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Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process
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Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  5,829 Ratings  ·  812 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 unprecede

Hardcover, 232 pages
Published October 28th 2008 by Harper (first published 2008)
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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
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
Leanne Ellis
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Sandra Dark
Dec 31, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Lynn G.
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pet, animal-psycology
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!!
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
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
da AL
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Much enjoyed learning about the capacity of animals to learn and about their intrinsic unique personalities. Also appreciated the author's account of being a woman scientist having to fight gender prejudices and those against animals.
Virginia Messina
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals
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
Petra Eggs
I've followed Dr. Pepperberg and her subject, Alex, for many years. This book was written after Alex's death and is much more about Dr. Pepperberg who isn't very interesting, than the fantastically deep and intelligent Alex. A disappointing book.
Eugenea Pollock
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This story was fascinating, and I enjoyed the window on animal cognition. Having grown fond of Alex, I also mourned his loss. Here is a beautiful passage that aptly describes his premature passing: "Alex left us as a magician might exit the stage: a blinding flash, a cloud of smoke, and the weaver of wizardry is gone, leaving us awestruck at what we'd seen, and wondering what other secrets remained hidden."
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okay so I finished this book abnormally fast due to a combination of sleeplessness and the intense interest in the connection between bird and human. I am ashamed to admit that I emotionally impulse bought a green cheek conure back in December and boy oh boy, do I wish I would have been a responsible pet owner about it and done research prior to this purchase. But with striking similarities to 'Marley & Me', I have whole wholeheartedly fallen in love with my feathered friend. And this book j ...more
Zawn Villines
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: animals
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
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The books gives a simplified synopsis of the thirty years Alex and Irene worked together in answering the question "Does of parrot have the capability of developing language?" I believe that Alex provided the answer, Yes. In their years together Alex learned to label objects, he understood numbers up to six, he knew his colors, he had a concept of "none" and much more. This book was a lovely tribute to a little guy who died too soon.
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The phrases Alex uses to describe stuff is so cute. It is amazing to think of how much birds actually do understand. I really enjoyed the book and I am going to read more about Alex.
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I listened to the audiobook which was 5 segments, a fairly short book. I very much enjoyed the biographical bits of Pepperberg's youth, her education experience leading to a PhD in Chemistry, her struggles throughout her research and the descriptions of the variety of places where she did the work, and the descriptions of the training method and information found. The best parts were the little stories about Alex and her which went above and beyond the strict science. I loved this book.
Ginger Bensman
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Part memoir, part scientific study, part love story. I loved learning about Alex, a more than remarkable parrot, and the researcher who taught him to use language and proved that birds (at least gray parrots) are infinitely more intelligent than we had ever imagined. I was also inspired by Dr. Pepperberg's persistence to do the work she loved in spite of mighty personal and professional obstacles.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the bird, didn't love the author and book as much. Lovely story though.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, animals
Fantastic. Takes a long time to disprove the common wisdom of the time. Dr Pepperberg proved that birds can learn by methods other than operant conditioning.
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, I loved this. The beginning is sad, the author goes on in detail about the many condolences she received when Alex died. She received many heartfelt messages and cards offering sympathy. It was very moving and by the end of the story I was glad she had gotten the heart wrenching part of her loss out of the way. For me it meant I wasn't a blubbering mess when Alex did die. He was a wonderful little beast. I loved all the anecdotal stories about him.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Let me start by saying I loved reading about Alex. From the title you would expect that most of the book would actually be about Alex, but you would be wrong. Much of the book is about Irene and Irene's research, troubles, relationships, etc. I simply didn't care about Irene. I wanted more Alex!
Apr 06, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this almost on a lark (pun intended). I picked it up from a local lieberry weeks ago. It has been sitting around for my wife to read for her book club but she's busy with The Blind Assassin. I was about to read Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot, so why not read both of these at the same time? Besides, i'm interested in science. I'm especially interested in language. I like animals (even though a high school friend's parrot scared the crap outa me). I decided to give it an honest go despit ...more
Quite disappointing. More of a memoir than an insightful exploration of bird intelligence. For those interested in a thoughtful exploration of bird cognition, look elsewhere; perhaps something by Bernd Heinrich or The Genius of Birds.
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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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
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“Clearly, animals know more than we think, and think a great deal more than we know.” 11 likes
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