27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
One of the finest nature books of the past thirty years,
This review is from: Of Wolves and Men (Paperback)
The greatest virtue of this book is that it makes you care. Some of the great wolf books presume already that you have an interest in the subject, like Mech's, as fine and as informative and as authoritative as it is, won't necessarily create a sense of awe like Lopez's. But through a judicious use of scientific and mythological materials, fused together with a marvelous literary sense, Lopez creates an epic retelling of the wolf in North America.
Since reading this book for the first time, a host of sections have remained vivid to me. For instance, a schoolroom that is to be visited by a wolf and its handler. The children are asked to make a drawing of a wolf beforehand, and most create a beast with huge and menacing teeth. After the visit, they are told once again to draw a wolf, and this time draw a dog-like animal with enormous paws. No other section of the book emphasized to me how dreadfully we misconceive wolves. Lopez meanders over the course of Western civilization harvesting tales and stories--both scientific and mythic--recounting the myriad ways we have thought about wolves. Few of our imaginings do their fine qualities justice, and most often we demonize them. As a result, the wolf as we know it is largely a creation of our fevered imaginations. Lopez tries to break through the fictions about wolves to focus more on their truer qualities and natures. The heartbreaking pages that end the book bring to mind the great tragedy it was for the North American wolf for Europeans to have discovered America.
One might have to cut the book a tiny bit of slack because of the graphics. The pictures are judiciously chosen, and while graphics methods have improved dramatically in the past twenty years due to computer technology, and the book the drawings are superb, the photos good if a tiny bit blurry given their age, and the illustrations highly informative. I especially love the reproduction of the print of a three-year-old Alaskan timber wolf. I used to take the paw of my German Shepherd Birgit and place it over the print, and was astonished at how huge the wolf print was in comparison.
This is a truly enjoyable and informative book, one that will enrich and alter the way one looks at nature. Certainly, I now never go to a zoo without a great deal of awe and regret when passing a wolf.