cover image Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains

Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains

Bethany Brookshire. Ecco, $28.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-309725-4

Brookshire, host of the Science for the People podcast, debuts with an eye-opening account of why certain animals are demonized. As she writes, “Our reactions to the animals in our lives are often a wild seesaw of deadly conflict and cooing compassion.” That fraught dynamic plays out in the various viewpoints held on many species; some people view the growth of the American deer population as a good thing, for example, while others note the harm the animals have wrought on ecosystems. Brookshire covers a wealth of other creatures whose images shift depending on culture and context: snakes were once viewed as “good spirits” before the Bible ruined their reputation; rats, which are widely viewed as filthy, are worshipped in a temple in Deshnoke, India; and well before pigeons were pigeonholed as “a health menace” in the 1960s, they were domesticated. With clever anecdotes and fascinating history, Brookshire makes a solid case that humans ought to reconsider their relationships with animals: “Nature isn’t always going to be tame and neutered for our pleasure.... It runs through our walls and in our sewers. It eats our trash and our crops.... We need to learn there’s more than one way to be strong.” Animal lovers will adore this clever survey. Agent: Alice Martell, Martell Agency. (Dec.)