TBML's Reviews > Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin
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's review
Jun 25, 2009

it was amazing

This was one of the Branigan BookClub selections for April 2008. The other was Sara Gruen's mesmerizing WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.

For the purists out there, yes I know that it is gramatically incor-rect, but I'll write it anyways. ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION is one of the most enjoyable and fascinating books that I have read in many years.

A felicitous constellation of characteristics combine to make this so.
First, the subject matter; here the subtitle says it all--'using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior.' Already she has me hooked. Just look at the words. "Mysteries," that is nearly irresis-tible for anyone with an active curiosity! "Autism," I am fascinated by the wide variety of human conditions and behavior. "Decode," appeals to my voracious curiosity and suggests hidden knowledge revealed. "Animal behavior," I am an unabashed animal lover and the idea of understanding their behavioris immensely appealing.So, before I even opened the book, I was primed, pumped, pulled in and prepared for a treat!

Well, I got one! And on a number of levels. First there is the autobiographical element. Grandin doesn't sensationalizes or sugar coats the moments when her autism appears; it is simply there as part of the story. No "...look what I overcame;aren't I great because of it?" dramatics or "...Oh, woe is poor little me!" self pity; just a matter of fact narrative of her experience. Then there is what I call the 'review of the literature' component. Throughout the book, she is constantly citing studies from a wide range of scientific disciplines that bear upon a specific point or ilustration she has just made. For me that is fascinating. And, she does it so clearly. Then, she talks so knowledgably and convincingly of animals and their behavior that it is a joy to read. Grandin obviously knows her subject and is passionate about it.

To top it all off,there is her writing style. The adjectives "lim-pid," "crisp," "uncluttered," "reasonable," and others of the same ilk come to mind in this context. Grandin's prose, the solid rational basis for her arguments and her disarming candor remind me of other authors I enjoy: John McPhee, Mary Roach, Simon Winchester, Jake Page, and Marion Roach.

If you are at all curious about animals, their relationship to people and vice versa, autism and the world around you , my guess is you would enjoy this book.--Mark
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