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The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  324 ratings  ·  66 reviews
A literary ode to peace, presence, and fulfillment inspired by a walk taken with a most surprising creature.

"The demon of speed is often associated with forgetting, with avoidance...and slowness with memory and confronting," observes Milan Kundera in his novel Slowness. With that purpose in mind--a search for slowness and tranquillity--Andy Merrifield set out on a journey
...more
Hardcover, 245 pages
Published February 19th 2008 by Walker & Company (first published January 17th 2008)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  324 ratings  ·  66 reviews


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Michael
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Booknblues
An English man who gives up on the struggle for a literary career in New York City retreats to the Avignon region in central France for a period of rural contemplation. Based on earlier brief forays in Egypt and Morocco, he takes up long hiking trips with a donkey for a companion and pack animal. He learns to accommodate to their famous stubbornness: “You tell a horse …but you need to ask a donkey.” According to a French expression: “A donkey pushes himself; he’s not pulled.”

His donkey’s name i
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Chrisl
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2000s, animals, travel, france
In my first grad school librarian class, the professor, the most helpful lifelong of all college instructors, handed each of us a reading list, instructing us to be able to discuss the books in the following weeks' classes. My list had 17 items. Other students had similar sized lists. Every list was different. Students wouldn't be competing for a limited number of library copies. That pace continued ... it strongly influenced my reading patterns after becoming a public library director. There ar ...more
Chrissie
I am split on this book. I don’t regret having read it. I like very much those sections of the book where the author speaks of his own travels in France accompanied by a donkey named Gribouille through the Haute-Auvergne region of France. Hearing of his own personal experiences is what I like. Having read this, I would love to have a donkey. I like their temperament. I knew little about them before reading this book!

So why is this book just OK? Why do I give it only two stars? Simple answer---t
...more
Connie G
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
After living in the noisy and fast-paced atmosphere of New York City for a decade, geography teacher and author Andy Merrifield searched for a more tranquil life. He found it walking across Auvergne with Gribouille, a big chocolate-colored donkey, as a companion. It was a time of reflection and slowing down as they traversed the French rural bridle paths.

I had never given much thought to donkeys and their gentle, quiet nature, but was fascinated by them by the end of the book. The author reflect
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Yoonmee
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-writing
I ended up enjoying this book far more than I had anticipated. At first I thought, "A book about a man walking around France with a donkey? Sounds like fun." Being a big fan of travel writing, I picked it up at the library, but this book was so much more than travel writing/literature. This is a love song to donkeys, to slowing down, to living life with less but being more content. It's a lovely story filled with Merrifield's philosophies about life, literature, and donkeys. At times, Merrifield ...more
Booknblues
Nov 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals, travel
The Wisdom of Donkeys
By Andy Merrifield
4 stars
pp. 258

Finding tranquility in a chaotic world is Merrifield's subtitle to The Wisdom of Donkeys and that is exactly what Merrifield was doing following a personal undefined crisis. Merrifield a native of Liverpool, England had wanted two things in his life to live in New York City and immerse himself in academia. He had both of those, a PhD in Geography, an urban Marxist theorist an active author and yet during a crisis of faith he walked away and fo
...more
Sher
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, and perhaps I am biased since I have donkeys and I hike with them almost daily- so I have my own views of donkey-nature. This tale is about a man who walks across southern France with a donkey, and like many such memoirs the story weaves in present experiences with history of the area, history of donkeys, other tales about donkeys, and tales from the author's past that are brought forth as a result of his long trek with the donkey. An enjoyable book for those who like storie ...more
Stephanie
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
It was good - and teaches us a valuable message about how this equine species can teach us how to be patient, kind, thoughtful, careful, gentle, and calm. But that message could have been conveyed in fewer pages. Like the author's donkey pal, the book is heartwarming, but moved at a very slow pace. I just lost interest and gave up about half way through. ...more
Janelle
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
A nice read written by a man that backpacks around southern France with a donkey as a companion. He relates a lot of stories of donkeys in literature (he is an encyclopedia of literature) to how they are viewed today as he walks from town to town with Gribouille.
Wolf Ostheeren
This might have been a five star book, had I read it travelling somewhere with a donkey myself, one chapter each night. As it was, listening to the audio book pretty much straight through, it suffered. A lot. Even when I had reined in the narrator a little (he's rushing through the book as if it was a horse race, not a donkey treck and his French pronunciation sucks, frankly...) I still felt myself rushed at a 0.9x speed (the lowest it would go without sounding weird). I did stop a few times to ...more
Conrad
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Well-written, but I found it a bit dull. The writer draws inspiration from the natural peacefulness of donkeys, but the lessons are fairly predictable. I read it mainly as research for a novel I'm writing that involves a donkey, so I wasn't fully open to it on its own merits. As a meditation, I think it serves well. ...more
Elizabeth La Lettrice
maybe i'm just not ready to grasp "tranquility" but this book moved too goddamn slow for me. also, it felt like, rather than writing a book about a personal experience, the author SEEMED to go on a personal experience for the purposes of writing a book. i guess you've got to create your writing inspiration when you're living the slow life in a small french hamlet? he never goes into his "why" for the journey, nor the distance or time (at least, i didn't pick up on it - i think it was a few days? ...more
Scott Munden
Dec 23, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a wonderful little book and I've never really read anything like it. It is something of a self-help text and I usually run in the opposite direction of books of that ilk. This seemed different to me however. "The Wisdon of Donkeys" is also a travelogue, an extended meditation and a plea for empathy with fellow sentient beings.

Merrifield's donkey could have been written as a metaphoric argument for slowing the hyper-pace of our lives. The book could have been just about the lost pleasure
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Shelley
Mar 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Donkeys are amazing creatures - kind, gentle, trusting, calm, and very strong. Let's hope they are also forgiving after the way humans have treated them throughout history.

The Wisdom of Donkeys is a story about slowing down life. Andy Merrifield takes a journey through southern France with a borrowed donkey, and we are constantly reminded that the art of daydreaming or "passive adventure" is the greatest piece of wisdom to be learned from these animals.

In our modern frenetic rat race, we are un
...more
Terri ducay
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book several books ago while traveling and the person who recommended it said it was a wonderful read. I finally slowed down to read it and what a wonderful book it is!

If you like animals you will enjoy this book. Even if you do not like animals, this is worth the read. It's about life and how what we think we need in our life is not always true.

Also learning more how donkeys play such an important role for most of the world, how smart and strong they are gives insight in how speci
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Sharon
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
At the beginning, it all seems very boring, and the author seems like he's not getting anywhere with his words. But once the journey really kicks in, it's like you're in it with Merrifield together. Gribouille is charming. You have to read this book. ...more
Norah
May 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: sister in law Sue
First, it made me want to buy a donkey, then look after him and stroke him/her, and learn to understand the animal.... The author writes so you feel you are on the journey with him and the donkey, and it is a very strong feel-good book.
Amy
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psych, nonfict, animals, memoir
This book is fantastic. Musings on the inner lives of donkeys. Walking cross country with a donkey, the author brings together donkey lore and literature and his own experiences having a simple, natural space of time to explore the world.
Scott Lake
May 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Jealousy. The emotion you may experience in reading this book about the author's walking journey through southern France, enjoying life at a pace the modern world has forgotten, in the companionship of Gribouille - a donkey.

Merrifield shows he is a soul-mate of Robert Frost.
...more
Snap
I often read lists of favorite books famous (or not so famous) people suggest. I think THE WISDOM OF DONKEYS was on Deborah Madison's list. No matter. I thank the person whose list this wonderful book was on. It is a keeper. It's going directly to the shelf holding my favorite books. A book I took my time reading and now want to go back and read again to see what I missed! First, it is a marvelous animal book, a study of the donkey. From the history of the donkey that takes Merrifield from the S ...more
Amy Dale
This was a singularly unique little book, I've never read anything like it. There was no story,no plot,no purpose. Instead,there was an enchanting experience of simply walking through the French countryside with a donkey. This book was freeing,it was a pleasure as the author simply took you on a walk with him and his fuzzy friend,it was like really being there. Every page you saw the waving grasses, shared bread with a donkey as you amble down a forest path. Incorporated was a vast wealth of don ...more
Claire
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is essentially the author's self-indulgent wittering about his life through the lens of a walking trip with a donkey in rural France. I've given it two stars (instead of none) because it does have a few moments of enjoyability and insight, especially when covering the role donkeys have played throughout history. There's also two pages about life plans that I'm going to share with my 17 year old son but otherwise I won't be recommending this book to others. ...more
rose
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
I very much appreciated the meditative quality of the book, but the fragments of history and culture thrown in sometimes added and sometimes took away from the read. For example, details of how violently some people treat animals, particularly beasts of burden, feels like a different book to me. Don't get me wrong, I think exposing animal cruelty is important, but including it in a meditative journey is a bit exhausting. ...more
Dalton
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Picked up this book at Grand Canyon, AZ in the GC village gift shop. Has nothing to do with the GC but there are plenty of mules there for transport into the canyon. I like donkeys; they can be very sweet and intelligent animals. This book delves into their psyche, their personalities and peculiarities while the author treks though the countryside of southern France with his rented donkey Gribouille. You learn about donkey lore in a rather splendid narration of this man's trip. ...more
Ann Tracy
Mar 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Ann by: book club
Shelves: didn-t-finish
let's put it this way: i have a pacemaker that is set so that my heart rate doesn't go below 60. i'm fairly certain that my pacemaker was working 100% of the time while reading this book. i wanted to like this book about a man with his donkey in france but it was so slow, and there so many books in the world. moving on... ...more
Elaine Donovan
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely book that lets you meander through the French countryside and Merrifield's mind. The book is dotted with educating about donkeys and their plight in the world. I found it an enjoyable read. ...more
John Kaufmann
Dec 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Three stars, barely. The book was pretty slow - though it was meant to be and I knew it going in. Maybe it was that the author didn't distill as much wisdom as I would have preferred. I think I expected the book to be more like a parable - which it really wasn't. ...more
Lucie Cali
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Q very relaxing read but some times very though when he describes how mistreated some donkeys are. A very slow moving read, ideal for a lazy afternoon. I love donkeys and I'm French so I could really get into his story that takes place mostly in France. ...more
Rick
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and thoughtful book. The chapter describing the donkey rescue service in Cairo was heartbreaking to read, but informative. We all should spend time wandering with our own Gribouolle whenever the need or fancy arises.
Cynthiajsnyder
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horse-books
If you love donkeys...you will love this book. It took me a little while to get the hang of this philosophical book, but by the end of I gobbling it up and didn't want it to end. Being a donkey owner and lover, I found a lot of truths in this wonderful journey. ...more
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