such a lovely, human voice. As a long-time bird lover who is very aware of how intelligent birds can be, I still found my mouth literally dropping open in surprise at some of the intellectual feats Alex accomplished. (He could add! He could sound out words!) And I laughed out loud at some of the anecdotes she shares, pa...more
Mmars
On October 25 2002, within two weeks of his possible re-election, Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, were killed in an airplane crash. Stunned, a public service was put together honoring him. Speakers from many walks of life spoke in his honor. Unsurprisingly (and Paul would likely have enjoyed it) the speeches became political. The media and opposite party villified this aspect of an overwhelmingly emotional event that spilled out into the streets. Disrturbingly, the scapegoat of all...more
Lynn G.
I had read an article about Alex the African Grey parrot some years ago, prior to his death. I was fascinated by Alex's ability to communicate with Irene Pepperberg, who purchased him at a Chicago-area pet store when she began her research at Purdue University in the 1970s.

This book was both a personal tale of Alex's life and a non-technical look at the journey along the path of theories of communication and language and how animals and humans fit into the continuum. Alex had an irrepressible pe...more
Diane
Alex and Me, an avian memoir was such a joy to listen to. The reader was terrific. The story was poignant and funny at the same time.

About the book - POSSIBLE SPOILERS

Partly autobiographical, Irene Pepperberg's memoir reveals info about her own life, starting with her lonely, bleak childhood where her best friend was a dime-store parakeet called "No Name."

The author was an overachiever. She was just 16 when she was accepted by (M.I.T.) Massachusetts Institute of Technology with her latest pet pa...more
Sandra Dark
I'm on p.40--and very surprised that the author is taking so long to get into her and Alex's story. These 40 pages could have been condensed into an Introduction.

Okay, I finished this. And once Dr. Pepperberg got past talking about herself, Alex came to life. The degree of communication that he developed with human language was astounding--just one example of how little humans have credited the ability of other species to communicate among themselves, let along cross-species.

Overall, the book wa...more
Stephanie
I listened to this on audio. I used to have a budgie (parakeet), And I have seen first hand how smart those little birds are. I recommend this book to any animal lover. Alex was amazing!!
Will Byrnes
Ms. Pepperberg began doing research on the cognitive capacities of a Gray parrot, Alex, in the 1970s, a time when animals were widely believed to be little more than bio-automatons, lacking not only intellectual capability, but emotions as well. Pepperberg endured years, decades of ridicule, scorn, resistance and a continuing challenge in attempting to find funding to persist with her work. This is her story of Alex, a remarkable animal, clearly possessed of great personality, intelligence, even...more
Amy
I'm personally not a bird person, but I started listening to the audiobook version of this book mainly because it was available from my library, but also because a co-worker has a 2-year-old African grey parrot named Gracie. After hearing tales from him about his bird child that sound very similar to tales I tell of my 2-year-old human child, I thought this would be an interesting book to read.

Not more than a couple of hours after I finished reading this book about a famous African Grey Parrot...more
Ginny Messina
I saw Alex on TV many years ago and fell head-over-heels in love. He was so personable and smart and adorable!

While I wasn’t wild about Irene Pepperberg’s writing style and found her to be not quite as likeable in the book as she is in television interviews, the story of how she taught Alex and helped to reveal the incredible intelligence of these birds was still wonderful. And it’s an important book for anyone who cares about animal protection and animal rights. As Dr Pepperberg notes: “…a vas...more
Janet
Of course this was another one of those animal stories (a la Marley and Me) that had me in tears at the end, which I both love and hate at the same time. It's like, we know these books are going to end this way, so why do put ourselves through the lovely story only to get to the ultimate pain? But I did enjoy it, read it basically in one sitting this morning before work--thankfully I was working late! Particulary liked the parts about her life and her connections to Alex more so than the details...more
Jennifer
A lot has been said about Pepperberg and her research, but what touched me was that Pepperberg wanted so much to prove her scientific chops that she often forced herself to keep an emotional distance from her beloved parrot while he was alive. This book is in large part an outpouring of her love, which gives it great power. My daughter, who is studying animal science at Ohio State, made her boyfriend listen to her read the entire last chapter over the phone.
Libyrinths
If you've ever been owned by a cat, you loved the Dewey the Cat book (can't remember the title: I always called it The Found and the Furry.) If you've ever been lucky enough to share your life with any member of the parrot family, you'll love this book.

Unlike the Dewey book where you cried at the end, here you cry at the beginning and get it out of the way so you can read the rest of the book with delight. Pepperberg wanted to study the cognitive skills of animals, and one which could learn to...more
Katie
A book I never would have chosen on my own, but rather read as a result of a book club. While I think it was good to branch out and read something a little different, this just didn't leave me caring to recommend it to others.

The author starts out by sharing her intense feelings of grief and letters of condolences for the passing of the bird she studied professionally for many years. While I felt some form of sorrow for her - there wasn't enough of an established connection for the reader to th...more
Patti
Oct 04, 2008 Patti rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Animal lovers, people interested in scientific research
This was a good story of science and a particular parrot's personality. Irene Pepperberg acquired Alex in the mid-1970s for research, and from the outset, tried to keep an emotional distance from Alex so that her research would be accurate. She tried, but didn't succeed--her affection for Alex shines through in this book.

Alex himself is quite a bird--an African grey parrot, he was able to learn to communicate in ways that Irene and her assistants taught him, and also in surprising other ways. A...more
Alex
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Jed Olson
Overall a pretty good book; however this book is more about the author, Dr.Pepperberg, than it is about Alex the Parrot. It's also too short and has the feel of an unfinished memoir, one that was perhaps hastily published while Alex's death was still big news. One has to admire Dr. Pepperberg for her continual persistence in the face of adversity. Starting with a heartless mother and a largely absent father, Dr. Pepperberg plods through academic rejection, professional ridicule, financial desti...more
Sandy Lender
Jul 27, 2009 Sandy Lender rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
In Alex & Me, the scientist Irene M. Pepperberg tells the story of how a precocious little African Grey parrot went from science model to companion and friend while shaping a research phenomenon. While many in the companion parrot community recognize Alex’s name, recognize Pepperberg’s name, recognize that he was “smart” and contributed somehow to scientific research on animal communication and learning, Pepperberg brings the Alex Studies into focus in a conversational manner in this book. T...more
Ghostfishe
This was a good book. No it isn't the warm and fuzzy story a lot of bird lovers would probably prefer, but it is important because of what it tells us about both Alex and Dr. Pepperberg. We learn that she grew up with birds, and loved birdwatching, both things I think that most non-scientist bird lovers could relate to. Alex was not merely an "object of study", but something of a colleague, a fact she mentions several times.

I've seen folks complain in the past that (for instance) they should hav...more
Liz
I decided to give this book 3 stars instead of 2, because I was genuinely interested in the science behind it. However, both me and my husband Dave felt that at times, the imposition of some of the author's personal emotional coloring actually detracted from the unique subject matter. It's entirely plausible that her editors wanted a better shot at being in Oprah's Book Club or whatever, and so perhaps instructed her to put more of her own internal experience in there...also, Dave pointed out th...more
Chrissie
Very good book about the intelligence of animals, but I preferred Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien. Pepperberg is a true scientist. She is less inclined to loosen up and allow her emotions to take sway. And that is fine. To really convince the science world you have to do things that way, and look what she accomplished. Fabulous. Nevertheless, it was Alex's own unprompted speech which I found the most amazing, more so than the scientific experiments. I did not think the writing was as good eithe...more
Zawn Villines
I wanted to love this book because I've read a lot of thirdhand information about Alex from other scientists. It seemed like it was high time to read commentary from the woman who actually knew and loved Alex. I hate to bash Dr. Pepperberg, because she's obviously an intelligent woman who has contributed much to science. But this book is ruined by its author.

Much of the book is a screed about how much Pepperberg has suffered, how poorly understood she is, how difficult her childhood was. But non...more
Lani
Feb 05, 2011 Lani rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ted
Despite all of Alex's acclaim, I'm not sure I'd ever heard of him, and that includes years of psych classes including a few on animal behavior. I've seen all the videos of signing chimps, and have visited the National Zoo and it's Think Tank. But I've never found birds particularly interesting and don't watch the news, so maybe I'd somehow missed all the 'thinking parrot' stories. I picked this up from the bargain books, and certainly consider it money and a day well spent.

Pepperberg tries to br...more
Sarah
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Judith
Where have i been that i missed the news about this amazing bird who charmed young students, lab assistants, celebrities and scientists by his ability to actually learn to speak English in order to communicate rather than simply repeat words he had heard? ! This is a truly amazing story and I appreciated the style in which Dr. Pepperberg wrote it: simple enough for a lay person to understand the beauty of the scientific processes. Not only that, but she wrote just enough details about the scienc...more
Kathryn
Irene does not manage to transcend the special gap here. She stays a scientist through and through, there are even some structural holes in the story in the end. She doesn't tie the knot connecting her beginning, which opens with Alex's death, to the end, when she discovers him dead in his cage. She keeps too much distance between herself and the bird and seems to rely overmuch on the reader's pre-awareness of Alex's notoriety. I'd never heard of Alex before this book and thus had no notion of h...more
Jesse Markus
Eh, this book is pretty good. It was a quick read, mostly just an autobiographical tale of how Irene came to study animal communication, the troubles she encountered, and the discoveries and progress she made. Fun, uplifting, amusing, fascinating stuff. This books is for the lay-person; it contains very little science and gets a little too wishy-washy for me sometimes. I'm more interested in reading Irene's other book, "The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots." Th...more
Audra
Here's your first word of advice: don't read this in an emotionally volatile (or, you know, hormonal, pregnant, depressed, what-have-you) state. It's seriously, in the very first and very last portions, a very heartfelt and tear-jerking book.

That said, this is a book by a scientist that explores very deep scientific issues in a way that makes them accessible to almost any reader. Dr. Pepperberg does an eloquent job of making plain what the science world makes complicated for most of us.

The life...more
Patty
My nano has led me to places I had no idea even existed. I heard Irene Pepperberg on The Moth which is a not-for-profit storytelling organization. I just discovered The Moth and I have enjoyed all the stories I have heard.

Pepperberg caught my attention because of the emotional content of her story. After listening, I wanted to know more about Alex and Irene. So off to the library catalog to request the book.

Because I was responding to the emotions of Pepperberg's story on The Moth, this book was...more
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Irene Maxine Pepperberg is a scientist noted for her studies in animal cognition, particularly in relation to parrots. She is an adjunct professor of psychology at Brandeis University and a lecturer at Harvard University. She is well known for her comparative studies into the cognitive fundamentals of language and communication, and was one of the first to try to extend work on language learning i...more
More about Irene M. Pepperberg...
The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots Animal Cognition in Nature: The Convergence of Psychology and Biology in Laboratory and Field

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“Clearly, animals know more than we think, and think a great deal more than we know.” 10 likes
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