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on September 10, 2017
This is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it. However (there is always a “however), at the bottom of page 29, Mr. Rowlands writes: “As you go to work today, or school or where it is you go, look at the bustling throng. What are they doing? Where are they going? Focus on one of them. Perhaps he is going to an office where he will do the same thigs today as he did yesterday, and where he will do the same things tomorrow as he does today. On the inside, he may pulsate with energy and purpose. The report has to be on the desk of Ms X by 3 p.m.—this is crucial—and he must not forget the meeting with Mr Y at 4:30 p.m.—and if this does not go well the performance of the North American market will be grim. He understands all these as very important things. Perhaps he enjoys these things, perhaps not. He does them anyway because he has a home and a family and must raise his children. Why? So that in a few years’ time they can do much the same things as him for much the same reasons, and produce children of their own…) A critical reader can get the drift. It’s all bullshit. (In fact, Rowlands makes this exact statement earlier in the book). So, I expected the bachelor Mark Rowlands to remain one and not reproduce. Yet, at the end of the book he meets Emma, marries, and has a child and starts the bullshit all over. This pissed me off. Had Rowlands remained childless (yes, like me), then I would have had much more respect for him. In other words, his ideas would match his behavior. He would have no hypocrisy. However, we all are hypocrites, some more, some less. Anyway, there are great moments in this book. I really liked the part where Rowlands inadvertently makes a stone statue of Brenin (his wolf) over Brenin’s grave. Supposedly, Mr. Rowlands (after Brenin’s death) drank two liters of Jack Daniels (is this even humanly possible?) and proceeded, during his drinking, to place stones all over the top of Brenin’s grave. When Mr. Rowlands wakes in the morning, he discovers that his drunken placement of the stones has a striking resemblance to Brenin. Ha! Even though I am a 99 percent atheist, I still “believe” in this weird shit. His a personal account. My father was born and raised in Harlan County, Kentucky. When he would get drunk (which was often, some say because of his experiences in the Pacific during World War II), my dad would sing a song that went like this, “In the pine…in the pine…where the sun never shines…” Of course, this is the great blues song, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” by Leadbelly. However, as a young child, I had never heard of Leadbelly. Anyway, on the day of my father’s funeral, a few hours after, driving with my sister in her car, she turns on the radio and we both hear Kurt Cobain singing Leadbelly’s song…”In the pine…in the pine…where the sun never shines…and it shivers when the cold wind blows…little girl…little girl…” My sister almost had a wreck because it was the first time we had ever heard this song other than from my father’s drunken voice, and, even more weirdly, Cobain sounded just like my father. In fact, at first, we thought that our dead father was singing to us through the radio!! I don’t have an answer for weird shit like this or Mr. Rowlands’ drunken-stone-stature creation of his wolf, Brenin. There is a lot of great stuff in this book. Read it. It was nice at the end when Mr. Rowlands said that he was going to name his son, Brenin. You know, you can divide people up into two groups. This division has many lines. You can say, “There are people who like Springsteen and people who do not like Springsteen.” Maybe, “There are people who have been to other countries and there are people who have not been to other countries.” For me, I like to say, “There are two types of people in this world, people who read books, and people who do not read books.” This book is worth your time. When you finish, I suggest Julio Cortazar’s great book, “Hopscotch.” I wish you well my fellow readers!!! (Sorry, didn’t really read over this for typos.)
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on February 23, 2018
A superb book. I highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to explore the bond that can exist between human and nonhuman animals. A beautiful story of the relationship of a man and his animal companions (especially Brenin). It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will certainly make you think. But, more importantly, the book is a self-exploration of the soul of the author (Mark Rowlands), made possible only by the relationships with his companion animals. Dr. Rowlands perfectly captures the essence of what it is to be "human" (and it is not pretty). As a fellow misanthrope, I found myself agreeing with him on almost everything. One last thing, it was very refreshing to read a "philosophical" book where the nature of "good and evil", "hell and heaven", and God are discussed in the context on the human-animal relationship. Thank you sir, you have done a great service to society in exposing the evil nature of human-kind.
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on August 5, 2009
Once I starting reading The Philosopher and the Wolf I was almost sure I wouldn't like it and would have to force myself to wade through it if I ever intended to get to the end. Having read a number of books on wolves, Rowlands' book challenged what I had come to believe: wolf-keeping should be left to the professionals; never allow a wolf off a leash in a city; wolf owners and their "pets" are tragedies waiting to happen, etc.

But a funny thing happened about midway through the book. Rowlands and Brenin won me over with their special bond. Oh sure, there were still times when Rowlands' actions made me roll my eyes and wonder 'what the hell were you thinking?' But beneath it all, this is a story about two very different souls who have much to teach each other - and us. Or maybe, as a middle-aged man and a bit of a misanthrope myself, I could just relate to Rowlands and his bond with Brenin which seems so close to my bond with my more conventional four-legged family.

I suppose I could still quibble about how I'd rather see wolves running free in their natural environment rather than turned into pets, but once I got over my prejudices it made for fascinating reading. I know of no other book where you can find an account of a wolf tearing up an apartment only a few lines away from philosophical musings on time and life's meaning. But being a misanthrope myself I feel obligated to criticize Rowlands for something; thus let me state unequivocally that his writing style can get a bit pedantic when he starts loading up his sentences with too many independent clauses.
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on November 26, 2012
At the advice of a friend and colleague I have just re-read Rowlands' The Philosopher and the Wolf. It is a gem, not only through the author's powerful story about his life with a beloved animal, but as a deep reflection on many themes relevant to human life and our attempts to deal with these themes.

I was encouraged to read this "wolf book" (actually a hybrid wolf-dog most likely, but no matter) as I am engaged in writing my own book about a wolf I lived with in England, New York, Oregon and Nova Scotia, where he died. In this book, Lupey Journals: Lessons From The Heart Of A Wolf (see lupeywolf.com), I attempt to weave three themes together, the journals and my initial reflections upon what I observed, a brief summary of what science can tell us about nature, and the deep mysteries that experience and science open up to us.

The task is not easy, as I need to speak in different voices, and thus deeply admire Rowlands skills as a powerful thinker and literary craftsman. His experiences with his animal are deeply moving and insightful. I have much to learn from his writings and explorations of what makes us tick, as will all readers who have any compassion for the diversity of life with which we share this planet.

I am delighted my friend suggested I give the book a re-read. Even better on the second read. It is a treasure.

John C. Fentress, PhD
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on January 14, 2016
I have bought a lot of books on amazon and have never bothered to review them. I have read a lot of books in my life. Never felt the need to review any of them although a lot of them were excellent. I just could not ignore this book. It is one of the most moving and at the same time profound books I have ever experienced. This book charts the relationship between the author and his wolf in a circular and not linear way and along the route we come to a greater understanding of the disadvantages of being human and an understanding of the moment if we want to find meaning in our time on this planet. Expect to get smacked in the face and be insulted initially. Look at it as prep work. Then prepare to understand some basic things about your self and wolves. Don't miss this book.
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on June 28, 2013
The wolf in this book is both real and metaphorical - this is not just another human-and-animal story. It is a treatise on the nature of humanity, as revealed to its author (the philosopher) through his intimate relationship with his beloved pet wolf
The book may discomfit some, as it challenges some commonly dearly held beliefs (or illusions) about ourselves as humans and our role in the world, but for those of us who are happy to step outside their comfort zone, it offers provocative insights into our nature as compared and contrasted with our animal cousins.
The "hero" of this book, if there is one, is Brenin the wolf whose silent presence throughout guides us to consider again those perennial existential questions: who are we really, and what is our life's purpose? This he does by simply being true to himself - and by challenging us to be the same. The book is provocative but not dark - it is more about gaining enlightenment, in a way that is very human, and full of humour and compassion that will at times bring tears to your eyes and at others, make you smile, or laugh out loud.
A special little book.
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on August 13, 2014
two quick points: one, i have been laid up due to a vasectomy that went south; the only two good things about that are i read this book and i learned to occupy my mind with suduko. okay, this is i think the best book i have read in a few years on philosophy and just what it means to be a human in an animal world. second point, the author is an impeccable writer in his choice of words, capacity to convey his ideas clearly and with anecdotes, and his ability to wend his life with brenin and philosophy seamlessly each boosting so to speak the other.

comments over whether brenin is or is not a 100% wolf are inane and written by people who don't mean rowlands well.

This is what i learned: rowlands provides a compelling reason for why eating meat is immoral; two important and clearly presented moral principles to live by--protect those weaker than yourself (natural moral obligation) and scrutinize one's own more acts and principles (epistemic moral obligation); the difference between a mechanical and magical orientation to nature and life; the brain as developed for deception (a principle i don't completely agree with but is certainly one reason for our bigger brain); the way we enthusiastically criticize and look for weaknesses in others who are "stronger than ourselves" basically just to show off and make everyone around us weaker (in our own mind) so we can deceive ourselves into thinking we're stronger; the true importance of loyalty and consequentialist philosophy; the joy of living in the south of france; how living in hell can teach you how to growl when the big fellah's got your head in his jaws; that love is a complex bundle of things and that the EP and cultural people have it sort of wrong and that its foundation (as i remember and understand his book) is loyalty. that certain things just are evil and wrong and one doesn't need to dwell on the reasons for such judgements based on the first natural moral obligation (not taking advantage of those weaker than yourself). i learned more, i learned a lot about brenin and mark. i'll remember them, just buy and read this book. i worry that future success has probably dulled rowlands capacity to write like this; but in any case this book is a great book
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on October 15, 2017
Phenomenal book! So good I purchased this for my Kindle. I'll definitely be getting more of his works.
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on July 11, 2017
What an uplifting and insightful bi-human writing of the state and quality of being.
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on May 25, 2015
A profound but very readable and entertaining philosophical discourse on the differences between wolves and apes
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