John Homans has written a book that dog lovers will want to read with a highlighter in hand. ‘What’s a Dog For?’ is exactly what the subtitle claims: ‘The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend.’
This book contains so much interesting information that it begs to be savored, to be read in bursts, in order to give the reader time to ruminate on the facts and questions. Homans himself, is obviously a dog lover, and the facts he presents make him just as curious and reflective as his reader. Homans draws on observations of his own dog when mulling over a fact. Unlike the flawed observations of Masson in ‘The Dog Who Couldn’t Stop Loving’, Homans weighs what he sees with what he knows from his research, and draws sensible and thoughtful conclusions.
The book gets a little bogged down about halfway through, when the author delves into the history of the Labrador breed while looking for a deeper understanding of his own dog, Stella. This portion of history and genetics may be dry for some readers, but the rest of the book more than makes up for it.
Homans book examines the long complex history of dogs and humans, and the symbiotic relationship we have developed with this remarkable animal. He touches on dogs’ ancestry, their evolution, their cognitive skills, the disagreement among canine scientists, the practice of breeding, and the evolution of the animal rights movement.
Homans presents a balanced view, explaining the difference of opinions about everything from canine evolution to a dog’s honorary status as ‘person’.
This is a fascinating and enjoyable read that will leave readers with both a deeper understanding of our relationship with dogs, and a million questions to ponder.
- Reading level: Ages 18 and up
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1 edition (November 8, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 1594205159
- ISBN-13: 978-1594205156
Available in both print and ebook.
John Homans has been Executive Editor of New York magazine for nearly 20 years, and previously worked at Esquire, Details, Harpers, and the New York Observer. He lives in New York with his wife, son, and dog, Stella. This is his first book.
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