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Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo Hardcover – May 27, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition edition (May 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592405460
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592405466
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Devoted to learning more about bonobos, a smaller, more peaceable species of primate than chimpanzees, and lesser known, Australian journalist Woods and her fiancé, scientist Brian Hare, conducted research in the bonobos' only known habitat—civil war–torn Congo. Woods's plainspoken, unadorned account traces the couple's work at Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, located outside Kinshasa in the 75-acre forested grounds of what was once Congo dictator Mobutu Sese Seko's weekend retreat. The sanctuary, founded in 1994 and run by French activist Claudine André, served as an orphanage for baby bonobos, left for dead after their parents had been hunted for bush meat; the sanctuary healed and nurtured them (assigning each a human caretaker called a mama), with the aim of reintroducing the animals to the wild. Hare had only previously conducted research on the more warlike, male-dominated chimpanzee, and needed Woods because she spoke French and won the animals' trust; through their daily work, the couple witnessed with astonishment how the matriarchal bonobo society cooperated nicely using frequent sex, and could even inspire human behavior. When Woods describes her daily interaction with the bonobos, her account takes on a warm charm. Woods's personable, accessible work about bonobos elucidates the marvelous intelligence and tolerance of this gentle cousin to humans. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Woods was an Australian primate lover, flitting from job to job while she tried to decide what to do with her life. Brian Hare was a newly minted American PhD. They met at a chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda, fell in love, and a year later were on a plane to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had suffered a decade-long war, fought over its vast resources of diamonds, gold, cobalt, and other minerals, and in which more than five million died. The human suffering had fostered a rise in the bush-meat trade, and one of the prime targets was bonobos, the “other” chimpanzee. The story of Woods’ and Hare’s research at the only bonobo sanctuary in the world mixes the intimacy of memoir with the science of behavioral research. As Woods comes to know her new husband, she also begins to know the resident bonobos. Bonobos share, use sex to settle arguments, and possess almost 99 percent of our DNA. This mostly joyous book is not afraid to talk about the terrible recent history of the Congo, but ultimately it comes down on the side of hope—for the Congo and the bonobos. --Nancy Bent

More About the Author

Vanessa Woods is a New York Times Bestselling author, researcher and journalist.

She is the author of the New York Times Bestseller The Genius of Dogs (Dutton 2013), and Bonobo Handshake (Gotham 2010), which won the Thomas Lowell Award for non fiction.

In 2007, Vanessa's children's book, It's True: Space Turns you into Spaghetti, won the Acclaimed Book award from the Royal Society. In 2005, Vanessa won the Australasian Science award for journalism.

Vanessa's other titles include Headstarts: 100 tips for raising clever, confident, creative kids (2011), It's Every Monkey for Themselves (2007), It's True: pirates ate rats (2007), and It's True: there are bugs in your bed (2004).

Her books have been published in 12 languages.

Vanessa has written hundreds of popular science articles and has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, National Geographic, New Scientist and BBC Wildlife.

Currently a Research Scientist at Duke University, since 2005, Vanessa has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo studying bonobos, and the People's Republic of Congo studying chimpanzees. Vanessa is interested in comparing the cognition of bonobos and chimpanzees, and learning what bonobos can tell us about becoming a more peaceful species.

Vanessa is also the co-founder of www.dognition.com, a website that involves the community in citizen science by evaluating and comparing the cognition of dogs.

Related Media


Customer Reviews

I just finished reading this book this morning.
C. Wong
It is a love story complete with humans and bonobos and the love they share despite the war torn background of Congo that Vanessa describes vividly.
Laura
It's been a long time since I laughed so much while reading a book.
R. W. Harobed

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Texas_reader on May 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is fabulous! I got it last week and couldn't put it down - the first page grabbed me and the subsequent ones kept hold of me until I reached the back cover.

Bonobo Handshake is a wonderful mix of story-telling, science, and history melded together to become an engaging memoir. A lot of non-fiction falls into the "dry" category for me, but this book was anything but stodgy. I was able to learn while being entertained - literally laughing and tearing up at different parts of the story - about not only bonobos and chimps but also the DR of Congo, which had previously only existed for me via bloody images on the news.

While I'd hesitate in recommending it to my friend's kids (they're pretty young - I'm not sure I'd be up for explaining the "handshake" to them), I'd DEFINITELY add this to any of my friend's reading lists. FABULOUS!
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jacqueline Leong on May 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This rare ability to combine three strong writing themes - politics, science and raw personal history - has never been so beautifully exhibited as in this memoir. The book leaves a reader breathless, with so much to absorb, so much to learn, so much to lament. It is a courageous book that gives us hope, hope that non-violence in the word 'humanity' is there for us to achieve.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Margaret L. Spilker on June 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Dear Vanessa Woods, I've never written to an author before, but I just HAD to when I finished your book, The Bonobo Handshake. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this book! I read a lot of nonfiction, and have long held a fascination for bonobos. This book was a perfect read for a lay person like myself and I learned so incredibly much from it. There aren't many books out there about bonobos, but the way you combine their story with your personal story, and with the huge story that is Congo in Africa is just so impressive and informative. I will now be on the lookout for anything else you write as I do for my favorite authors that include Carl Safina, Rick Bass, Sy Montgomery, Doug Chadwick, Bernd Heinrich, etc.

I will share this book and its story with everyone and look forward to seeing you and your husband's name in print again and will do my best to support the bonobos. Best of luck with all the great work you and everyone in the book are doing!!
Sincerely,
Margaret
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Timberwolf on May 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not just an animal book (although it gives some great insight into chimps, bonobos, and their close relations to humans.) It's also first and foremost a people book, a journey of a young woman in a new world with a new man trying to find answers and meaning. In that sense, it's a journey that relates to us all. Woods' writing is funny, engaging, frank, and quite revealing, not only about the Congo and Bonobos, but about herself. Her insights are the type where you go, "I've felt that before but never been able to put it into words." Woods does not shy away from the atrocities that happened to both people and bonobos, and in fact, its the correlation that Woods makes between the behaviors of chimps/bonobos and people that makes this book so interesting. While a memoir, it reads like a fiction book, with the depth and breadth that you don't find everyday. Some books are so engaging that they keep you up into the wee hours of the night. This is one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Enke on July 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I want a campaign to move this book to the front page of Amazon. Vanessa Woods captures the essential details of human existence in her words, making bonobos a metaphor for human conflicts, love and war, the challenges of conservation, her own marriage and self-development.

We have the backdrop of the Congo and the horrific challenges of people living there -- women in particular. Vanessa gives us a history lesson, not only of the big men and corporations in charge of the Congo, but the ordinary people snatching moments of joy when they find them. The writer sees special beauty everywhere and never damns the Congo landscape with Western judgement. Hugs from bonobos take on a tenderness that transcends their animal status. We feel baby bonobos slipping away from us, as Vanessa articulates the movement of every muscle until they breath no more.

You will view all Vanessa's babies and grownups, too, as unique creatures with much to teach us. Researchers like Vanessa and her husband have demonstrated bonobos's value as a society with different behavior systems and social organization. With bonobos, the ladies are in charge. Vanessa and I communicated by email and spoke on the phone yesterday, about [...], my website, swinging into a long-term fundraising plan for Vanessa and her bonobos.

The conservation movement couldn't ask for a more articulate, genuine writer and fine human being than Vanessa Woods. The bonobos may be gone soon, unless we share our humanity to save them. Yes, one weeps reading this book . . . if one has a bonobo heart like Vanessa Woods. This writer has succeeded brilliantly in her mission to unlock ours.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lauren Heather on June 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I really loved this book and could hardly put it down. It's beautifully written - funny, exciting, educational, and heartbreaking. You're taken on a wild ride with the author travelling and working in foreign countries, exposed to violent and war torn Congo, and conservation efforts for Bonobos. I knew very little about Congo before reading this and I can't believe all that the country and its people have gone through. Vanessa gives you an awesome history lesson, without feeling like you're reading a stuffy textbook. The Bonobos at the sanctuary are hilarious, incredible, and endearing animals. The science element of the book is fascinating. All together, an awesome book! Anyone would enjoy reading this and I highly recommend.
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