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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I'm not a hunter and don't have an interest in taxidermy, but the great thing about this book is the way the writer makes you care, the way he uses his subject as a way of analyzing human behavior. I had the same experience reading The Authentic Animal as I had when I read John McPhee's Oranges. Who cares about oranges? Well, McPhee makes you care. And Madden makes you care about taxidermy in this offbeat and wry commentary on what it means to be a human animal. Moving, memorable, and funny.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2011
I stumbled upon this delightful book while researching for my undergraduate thesis. Now just because I'm an Fine Art Photography major, do not think that this book has been of little use! oh no! This book was so inspirational and pivotal in my research that it truly changed the direction of my entire point of view towards animal preservation and how to make art work about it. I was once blindly disgusted by taxidermy's existence, but Dave Madden showed me a new world in his book, telling me the history of taxidermy and his own experiences with the world of taxidermy from a spectator's standpoint. The book is written in such a friendly and unusual (for the subject) manner that has the feeling of going to a cafe with a friend and engaging in a unexpectedly profound conversation.

This book is for those who know hardly anything about taxidermy to discover a world they thought they had an opinion of who seek a stepping off point for learning. This book is probably not for those who work in the taxidermy business as much as those who do not.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2011
I found Madden's book to be an elegantly written book. After reading Mary Roach's STIFF: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers, I crave books like this. I would place this book within the same medical/scientific non-fiction sub-genre. While Roach's voice is more personable, I find Madden's research to prove more thorough and authoritative. While it is nice to have a friend along when reading books like this, I'd much rather have a well-researched guide to lead me through the excavated exhibits of his research.

The insight into the history of taxidermy allows you to see the evolution of the art, but Madden also garnishes the book with an ethnographic exploration of this art's culture. While you get a glimpse into the techniques and media used to preserve everything from animals and humans, you also get a glimpse into the lives of those who preserve them.

I am giving this book 5 stars.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2012
As someone who has done a considerable amount of taxidermy and preparation/curation of museum specimens, I looked forward to this book as a treatment of the subject from a psychological perspective. While some historical background is useful, the return to Ackley again and again was annoying, since the author was obviously copying material published elsewhere. The fact that he didn't even try to make a mount seems hypocritical and his demeaning rationale doesn't ring true. I most enjoyed the discussions of novelty taxidermy and the preservation of pets. These areas would seem the best material to use in considering the psychology of people who desire such bizarre creations. I found it also bizarre that the author would try to write an entire book (with much off-topic filler and repetition) about a subject he claims to be obsessed with, yet doesn't deviate from his position as a somewhat disgusted observer.
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on December 13, 2011
I read Dan Madden's book in only a few days, despite the fact that school projects were looming, Thanksgiving was coming, there was grading to do, and all that. I brought it home, looked at the first page just out of curiosity, even though there was no time to read at the present, and before I was done reading I'd read two chapters.

The book works like an personal essay, in that it meanders through several subjects, pulling a biography, personal musings, and intelligent research into seamless chapters that are each as interesting as the next. You would think that you would get quickly bored with dead animals, but in truth the life of Carl Akeley and all who practice the art of taxidermy since are fascinating enough--through Madden's capable prose--to keep me reading nonstop the whole time.

The other great feat of Madden's book is that he is able to talk sincerely about taxidermists without belittling their art. There are many who would see the characters in the book as pursuing a hobby less noble than others, but Madden isn't content with that, and seeks to understand the art as they do, not as something on the fringe. Because of his empathy, or just good research, we see taxidermy in its noble forms, in its serious considerations, and for what it actually has to contribute to art and life.
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on May 6, 2012
Good book, enjoyable read. I got it because I was semi-interested in taking a class in taxidermy and wanted a peek into this strange and slightly gruesome world before taking the plunge. The book provided a good overview of the history of the field and a glimpse of current trends and practices. The author asks thought provoking questions about why we engage in the activity of stuffing dead animals and makes an attempt to answer them. I wish he had spent more time delving into the current practices and applications of taxidermy and less time on rehashing history. I also wish there had been a section about fish - the author completely ignored fish mounts, choosing to spend all of his time on mammals and birds. Overall, a worthy read if you are interested in the subject. As for me, I skipped the taxidermy class after reading this book.
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on August 12, 2013
Though famous American taxidermist Carl Akeley is featured prominently throughout Madden's book, this is more than just a selective biography of his work. It's an engaging account of taxidermy history, albeit with perhaps too many atypical examples (the current pet taxidermy trend) and not-quite-even-taxidermy digressions (Ed Gein, BodyWorlds).

Madden has done his homework. He's consulted Akeley's biographies, sifted through some archives, interviewed taxidermists and natural historians, and acquainted himself with the secondary literature on the history of taxidermy. I like the way the author uses this material to re-create likely conversations among the historical figures. He's also the kind of author who reflects just enough on his own research process to give the reader the feeling that he/she is following right along on the path of discovery. Sometimes, however, there's not enough of a connection between the details about Akeley's career and contemporary examples. And at times, I found Madden's writing to need better editing--some of the footnotes seemed superfluous, some passages seemed overly self-indulgent, and sometimes I was distracted by errant usages and wrong words.

Overall, though, this was an entertaining read that gave me a greater appreciation for Akeley's contribution to American natural history display and later in life, his changing attitude toward wildlife management and conservation.
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on March 21, 2013
I couldn't put this book down! I had no idea how fascinating the history of taxidermy and natural history museums would be. Carl Ackey changed the world of taxidermy and his story is something that couldn't be imagined. Well worth reading for anyone who enjoys a great story and for others who are interested in how the art of the diorama of the AMerican Museum of Natural History or the Smithsonian was created. I loved this book.
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on March 26, 2014
I liked this books approach to taxidermy. A little more cynical and less of a praise of taxidermy. Very interesting. A quick read too!
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on August 15, 2014
Fast service and book was exactly as described and shown.
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