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The Way of the Panda: The Curious History of China's Political Animal Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 15, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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“Nicholls is surely set to become an author of many more fascinating science books. In many ways, this book is what good science writing is all about—explanation through a ripping narrative.” (The independent [London] )

“A fascinating story of an extraordinary animal.” (Desmond Morris, famed zoologist and author of The Naked Ape )

“A brilliant storyteller and narrative stylist in the finest tradition.” (Michael Shermer, host of Exploring the Unknown on ABC; columnist for Scientific American )

About the Author

Henry Nicholls writes regularly for Nature, New Scientist and BBC Focus as well as the science journals Endeavor and Galapagos News. His first book, Lonesome George, told the story of the last giant tortoise of Pinta in the Galapagos and was shortlisted for the 2007 Royal Society General Book Prize. Henry lives in London.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus (June 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605981885
  • ASIN: B008SLWMPO
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,419,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Everyone now accepts, or worries about, the economic power of China. For decades, though, Chinese diplomats have had a power over the world that surpasses that of dollars and yuan. When they really wanted to get something done, they brought out their pandas. Citizens and statesmen from distant nations clamored for these mammals with all the longing that children have for their favorite teddy bears. There was an international "Awwwwww!" whenever a panda came on the world stage for a transfer. Pandas are far from being mere political tokens, but that role is designated in the subtitle of _The Way of the Panda: The Curious History of China's Political Animal_ (Pegasus Books) by science journalist Henry Nicholls. This enthralling book is about politics, and history, but it is also about natural history and ecology. Pandas are not just extraordinarily cute, they are biologically extraordinary. The affectionate human response to them counts for plenty, but overall, pandas have not prospered with humans as neighbors and hunters and collectors. Chronicled here, too, however, are stories of the many humans making an effort to understand this inscrutable animal, and the story of the panda is not one without hope.

In all those fabulous Imperial vases and dishes, no artist depicted the panda until the nineteenth century. It is just astonishing that it was only in 1869 that a Westerner saw a panda. He was able to send the specimen back to Paris, starting an argument as to whether such a strange creature was really a bear or was closer to the lesser panda and raccoon (DNA has since said it is a bear). Naturally biologists wanted to learn more, and game hunters wanted the trophy. When getting dead panda specimens had been accomplished, the next goal was go get living ones.
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When I was in the midst of my quest to completely immerse myself in my panda obsession, I happened on Henry Nicholls' blog, The Way of the Panda. Imagine my delight when I discovered that he was about to publish a book about the social, political, historical, scientific, and pandalogical aspects of, well, pandas. His entertaining style of writing made me forget that he was imparting real information about the history of pandas and how they have become a major player in China's attempts to change their image on the world stage.
This is a book for both panda lovers and those who hadn't ever really thought about pandas. For those of us who are already on the panda bandwagon, this book is both a celebration of all things panda, as well a sobering look at just why pandas made it onto the endangered species list. (I'll give you a hint. It wasn't the fault of the pandas.) It was a joy to read a non-fiction book that so totally engaged me and made me want to learn more.
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Format: Kindle Edition
One way in which I judge a book is how long it took me to read it. The Way of the Panda did not take long at all. I read it at every opportunity and was done in a day and half. Another aspect that I look for is does it make me want to read further on the topic? And I do want to read further on a heretofore unexplored topic. I'd like to learn more about the swashbuckling French priest/naturalist, Abbe Armand David, the society lady who brought the first live panda out of China and various others mentioned in the book. Lastly, do I like the author? And in the case of Henry Nicholls, most certainly! He just writes so well, in such an engaging manner, that the book was a joy to read. Often he was quite funny too. There was a point where Nicholls is writing about how important marking their territory is for pandas, " the higher up a tree a male can wee, the bigger and tougher he is likely to be. " A genuinely winsome read.
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This book is more like a history book, woven by Panda stories. Apparently the author want to achieve both ends but he doesn't do quite well. It looks like the things about panda are deliberately attached to history events while they, the panda, are just side effects or aftermath. So, interesting as the Panda story, not so serious to conclude anything like 'Way of panda'.
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