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The Octopus and the Orangutan: New Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  324 ratings  ·  43 reviews
In The Octopus and the Orangutan, Eugene Linden takes readers on another unforgettable journey into the minds and hearts of animals, going beyond our everyday encounters with animals at home and in the zoo in a wide-ranging collection of real-life anecdotes.

The Octopus and the Orangutan finds intelligent behavior in surprising new places, ranging from the octopus's garde
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 29th 2003 by Plume Books (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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Feb 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bookclub
Linden does a stellar job of demolishing the scientific process in this loosely-linked collection of anecdotes, speculation, and outright making shit up.
A telling example: after credulously recounting a tiger keeper's stories of telepathic "imaging" from the big cats warning the keeper of danger, Linden says "Any empiricist gets understandably nervous when such stories are raised, but, discounting the possibility that they are the product of an overheated imagination, they are worth considering.
Mar 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ines by: Kazimieras
I didn't know what I was getting into when I began reading this book. I thought that it was a book filled with "true tales of animal intrigue, intelligence, and ingenuity". And yes, while the book does have tales, many of them are anecdotal, possibly embellished truths, but they also seem secondary to the author's main topics, one of which is intelligence.

The reason I say this book is more about the study of intelligence versus tales of animals, is because Linden covers such topics as evolution
May 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Interesting and fast-paced, with a lot of intriguing anecdotes... and not a lot of detail or organization. I admit it - I'm spoiled. I was hoping for more.

I was also hoping it wouldn't devolve quite so much into 'woo' that totally lacks any kind of evidence, and I lost a bit of respect for the author when he gave several pages to the possibility that cats might be able to communicate via implanting images in the minds of people around them. Speaking as a lifelong cat owner, I very much doubt thi
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for answers, don't bother with this book. This is a book intended to generate questions. It raises questions about how intelligence can be measured when it can't even be properly defined, and how our (stubborn) clinging to assertions of human exceptionality in terms of intelligence might be rooted in our assumptions that intelligence must manifest itself in other animals the same ways it does in humans, and be grounded in the same structures. Yes, it does use a lot of anecdote ...more
Feb 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book will give you enough amusing anecdotes about various brilliant animals to fuel your dinner table conversation for weeks to come. Linden refrains from drawing too many conclusions from the various amazing stories of animal ingenuity, as he realizes that anecdotes do not scientific proof make, but the wide range of stories here speak for themselves -- we don't know nearly as much as some think we do about what intelligence is and how animals think.
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This dovetailed nicely with the concepts we are covering in ecology class-animal behavior such as altruism, deception, etc. The anecdotes were entertaining and usually thought-provoking, although he lost me when he started suggesting that animals might be capable of telepathy. That made me take the rest of it with a grain of salt.
Marian Grudko
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly fascinating and endlessly enjoyable book. I have fallen in love with octopuses and the magnificent souls who decided to pay attention and respect to all these creatures, and then report the sometimes hilarious stories! I've always thought it arrogant of humans to refer to other animals as "lower forms of life." Take a look at a video of an octopus changing its color and skin texture to blend in with the plants on the sea bed - can we do that?
Carol Blakeman
I was entertained by the stories of the animals, but quite a bit of the text was his analysis of the events and how animals had evolved in order to do these things.
Courtney Coulson
May 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
I don't think this was written for children but children are the only ones who will get anything out of this book. It's very basic. ...more
Hannah Mason
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Read in 2017, and this book is 15 years outdated. For that reason alone, I do not recommend.

Also, the name is misleading. It's not really a cutesy book of animal tales like it makes itself out to be. It's a little book of anecdotal arguments written in favor of animal intelligence, compiled by an environmental journalist. The writing is pretty dry, though, and the arguments don't even try to lead to any conclusions. Even if it were contemporary, it still wouldn't be all that good.
Deborah Ideiosepius
It took me several attempts to get into this book, I actually started it several times and stalled. I was determined however and I am glad I persevered because it is about Animal Behaviour, which was my first university major, and Octopus! My favourite animal and, yes I also majored in Cephalopod behaviour.
Unfortunately the first two chapters, dealing with the octopus, which were the ones I was most excited about, were the ones I got least out of. Despite the mention of classic work and august p
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting...but this wasn't it - good or bad. It at times felt intelligent and thought-provoking. Yet at other times it felt amateur, naive or superficial, and I was left feeling frustrated and gypped, yearning for more.
The author's discussion(s) on "intelligence" was fascinating - how do we actually define intelligence, how does human intelligence as the standard influence perception of "intelligence", does this not introdu
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
A book that asks for an open mind as to what is the basis of cognition and comminication in animals, including humans. The part in chapter 10 that dealt with establishing parameters of word definitions before communication begins was a favorite segment. It is so true that it is easier to communicate with someone who shares a set of experiences that form the basis of how definitions of words in common are reached. Ingroup communications have greater numbers of shared terms than outgroup communica ...more
Tony duncan
Dec 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
A very interesting and provocative book about animal intelligence. While it is mostly anecdotes about animals the author is well aware of the limited scientific value, but is also aware of their importance and makes a good case for typical scientific procedure being woefully inadequate to assess what we know about non human intelligence. he makes very good points about how intelligence can mean different things, and that animals like octopus, which have tiny brains, and normally would be conside ...more
Tippy Jackson
Nov 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animalia
Another great book from Eugene Linden. I preferred "The parrot's lament," but this book was still fantastic. An octopus annoyed by its not so fresh shrimp, master escape artists and the pros and cons of bartering with captive animals. Great stuff. Just a good example, a story of a bull and a horse working together to get a door open to escape. The bull would put his horns under the door to lift it up (to take the tension off of the hook) and the horse would then lift the hook. Amazing anecdotes. ...more
Apr 11, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It truly is full of "more true tales of animal intrigue, intelligence and ingenuity", but that is about all it is. The anecdotes (Orangatans escaping from cages by picking their locks with wire or an octopus making a point of putting the not so fresh shrimp done the drain) were very amusing, but the descriptions on how this could be another level of intelligence was poorly done and their was little reference to actual science to support the stories. Reads much shorter than the 220 pages it was ( ...more
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is very interesting. Some of the animal stories of intelligence are hilarious and make me "LOL". I do not agree with the fact that these animals are being held captive and used for scientific research. I have a hard time seeing past that fact, but the I do like that the author says that he doesn't necessarily agree with it either.

Octopuses and orangutans are very intelligent creatures, and this book has definitely increased my knowledge about the two. I am somewhat biased though, I lo
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
The animal anecdotes themselves are uniformly awesome and charming, and many of them are even fairly plausible. Less awesome and charming: Linden's apparent annoyance at scientists for their stupid fixation on experiments and verifying things and their stupid skepticism. Completely priceless: his later assertion that maybe cats are psychic.

What the hell, man. What the hell.
Rena Sherwood
Very short book about animal intelligence, focusing on octopuses, orangutans and elephants. Contains some very un-PC stories about captive killer whales and zoo elephants. Just scratches the surface of the topic and never really goes to much depth. The book could have benefited with a bibliography and some photos. I found "When Elephants Weep" to be a much better book on animal intelligence, even though it centers on animal emotions. ...more
Apr 19, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted this to be a book about different crazy, inspiring stories of animals. It sort of is...but not really. It's more like a short story followed by pontification on the part of the author. I would prefer you tell the story and I'll do the pondering. Still, some of the stories were crazy! ...more
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: non-fiction
Loved it. The author really probes at our limiting definitions of intelligence and really poses some interesting questions about it. This book made me think a lot after i put it down- I definately would recommend this book to anyone!!!
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
As long as you're not too science-minded and require proof and citations, Linden's tales of surprise animal intelligence can captivate the imagination. Definitely a book that makes you question reality as we (think) we know it. ...more
Tessa Stockton
Expected stories of the connections/bonds between animals and humans; these were more like scientific proposals. There were a few memorable anecdotes, but most of the content was theoretically based and presented in a dry arrangement.
Aug 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: carnivores
No one believed me when i said octopuses were smart-- Ha! Take that!
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More animal antics.. you'll love this one! ...more
Mar 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There may be more intelligent life on this planet than has been generally accepted & it ain't all found within species homo sapiens. Intriguing, humbling, definately thought-provoking. ...more
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2009
Read from 1/29 to 1/30.
Alexandra Joy
Feb 21, 2011 rated it liked it
A fun take on animal communication. Maybe too many he-said, she-said stories for my taste, but a lot of good tidbits. Found it slightly repetitive though.
May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Good mix of anecdotes and science. Needs more octopus stories. You can never have too many octopus stories.
Heather Browning
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Cute set of stories to make you think about animal minds. I would have liked more anecdotes and less exposition though.
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