Posts Tagged: Jane Goodall

In the Shadow of Man
by Jane Goodall

March 26, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

Goodall_IntheShadowofMan

★★★★★

In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall | This edition April 2010, originally published January 1971 | Mariner Books | Paperback $15.95

World-renowned primatologist, conservationist, and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall’s account of her life among the wild chimpanzees of Gombe is one of the most enthralling stories of animal behavior ever written. Her adventure began when the famous anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey suggested that a long-term study of chimpanzees in the wild might shed light on the behavior of our closest living relatives. As she came to know the chimps as individuals, she began to understand their complicated social hierarchy and observed many extraordinary behaviors, which have forever changed our understanding of the profound connection between humans and chimpanzees.

In the Shadow of Man is a classic in the realm of science non-fiction for good reason. Jane Goodall and her fellow researchers spent years — well, decades actually — studying the chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream area near Kigoma, Tanzania. She not only observed an astounding range of wild chimp behaviors, but she brought the plight of these chimps (whose forest home and own bodies were/are endangered by humans) into the spotlight for the rest of the world.

This book was originally published in the early 1970’s, well before the author observed some of the more violent chimp behaviors like “war” and infant cannibalism. However, it was revolutionary at the time because it sort of humanized chimps and debunked some misconceptions about the nature of their primitive tool use or their typical diets.

(One thing to keep in mind if you decide to read this as well — it’s fairly apparent in a few instances that this was written in the 1970’s, when the general attitude of Westerners towards the native peoples of Africa was still slightly colonialist, or at least more openly superior than is generally accepted nowadays.)

Goodall and her team gradually came to know the apes as individuals, with particular personality traits as well as physical features. She was particularly fond of a few of them, which made it all that much more difficult to deal with leaving them to go back to Europe, or watching them suffer or die. The section on the polio epidemic was particularly brutal, as by that point in the book I was also beginning to feel as though I “knew” the chimps and care about their fates. However, even that section was incredibly interesting, because I had no idea that a disease like polio could cross the species boundary. It makes sense now that I think about it, though, because after all we are so closely related genetically to these particular apes.

Jane Goodall has written several follow-up books about the chimps, as well as several other books on topics like spirituality and environmentalism. I read her book Reason for Hope, about how her spiritual beliefs have developed with her experiences and scientific studies, last year. She has a way of writing that makes you feel as though you’re have a thoughtful but laid-back conversation with a good friend. You know that feeling you got when you watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a little kid, as though this intelligent but kind man was speaking to you personally about something that really mattered? It’s a bit like that, but for grown-ups and involving chimpanzees.

I’m so glad I chose to read this because I feel like I learned quite a bit + it made me hungry for more information about chimpanzees and east African wildlife in particular. I’ll have to see if I can pick up any of Goodall’s follow-up books at the library sometime soon.


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This book also counts for my Classics Club challenge and Women in Science History Challenges.


Publication information: Goodall, Jane. In the Shadow of Man. New York: Mariner Books. Print.
Source: Barnes & Noble
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Reason for Hope
by Jane Goodall

May 26, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 0

Goodall_ReasonforHope

★ ★ ★ ★

Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey by Jane Goodall and Phillip Berman | September 1999 | Warner Books | Hardcover $32.00

Her revolutionary studies of Tanzania’s chimpanzees forever altered our definition of humanity. Now, intriguing as always, Jane Goodall explores her deepest convictions in a heartfelt memoir that takes her from the London Blitz to Louis Leaky’s famous excavations in Africa and then into the forests of Gombe. From the unforgettable moment when a wild chimpanzee gently grasps her hand to the terror of a hostage-taking and the sorrow of her husband’s death. Here, thoughtfully exploring the challenges of both science and the soul, she offers an inspiring, optimistic message as profound as the knowledge she brought back from the forests, and that gives us all… reason for hope.

This book was quite lovely. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in a contrast to the ultra-logical atheism of scientists like Richard Dawkins.

In this memoir, Jane Goodall describes the events in her life that led her current spiritual beliefs: her childhood in England during WWII, her adventures with the chimpanzees and scientists in Africa, the birth of her beloved son, and the deaths of people she loved deeply. Goodall has lived a simply incredible life and she has a way of writing that makes the reader feel as though she’s engaging in a personal conversation, not just telling a story.

It was fascinating to read about the religious philosophy and spiritual experiences of this intelligent, humanitarian, admirable woman. I believe that we should never stop learning and searching for truth, and I think both science and theology can be valid ways of pursuing personal growth. I also worry that scientists who do profess a faith in any particular religion or even just a higher being or planes of existence don’t often speak up for fear of being accused of irrationality, so it’s refreshing to read about the intimate, carefully considered faith of a highly respected biologist. I don’t particularly feel the need to detail my own beliefs here, but I did identify heavily with some of Goodall’s personal experiences and conclusions.

The book isn’t just about spirituality, or one person’s religiously significant experiences though. Goodall spends the last portion of the book on the topic of humanity’s future, of our place in the world and what we can do to reduce the suffering of other species as well as our own. She also shares some of her own poetry throughout the book, which I thought was nice enough — but I know next to nothing about poetry.

That said, I found myself drawn more to the stories about her time spent among the chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. I started reading her book on the subject, In the Shadow of Man, ages ago… and I can’t for the life of me remember why I put it down, as I really remember nothing but good feelings and enjoyment of it. I think I may need to pick it up again!


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Publication information: Goodall, Jane. Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey. New York: Warner Books, 1999. Print.
Source: Personal purchase or gift, provenance unknown.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.