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Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  237 ratings  ·  46 reviews
New York Times best-selling author and primatologist Frans de Waal explores the fascinating world of animal and human emotions.

Frans de Waal has spent four decades at the forefront of animal research. Following up on the best-selling Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, which investigated animal intelligence, Mama’s Last Hug delivers a fascinating exploratio
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 12th 2019 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published November 14th 2018)
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4.14  · 
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 ·  237 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Will Byrnes
As a student, realizing that my biology books were of little help explaining chimpanzee behavior, I picked up a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince. It offered an insightful, unadorned account of human behavior based on real-life observations of the Borgias, the Medici, and the popes. The book put me in the right frame of mind to write about ape politics at the zoo.
We know our own inner states imperfectly and often mislead both ourselves and those around
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
Frans de Waal’s latest book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal and Human Emotions, is a survey of various emotions — what they are, when they arise, and how they are identified — in both animals and humans. Each chapter covers a different set of emotions or concepts related to them, such as emotional intelligence and sentience, described with a plentiful assortment of de Waal’s firsthand anecdotes from his decades studying primates as well as summaries of other scientific publications. In short, he assert ...more
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Animal Emotions

Early ethologists studied animal behavior to understand a shared motivation. Their experimental setup was elegant and objective, but the underlying motivation for animal behavior was ignored. For example, fear and anger, and the animal reactions to it were carefully examined and conclusions were drawn. The prevailing assumption in these studies were that animals had instincts that gave inborn actions triggered by a situation. Behavioral biologists have changed this approach becau
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I recently went to the zoo at the behest of a friend of mine (I hadn’t been to a proper zoo since I was a child) and was reminded why I hadn’t been in such a long time. Animals in small enclosures, appearing listless with nothing to stimulate them, was for me the opposite of entertaining. It was profoundly moving but not perhaps in the sense that my acquaintance might have wished. Particularly disturbing to me was seeing the macaques, gorillas, chimpanzees, and other primates. When my friend se ...more
Linda Robinson
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Educational, entertaining, enlightening, evidentiary. de Waal is devoted to his subject both intellectually and emotionally, and once you've read the book, you might believe (as I do) that that's the same fidelity. It took me all of the book to grasp that emotions are not feelings, and it's taken the behaviorist, psychologist, biologist schools decades to sort it as well. We (and this we perhaps has an arrow pointed at American studies for the perpetuation of this misconception) accept that anim ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. What a wonderful book! I enjoyed it and would highly recommend it!
Cristina Smith
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals
If you want to understand some of the whys of how our human society works, read this book. If you love animals and want a deeper understanding of our planet mates, this will give it to you. If you are interested in increasing your emotional intelligence, this is a fascinating guide.

Frank de Waal is a master observer, scientist and storyteller. Mama’s Last Hug is an exquisitely delivered perspective filled with enlightening wisdom emerging from the truth that we are all creatures, equal and uniq
Dan Graser
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The title of this latest work on primate-human emotion and cognition comes from the final act of a matriarchal chimpanzee whom the author, Frans de Waal, had studied at great length. This initial image which was also captured in viral social media videos is a deft distillation of many of this book's main points.

For much of the 20th century it was taboo among primatologists, evolutionary biologists, and psychologists to speak of, "animal emotion," given that they were viewed as not capable of pro
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a child, we went to the zoo often. Being one of 7 kids in our family, we could run around and act like monkeys and not get into trouble. From early on, all of us loved going to the ape and chimpanzee house where we were fascinated at how similar they were to us and would stand and watch then forever. This beautiful book explains and confirms that what we thought as children actually is true- animals are more like us than we think. Through extensive research the author tells us that we don’t h ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I won an ARC of Mama’s Last Hug in a Goodreads giveaway and I am so glad I did! I laughed, I cried and laughed again. Incredibly informative , I ended up using an entire highlighter on this book. It’s an absolutely fascinating view on human and animal emotions and the big question “do animals have feelings?”. My first thought whenever I hear someone ask that is ‘they’ve never had a pet before’, as I think most of us dog (and/or cat) people have a hard time believing that anyone could believe ani ...more
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bravo! Simply amazing eye opening book! Poper review coming up.
Tina Buster
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
*I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher and Edelweiss.*

Rachel Stuart
I won an advanced reading copy in one of the goodreads giveaways. I am enjoying reading about the emotional similarities between human and chimpanzees.

Excellent book and I would recommend reading it to anyone interested in social behaviors of humans and animals.
Kim Bakos
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
A very interesting book. As a person who has always had animals, I already "know" that they have emotions and feelings. I also know that they are able to read the feelings of other species, especially us humans. It was quite educational to see how this has been documented over the years in numerous species - not only those that have been domesticated, or widely observed in lab settings such as mice and monkeys, but even fish!
Because of the academic feel of the book, it wasn't a quick read, but o
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a really good read, I couldn't put it down. I arrived at home got the book in the mail and started reading. I finished this book in one sitting. This book is very very well-written. It makes sense.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This fascinating look at the latest research about the emotional lives of animals is filled with interesting ideas and examples (including Mama, the unforgettable chimp of the title). Frans de Waal is an excellent guide, sharing insight and opinion from the vantage of a long career in studying primates. This is a reader-friendly work of popular science that opens our eyes so we can see ourselves as part of the continuum of nature.

His argument is that it makes much more sense to understand that
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mama'a Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves by Frans de Waal

is a beautiful breath of fresh air for those of us who live with animals and often find ourselves explaining to non-animal people the behaviors of our beloved pets. These behaviors to us are easy to interpret, most of the time. As pet owners, we often say our pets have emotions and can even sense our own moods. We might get an eye-roll or a sideways glance from our non-pet owning friends or family members bec
This is 3.75 stars. I suggested this book to our library having read an on-line review of it that included the video of de Waal meeting Mama and receiving her hug. How I wish she could talk! So kind, so loving, so glad to see him, and I wonder if she knew she was dying. And what did she see after she did so?

One of the things I need/ed to think about is de Waal's distinction between emotions and feelings. I am not sure yet that I understand the distinction he is making. Though as he thinks many s
Dan Downing
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Frans de Waal does here what other science writers would do well to consider: he puts forth his idea and opinion, then mentions---by name---the work of others which may support his view or may conflict with it. What a help! Especially since he crosses a lot of disciplinary borders, taking on philosophy, neurology, neurobiology, psychology and so on.
Simply put, his years of experience and work have led him to believe that animals have emotions and quite possibly feelings, too. The distinction may
Craig Evans
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'd read a couple of essays or articles concerning Dr. de Waal and his research over the years, but had never until now read one of his books.
I found that his presentation was very well thought out, erudite, and compassionate for his subject.
The idea, nay fact, that our cousins in the primate realm along with many of other mammals and vertebrates share similar emotional bases in their daily lives is not new to me. This book, however, solidified that view.
From emotions to feeling to pain to polit
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and I'm really grateful for that. Why? Although I found the premise interesting, I lean more to escapism books such as sci-fi and fantasy.

The book surprised me with how easily it drew me in. It doesn't read like a reference book or a scientific text -- it was more like reading a wonderful story with some explanatory narration thrown in to explain the more scientific and behavioral aspects. I loved this book and found myself a little changed afterwar
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such important information and perspective in today's world! I've been a fan of Frans de Waal for many years after attending a Columbus Audubon live conference with him as the main speaker, and he continues to do relevant work over the decades. Animals have feelings and emotions and intellect just as we do. We are animals, after all, and it is unfathomable why science is just now accepting this fact. Frans offers many touching stories about the primates he's worked with and developed relationshi ...more
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!!! See the video of Mama and former caretaker in this book review, an example of joy, memory and obvious affection. Science has changed on views related to emotional experience of animals. Also interesting on what this science tells us about the human animal. Great read, one of my top 5 this year thus far.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I do feel liberated after reading the book. We people do like our logic and reason. Maybe my reluctance with the subject of animal emotions wasn't only that I credited my dogs, Tilde and Zerline, for having emotions, but also that I was following my own emotions to think so. Now I know, it was not only the right thing to do, it actually also shows how similar and connected we truly are.
Kathy England
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about animal emotions and the research behind them. I have always wondered why scientists denied that animals have emotions when the part of the brain from which they arise is an older part of the brain that we share with other animals. The book also discusses the difference between emotions and feelings.
Ken Nelson
This book debuts at #4 on the NY Times non-fiction bestseller list on March 31st.
It was written by a very well-respected and renowned Dutch biologist.
It really disappointed me.
I expected to be enlightened. Was I? Not so much.
At times I felt like I was doing my best to "plow through" and get through to the end of it.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
These books are never super narratively interesting, but this provides a good through-line examining what it is that defines an emotion, and systematically breaking down the notion that humans stand alone. Lots of anecdotes of clever experiments, and some delightful WikiHow-style illustrations, make it a relatively fun read.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Those who study animal behavior have been taught that it’s an intellectual sin to ascribe human capabilities such as morality, intelligence and emotions to animals. Primatologist Frans de Waal argues the reverse over this and his previous two books. He may be winning the argument.
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Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
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