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How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals

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4.06  ·  Rating details ·  5,738 ratings  ·  1,122 reviews
National Book Award finalist Sy Montgomery reflects on the personalities and quirks of 13 animals--her friends--who have profoundly affected her in this stunning, poetic, and life-affirming memoir featuring illustrations by Rebecca Green.

Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and advent
...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Joan I'm afraid of spiders and tarantulas would freak me out. I managed the book fine. I think there is one illustration of Clarabelle, the tarantula in bl…moreI'm afraid of spiders and tarantulas would freak me out. I managed the book fine. I think there is one illustration of Clarabelle, the tarantula in black and white (which, stipulated might be worse than color in this case.) It kind of was ok, the way Charlotte in Charlotte's web is ok. But I got my eye off the illustration fast, and went on to the story. Or, just skip chapter 4, period. (less)
Josie Brown It isn't a rehash of her other books. It is a much more personal story about her life and what she learned from the animal in it. Definitely worth rea…moreIt isn't a rehash of her other books. It is a much more personal story about her life and what she learned from the animal in it. Definitely worth reading! Especially if you like her other books(less)

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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  5,738 ratings  ·  1,122 reviews


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Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
*reposting this for Christmas because while we are all involved in giving gifts to family, etc. I hope that some of you leave out something for the squirrels, birds, deer, turkeys, etc that may be in your yard. Winter can be a hard time for animals. Merry Christmas and thank God for being blessed with all of the animals in the world :)

The cover of this book is what caught my eye, what a beautiful illustration. There are whimsical drawings throughout the book and a wonderful gallery of photograph
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Barbara
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it

Sy Montgomery writes books and documentaries about animals for both children and adults. In this book, Montgomery shares stories about some of her favorite creatures, including her family pets; an octopus in an aquarium; and creatures in their natural environment.


Sy Montgomery

Montgomery travels around the world to research her books, and has visited the cloud forests of Papua New Guinea; Mongolia's Gobi Desert; Amazon rivers; the Australian Outback; and much more. Every animal Montgomery got to
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J.L.   Sutton
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Most reviewers love Sy Montgomery's How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals. I liked the premise (from the perspective of a naturalist) that we can learn and connect to creatures that seem so different from us. The essays I enjoyed most focused on this theme and covered specific animals that Montgomery was studying such as a group of emu and an octopus. The intelligence of an octopus is seen as alien and other worldly. That's what makes trying to communicate with it so interestin ...more
Olive
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a book, it's a bear hug.
Katie
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
"After Chris and, too soon afterward, Tess had died, the one thing that kept me going was the comforting thought that I could kill myself."

This quote perfectly signifies my confusion with this book and what the author is trying to accomplish. This is not so much an exploration of “how to be a good creature” as much as it is a record of the author’s struggles coping with the aging process and subsequent death of the animals she loved.

I read through a lot of the reviews trying to understand why e
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Montzalee Wittmann
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery and also narrated by the author is a book that just makes you feel so good! I am a but animal loved and I could relate to her stories much. It didn't sound like she had the best family life but her love for her dog was a saving grace. Later her love for animals spread to all kinds of creatures and she explains how they helped her and she loved them. I laughed, related, and cried throughout this book! I was a mess! I could do all of these in one chapter! ...more
Cheri
I had seen the cover of this book, had been drawn in by the illustrations on the cover but knew little about the contents until I read my goodreads friend Dorie’s review. Then I knew I wanted to read it and requested it from the library, thinking that it would be months before it would be my turn, so I was surprised when I received a notification that my turn had arrived!

In the introduction, Sy Montgomery speaks of her travels around the world and how a saying that came to her once has become a
...more
debbicat
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5 BIG HAPPY stars! If you wanna know how to be good creature, you can learn this from animals, like Sy did with 13 written about here. Such a good book! I must buy a copy. I enjoyed hearing about all 13 of her animal loves. My favorites were the dogs, Christopher Hogwood, the good pig, Octavia the Octopus, and the Clarabelle, the tarantula. So much to learn here and enjoy. "Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalis ...more
Roe
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
I waited two months to get this from the library and I'm kind of stunned by how much I didn't like it. Many of the animals are lovely, but the lessons they taught the author are never actually talked about? Most of it is the author talking about negative events in her life and then ending the chapter with two large print pages on the animal itself. It became about how much the author hated herself and wanted to die (which was super jarring considering what the theme of the book was supposed to b ...more
Whitney
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Overall: A very sweet memoir focused on lessons learned from various creatures the author has come in contact with throughout her life. The book is set up into thirteen chapters with each chapter devoted to a different creature. A sweet read that I would recommend to any animal lover.

The Good:
"You never know, even when life looks hopeless, what might happen next. It could be that something wonderful is right around the corner."

From the first chapter, you can tell the author has an absolute love
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Cheryl
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Squee!!
Oh I do hope at least one of my libraries gets this promptly!
Or maybe I'll have to buy it. Direct from Sy, because she should get all the proceeds....
......
Ok, libraries are buying it, so yay. And it deserves to be in any collection that can afford it. But I have to say, Sy's done better. This is just too brief for me, a sampler if you will. If you're new to her work, by all means read this. Or if you like emotional memoir-ish essays, you'll likely love this.

But if you've already read mo
...more
KC
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating look at one woman's journey with the animals she's met and loved throughout her life. The illustrations are captivating. I can't believe I cried over an octopus!
Barbara
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are so many wonderful adjectives I could use to describe this book : lovely, engaging, entrancing, profound, and full of discovery. Montgomery has dedicated her life to traveling the world to write about animal life around the globe. She also has had a number of animals in her life including dogs, chickens, and a pig, and lives with her husband on a farm in New Hampshire. The animals she writes about include a Scottish Terrier, Border Collies, emus in the Australian Outback, a pet pig, a G ...more
Sarah
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Author Sy Montgomery’s childhood Scottish Terrier taught her to be tough and independent. Twelve more animals she has shared her life with, including an octopus and a tarantula, have each taught her something about life and herself. Sy truly understands and appreciates animals. This illustrated memoir is so charming and reminded me that to slow down and give my own fur babies extra cuddles is good for the soul, theirs and mine.
Fox
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Carolyn
How to Be a Good Creature is a book unlike any other I've yet read.

If you know me, you know I've been rescuing hedgehogs for a number of years now. I've worked with animals close to death and brought them back to a happy, healthy state. I've worked with animals that hated everyone, but taught them to love me and accept others. I've worked with any number of these little creatures, and the one thing I can say after having done this for over six years now is that every single one that has come in
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Kirsty
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really liked the concept of the book, and the illustrations were lovely, but I felt that the execution could have been better. The prose did very little to capture my attention.
Alison
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, favorite
4.5 STARS
Full review here: https://youtu.be/P9JfEgceMSc
...more
Ilana
More like 4.5 stars 🙂

I’m an unabashed animal lover/nutcase with three furkids of my own—of the kind that remains relatively unmoved at the sight of adorable babies, but goes absolutely nutters over dogs, cats, elephants, cows, horses, pigs, frogs, spiders, bears, beetles, bees, marsupials, octopuses, whales, mice, and just about any non-human critter living on this planet (except for roaches and mosquitoes 😖). As such, I absolutely love Sy Montgomery’s books, who’s passion for animals is positiv
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Candace
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a treat. Having only previously listened to a part of The Soul of an Octopus’ audio before my library loan expired, I knew what Montgomery was about: Animals. Unique experiences. Love.

This book made especially for young readers is wonderful. It chronicles the animals that taught Montgomery throughout her interesting life. Although there are a few of man’s best friend (dogs) count also emus, a tarantula, a pig, an octopus, and a weasel among others. With life lessons, gorgeous illustrations
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Ann
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings. It was neat to read about some wild animals I don't know much about. Strangely (for me who hates spiders), I most enjoyed the chapter about the tarantula. But I wasn't expecting long excruciatingly sad stories about the author's various dogs getting sick and dying. Giant downer!

I loved the illustrations. They were perfect.
Janet
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lots of people say they “love” animals, myself included. Montgomery takes it to a much deeper level. This is a lovely little book that captures snapshots of what--I’m sure--are only a few of the animals that have influenced her life over the years.
Rob
Mar 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
I feel morally obligated to say more than “this sucked.” This book has traveled so far in the direction of awful that it circled the globe and almost was awesome. It isn’t what it purports to be. Not a self help book. For the most part, it is an uncomfortably ecstatic love letter to her pets. A literary dogasm. And her relationship with Chris, a 750 pound pig, had me paging both Dr. Freud and Dr. Ruth. When we got to the spiritualist friend seeing the spirit of the pig hovering over her like a p ...more
Maggie Holmes
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved Soul of the Octopus and I was eager to read this book (thank you Edelweiss for the prepub copy.) I cried and laughed throughout; wanted to go on expeditions to see some of the animals; and marveled at Sy's wonderful supportive group of friends. As my cat meows constantly at me because I've shut him up in a room so he won't eat my muffin, I wonder if cats teach us to be a good creature. I'll have to pay more attention. This book -- like all good nonfiction -- makes you want to go learn mo ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Though I’ve been blessed with some splendid classroom teachers—Mr. Clarkson, my high school journalism teacher, foremost among them—most of my teachers have been animals. What have animals taught me about life? How to be a good creature."


Sy Montgomery tells her life story through the animals who have most influenced her, including not only her dog pets, but also her pet pig, a tarantula, and an octopus.



Waverly Fitzgerald
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, essays
This is one of those books that can change your life. And those are rare.
Sy Montgomery whose work as a writer about animals I knew and admired, here tells with honest and lyrical prose, the story of her life through her relationships with different animals, beginning with her appreciation for the qualities of her childhood pet, Molly the Scottie. The next chapter tells how she discovered her true career (writing about animals) in her twenties while observing a trio of emus in the Australian outb
...more
Triumphal Reads
*I did receive a digital version of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

This is the second book that I have read from the naturalist author Sy Montgomery. While I definitely enjoyed The Soul of an Octopus I was expecting a little bit more, though, perhaps that was due to the surrounding hype of that particular book. However, after now finishing How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir In Thirteen Animals, Montgomery is now established as a superb author of the natural world
...more
Marcus
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sweet and often very sad book. Two chapters stand out pretty clearly as the most powerful and interesting ones, the ones on Octavia and Tess. I think the book was successful in the mission its title suggests: I hope to take inspiration and guidance from their stories.
Bonnie
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cbr11
This is a lovely memoir about the lessons we can learn from the animals in our lives. This short but memorable book is peppered with gorgeous illustrations that make this book a feast for the eyes, too.
Miss Bookiverse
Okay, here's the good stuff: The illustrations are absolutely adorable and the animal encounters Montgomery shares in this book are interesting and sweet. It's obvious how much she loves animals and she has met a lot of them during her lifetime. What I couldn't get on with was her writing style. At first it felt clunky, later on simply dull. There is no tension or originality, she writes about life and love in the most cliché and cheesy way. Maybe because this is not an autobiography but a memoi ...more
Joan
I think this would appeal to anyone who has loved Montgomery's animals books, kid, teen, or adult. It is surprisingly personal and intense. I had no idea how much she struggled with depression. She may have forgiven her parents but they certainly seem like nasty people. She had the humility to learn from her animal friends and to love them. She also was incredibly open minded. She became friends with a tarantula, shudder....I'm afraid of spiders....and several octopusi (NEAT!) as well as the sli ...more
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Part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson, as the Boston Globe describes her, Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who has traveled to some of the worlds most remote wildernesses for her work. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, been hunted by a tiger in India, swum with pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been undressed b ...more

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