Hot Best Seller

Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind

Availability: Ready to download

For millennia, nature's biggest and fiercest predators have tormented mankind. The knowledge and fear of the existence of these ferocious man-eaters is forever in the back of our minds, looming in our worst nightmares. Millions of humans have suffered attacks by predators on land and at sea. Yet animals have always shared the landscape with humans. Since the dawn of time o For millennia, nature's biggest and fiercest predators have tormented mankind. The knowledge and fear of the existence of these ferocious man-eaters is forever in the back of our minds, looming in our worst nightmares. Millions of humans have suffered attacks by predators on land and at sea. Yet animals have always shared the landscape with humans. Since the dawn of time our ecosystems have been linked and humans have co-existed with flesh-eating beasts as members of the same food chain. Now, of course, as humans spread and despoil the planet, these fearsome predators may only survive on the other side of glass barriers and chain-link fences. Their gradual disappearance is changing the nature of our own existence. We no longer occupy an intermediate position on the food chain; instead we survey it invulnerably from above - so far above that we are in danger of forgetting that we even belong to an ecosystem. David Quammen's enthralling new book covers the four corners of the globe as he explores the fate of lions in India's Gir forest, saltwater crocodiles in Northern Australia, brown bears in the mountains of Romania, and Siberian tigers. Tracking these great and terrible beasts through the toughest terrain in the world, Quammen is equally intrigued by the traditional relationship between the great predators and the people who live among them, and weaves into his story the fears and myths that have haunted humankind for 3000 years.


Compare

For millennia, nature's biggest and fiercest predators have tormented mankind. The knowledge and fear of the existence of these ferocious man-eaters is forever in the back of our minds, looming in our worst nightmares. Millions of humans have suffered attacks by predators on land and at sea. Yet animals have always shared the landscape with humans. Since the dawn of time o For millennia, nature's biggest and fiercest predators have tormented mankind. The knowledge and fear of the existence of these ferocious man-eaters is forever in the back of our minds, looming in our worst nightmares. Millions of humans have suffered attacks by predators on land and at sea. Yet animals have always shared the landscape with humans. Since the dawn of time our ecosystems have been linked and humans have co-existed with flesh-eating beasts as members of the same food chain. Now, of course, as humans spread and despoil the planet, these fearsome predators may only survive on the other side of glass barriers and chain-link fences. Their gradual disappearance is changing the nature of our own existence. We no longer occupy an intermediate position on the food chain; instead we survey it invulnerably from above - so far above that we are in danger of forgetting that we even belong to an ecosystem. David Quammen's enthralling new book covers the four corners of the globe as he explores the fate of lions in India's Gir forest, saltwater crocodiles in Northern Australia, brown bears in the mountains of Romania, and Siberian tigers. Tracking these great and terrible beasts through the toughest terrain in the world, Quammen is equally intrigued by the traditional relationship between the great predators and the people who live among them, and weaves into his story the fears and myths that have haunted humankind for 3000 years.

30 review for Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    It took me a while to read, as it didn't engage my interests in all chapters, but overall it is very well researched and entertaining. The perilous existence of the big animals, namely lions (in India), crocodiles (in Australia), bears (Romania) and tigers (in Russia) are discussed. He talks about our love affair with the lion, "Richard I of England was renowned as lionhearted, after all, not bearish." Lions in India are found wild in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in the mid-weste It took me a while to read, as it didn't engage my interests in all chapters, but overall it is very well researched and entertaining. The perilous existence of the big animals, namely lions (in India), crocodiles (in Australia), bears (Romania) and tigers (in Russia) are discussed. He talks about our love affair with the lion, "Richard I of England was renowned as lionhearted, after all, not bearish." Lions in India are found wild in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in the mid-western part of the country. 325 lions reside side by side with the Maldhari herders. "The largest predators are spread thinly on Earth, because energy, in forms they can harvest, is limited and broadly dispersed." That is why, "Big, fierce animals are inherently rare." on the earth and getting rarer because where they are wild they must compete with humans for space and food. He predicts in the book that all large animals will be completely gone by 2050 unless something is done which is a horrific, shocking prediction and I hope is not true.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven Walle

    This was a great read about all the predatory animals to man which include the brown bear of Romania, the crocodile of Austrailia, the Tiger of India, and the lion of Affrica. This book explains the place these animals have in our culture in mithhs, fear, reverence and even godliness. The author did extensive research both physically and scollarly to create this fabulas volume. Enjoy and Be Blessed.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    This book has a misleading title. It is about neither monsters (in the traditional sense of the word) nor God. Instead, it is about what the author calls "alpha" predators - animals that are large enough and strong enough to kill humans, and which have been known at times to feed on them afterwards. Although this topic sounds a bit disturbing and gruesome, this book is not a cheap catalog of gory animal attacks. Instead, it is a fascinating look at four specific alpha predators, their history an This book has a misleading title. It is about neither monsters (in the traditional sense of the word) nor God. Instead, it is about what the author calls "alpha" predators - animals that are large enough and strong enough to kill humans, and which have been known at times to feed on them afterwards. Although this topic sounds a bit disturbing and gruesome, this book is not a cheap catalog of gory animal attacks. Instead, it is a fascinating look at four specific alpha predators, their history and current status, with a particular focus on how they have interacted (peaceably and at times violently) with humans over time. The author spends time exploring the lives, habitat and neighboring human communities associated with a population of lions in western India, the saltwater crocodiles of central northern Australia, bears inhabiting the mountains of Romania, and the siberian tigers of far eastern Russia. Throughout the book he discusses history, geography, conservationism, philosophy, politics, religion, ecology, biographies (of important scientists and politicians), anthropology, dentistry (of animals!), and many other topics. I really enjoyed this book, both for the breadth of topics covered, but also for the author's beautiful writing style. I really felt like he took me around the world with him as he explored these topics. I highly recommend this book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    Quammen takes the reader on a tour, both geographical and historical, of the world of the Alpha Predators. The Asian Lion (Panthera leo persica) survives in the Gir Forest of the Kathiabar Peninsula, an outcropping of western India. The Salt Water Crocodile (Crocodylus porosis) is found in the mangrove wetlands of the Baitarani River delta in eastern India. The Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) is found in northern Australia's Arnhem Land. The Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) lives in the har Quammen takes the reader on a tour, both geographical and historical, of the world of the Alpha Predators. The Asian Lion (Panthera leo persica) survives in the Gir Forest of the Kathiabar Peninsula, an outcropping of western India. The Salt Water Crocodile (Crocodylus porosis) is found in the mangrove wetlands of the Baitarani River delta in eastern India. The Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) is found in northern Australia's Arnhem Land. The Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) lives in the hardwood forests of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. The Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) resides in the Bikin River Valley of Russia's far east. The book is much more than a mere travelogue, however. Hefty doses of history, mythology, and psychological speculation are offered as well. The connection is important; not just a diversion. “Throughout our history as a species — tens of millennia, hundreds of millennia, going on two million years — we have tolerated the dangerous, problematic presence of big predators, finding roles for them within our emotional universe. But now our own numerousness, our puissance, and our solipsism have brought us to a point where tolerance is unnecessary and danger of that sort is unacceptable.” (p.14-15) One of Quammen's gifts is his ability to pivot seamlessly between the intimacy of storytelling and the calculus of ecology. He recounts the warmth and hospitality of Romanian shepherds, Yolngu tribesmen in Arnhem Land, Udege hunters, and Maldhari herders. All of them live among these alpha predators. Their overall stoicism and sanguine fatalism covers a wide range of attitudes, from admiration, to tolerance, to dislike. They share a special intimacy with these alpha predators. These are the people whom Quammen relies on to guide him, educate him, shelter him and protect him. He notes that it is not merely proximity that puts these people in peril. Among the Maldhari, those unable to afford shelters for their livestock suffer the greatest losses. In other words, the poorest are the most vulnerable. Quammen calls this the Muscrat Conundrum, after the biologist Paul Errington, who studied the effects of mink predation on muskrat populations. The limiting factor on muskrat population is not the mink population, but the muskrats' own territorial dynamic. Muskrats are sensitive to crowding. When the limit is reached a marginal population is created. The marginal population lives in less protected areas, and is less well-nourished. These are the muskrats available as prey to the mink. Applying Errington's findings, Quammen asks: “Is it inevitable that the costs exacted by alpha predators be borne disproportionately by poor people — in particular, by tradition-bound rural groups such as the Maldharis of Gir, the Udege of southeastern Russia, the shepherds of highland Romania, all nearly powerless and voiceless within larger national contexts — when the spiritual and aesthetic benefits of those magnificent beasts are enjoyed from afar?....[I]t's a matter we cozier muskrats need to address. (p.124) Another though-provoking idea that Quammen examines is the claim by Grahame Webb that conservation of alpha predators can only be accomplished by promoting teir economic viability. His example is the salt water crocodile. By allowing a certain quantity to be killed for their valuable leather, conservationists can motivate government protection. The same model is espoused by a Romanian gamekeeper, Arpad Sarkany, who argues for selling expensive hunting licenses to wealthy westerners. It's a controversial idea on both emotional and practical grounds. Some of these animal populations are so small that biologists even give names to individuals they have managed to track with radio collars. More disturbing to me, is the implicit acknowledgment that we have permanently created a society where only money is valued. Quammen ends on a sobering note. The idea of a “stagnant economy” sends shivers up the national spine. The society we have created relies on growth, not stability. The world's population will continue to increase. More people means less space for animal habitat. The math is simple and devastating. Buried within these weighty issues are some entertaining stories ranging from lurid to awe-inspiring. Quammen recounts the miraculous escape of Val Plumwood from a crocodile attach. He also tells the incredible story of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the dictator more famously known as a butcher of the Romanian people. Finally, he describes the beauty of the paintings in Chauvet Cave, discovered in 1994. http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/cha.... This is a sprawling book with some big ideas, and a wide range of material. Not all of the information will be of interest to all readers. However, the persistent reader will be well-rewarded.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tim Martin

    I really enjoyed this exceptional book on the mythology, culture, history, and biology of man-eaters around the world. Though he primarily focuses on four specific animals - the Asiatic lion in the forest of Gir in India, the saltwater crocodile in northern Australia, the brown bear in the forests and mountains of Romania, and the Siberian (or more properly Amur) tiger of the Russian Far East- author David Quammen discusses other predators as well, such as the African lion, the grizzly of North I really enjoyed this exceptional book on the mythology, culture, history, and biology of man-eaters around the world. Though he primarily focuses on four specific animals - the Asiatic lion in the forest of Gir in India, the saltwater crocodile in northern Australia, the brown bear in the forests and mountains of Romania, and the Siberian (or more properly Amur) tiger of the Russian Far East- author David Quammen discusses other predators as well, such as the African lion, the grizzly of North America, the Nile crocodile, and the leopard as well as some now extinct species. Quammen does an excellent job of covering just about any aspect you might wish to learn about animals that occasionally dine on man. Aspects of ecology are very well covered, introducing the reader to many key concepts in ecology (particularly as they relate to these creatures), such as the terms alpha predator, keystone species, and trophic cascades, showing that for a healty ecosystem - including healthy plants and prey animals - the presence of a viable population of predator is crucial. The education this book gave me on ecology was quite remarkable, with the author going into very readable detail on many issues and very interestingly their history as well, showing some of the personalities behind their conception. The individual biology and paleontology of each of the focus species in this book are well covered, as well as that of close and more distant relations, covering everything from the rise and fall of sabertooth mammals (feline and otherwise) to the spread of the tiger species throughout Asia (and its later evolution into various subspecies). Equally interesting - and valuable - in this work Quammen goes into great detail about the interaction between humans and the top predators throughout world history as well as the situation to date. How have large predators - such as perhaps cave bears and cave lions - shaped the evolution (physically and culturally) of ancient peoples? How have such animals shaped the development of human art, literature, mythology, and religion? Quammen brings into this rather engrossing discussion everything from Babylonian epics to Beowulf to Tolkien. Quammen does not only focus on the animals, but on their sometime victims as well. He looks at how have native peoples dealt with man-eaters in the past and how do traditional peoples deal with them today. Quammen is very sensitive to the lives of those who face (and occassionally feed) these predators, really bringing to life for the reader such diverse groups as the Malhadris of India, the Udege of Russia, and the shepherds of Romania. Quammen vividly contrasts this with looking at how has the coming of colonial enterprises and regimes (such as the British in India and Australia) changed interactions with local alpha predators. Perhaps most importantly, this book asks what does the future hold for such predators? Will they always have a guaranteed place in the wild, outside of zoos and circuses? How can one make sure that they do? There is quite a debate raging on how to make sure that tigers still stalk the snowy forests of the Russian Far East and the billabongs of steamy northern Australia and Quammen provides excellent coverage of all sides. A very valuable and entertaining book, it has a very extensive bibilography as well. I highly recommend it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Firstly I would like to point out that I picked up this book thinking that it would be about those alpha predators that have captured and continue to capture the imagination of people around the world. And while Quammen did cover these animals well he was more focused on their place in human history and not our place in theirs, which I did find a little disappointing (but this was a fault of my expectations not the fault of the author). Having said that Quammen does delve into the importance of Firstly I would like to point out that I picked up this book thinking that it would be about those alpha predators that have captured and continue to capture the imagination of people around the world. And while Quammen did cover these animals well he was more focused on their place in human history and not our place in theirs, which I did find a little disappointing (but this was a fault of my expectations not the fault of the author). Having said that Quammen does delve into the importance of the alpha predators of the world from their evolution and natural history to their place in the world's ecosystems and their role in maintaining the health and sustainability of such ecosystems. A large part of Quammen's writing does revolve around how these predators have entered into the folklore and mythology of mankind from the earliest myths and legends passed down from generation to generation to their role in the modern world and the various efforts being made to protect these beautiful animals, including their economic value as a sustainable resource (a rather devisive issue to say the least). Overall this is a well written and very well researched book that discusses the many aspects of the world's alpha predators but for me the emphasis was on their influence and value to us a little too much rather than on the animals themselves, but that is personal preference and nothing more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett

    David Quammen is incredibly smart and is a gifted writer. On my "to read" shelf is his most recent book about the origin of global viruses and super-strains. That said, I was a bit disappointed by this book. There is nothing wrong with Quammen's writing or his argument; what I found sort of problematic was the actual subject matter as opposed to what the title suggested. Yes, Quammmen does discuss what it means to see ourselves as "just another flavor of meat." But when the subtitle of the book i David Quammen is incredibly smart and is a gifted writer. On my "to read" shelf is his most recent book about the origin of global viruses and super-strains. That said, I was a bit disappointed by this book. There is nothing wrong with Quammen's writing or his argument; what I found sort of problematic was the actual subject matter as opposed to what the title suggested. Yes, Quammmen does discuss what it means to see ourselves as "just another flavor of meat." But when the subtitle of the book is "the man-eating predator in the jungles of history and the mind," I expect an evenly balanced exploration of both parts--the jungle and the mind. That balance is absent. As an approximation, I would say that about 85% of this book is a VERY specific and detailed look at alpha predators and human beings living in close proximity in various communities throughout the world. I suppose I expected more literary analyses and socio and pscylogical explorations into our NEED to keep these "man-eaters" alive and our FEAR of doing so. Thus, my frustration with this book is based more upon my initial expectations than any inherent problem. If you're interested more in an anthopological look at communities in close proximity to alpha-predators and how that proximity affects both parties, this book is for you.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Koller

    I really enjoyed this book. I think it's a fabulous, approachable book to pick up when you get home from the zoo or natural history museum and want to learn more, without already having a very strong background in ecology. I especially appreciated how Quammen discussed the topic of conservation of dangerous species without being sentimental or minimizing the toll that they take on local populations. The argument for conservation was much more well-rounded and balanced than any I'd been exposed t I really enjoyed this book. I think it's a fabulous, approachable book to pick up when you get home from the zoo or natural history museum and want to learn more, without already having a very strong background in ecology. I especially appreciated how Quammen discussed the topic of conservation of dangerous species without being sentimental or minimizing the toll that they take on local populations. The argument for conservation was much more well-rounded and balanced than any I'd been exposed to before. I found the section on crocodiles in Australia especially interesting and thought-provoking. Those are some scary, deadly animals! He always maintained reverence, respect, and awe for the animals, but he was very careful to keep their preservation rooted in context. Reading the other criticism of it, I guess I can understand why some people wouldn't be wowed the same way I was, especially if you're very well-versed in the subject matter. I'll admit the stories are a bit disjointed, and the theory behind the book (the four alpha predator stories) seemed more of an interesting way to tell a story than the structure for a thesis or argument. However, the diverse subject matter continued to be interesting and left me wanting to read more.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Hecht

    I have read all of Quammen's books and consider this one of his best. As always, he writes accessible to the merely curious reader, the amateur naturalist, and the seeker after the larger arcs of life (I am all three). In this case, he deals with the important issue of how human beings do, can, might, or don't tolerate the proximity of creatures that are beautiful, majestic, rare, crucial to ecosystems -- but which might kill and eat us on our way to work. As human populations encroach upon anim I have read all of Quammen's books and consider this one of his best. As always, he writes accessible to the merely curious reader, the amateur naturalist, and the seeker after the larger arcs of life (I am all three). In this case, he deals with the important issue of how human beings do, can, might, or don't tolerate the proximity of creatures that are beautiful, majestic, rare, crucial to ecosystems -- but which might kill and eat us on our way to work. As human populations encroach upon animal habitats throughout the world, the question becomes more urgent every day. David Quammen's voice is knowledgeable, accessible, always entertaining, personal and personable, and brings the animals and the social and philosophical problems they create right to the reader. I loved this book and look forward to reading it again. (Sy Montgomery's Spell of the Tiger addresses some of the same issues.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    DeLene Beeland

    What is it about large predators that fascinate us so? Whether it’s sheer admiration for their pluck, strategy or dominance — or abhorrence and hatred at their perceived harm — predators evoke deep emotional responses from most people. And we humans have deeply impacted them too, we’ve changed the course of their evolutionary trajectory. Whether by over-hunting, habitat destruction or decimating their prey base, humans have whittled down the meta-populations of large predators on every continent What is it about large predators that fascinate us so? Whether it’s sheer admiration for their pluck, strategy or dominance — or abhorrence and hatred at their perceived harm — predators evoke deep emotional responses from most people. And we humans have deeply impacted them too, we’ve changed the course of their evolutionary trajectory. Whether by over-hunting, habitat destruction or decimating their prey base, humans have whittled down the meta-populations of large predators on every continent over the course of the past few hundred years. Many apex predators are now imperiled. David Quammen’s book, Monster of God: The man-eating predator in the jungles of history and the mind, has been out since 2003, but I just got around to reading it this month. Quammen’s premise explores the relationships between native predators and native peoples. He takes the reader on a journey to physical places — the Kathiawar Peninsula and the Brahmani-Baitarani Delta of India, the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the Arnhem Land Reservation and Maningrida in Australia — as well as literary destinations like the Gilgamesh and Beuwolf. Reading this 437-page tome, you cut across continents and through geologic time. What really makes this book tick is the blend of narrative writing fused with Quammen’s distillation of primary research. He introduces key concepts early, like the “muskrat conundrum” and then fleshes out the abstract ecological concept with real examples. (In this case, examples of niche partitioning and conspecific competition for territory and food resources.) But he doesn’t overdo the science… rather, it reads like a first-person travelogue with pit-stops into the scientific literature. Full, in-depth book review on my blog, here.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Gods and monsters Quammen touches on the biology, ecology, and culture of large predator species and their interaction with humans--an interaction which can (but doesn't always or exclusively) consist of seeing us as meat on the buffet. He goes to different locations where predator habitats are squeezed, their populations under pressure from hunting, and they are in close contact with humans. It is the variants of these three coordinates, finds Quammen, that leads to bad interactions, Quammen goes Gods and monsters Quammen touches on the biology, ecology, and culture of large predator species and their interaction with humans--an interaction which can (but doesn't always or exclusively) consist of seeing us as meat on the buffet. He goes to different locations where predator habitats are squeezed, their populations under pressure from hunting, and they are in close contact with humans. It is the variants of these three coordinates, finds Quammen, that leads to bad interactions, Quammen goes easy on the science so that popular audiences can enjoy this account, and read it almost like a travelogue of most unlikely tourist spots (although burgeoning eco-tourism is one factor in ratcheting up those three pressures on the predator population). Spending nights spotlighting 17-foot crocodiles on a remote northern Australia river, or tracking tigers in sub-zero weather in Far Eastern Russia may not be my idea of a fun vacation, but it makes for fascinating reading in Quammen's book. Quammen references not just science and travel, but also philosophy and religion, as he considers the role of the tension between man and large beast throughout history and in religious traditions (for example Leviathan mentioned by Job in the Hebrew scriptures), and concludes with a cautionary point about the role of these kings of the food chain in maintaining equilibrium among and between species. Interesting reading, although apparently readers didn't think so when it was new. I bought this book, one of several pristine copies available, at an "Everything's $1" store! It deserved a better fate than this.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ken-ichi

    A fairly well-written book that's heavy on anecdote and sadly light on analysis or novel commentary. Quammen spends a long, long time talking about his model organisms (Asiatic lions in India, saltwater crocs in Australia, brown bears in Romania, and Amur tigers in the Russian Far East). These passages contain plenty of interesting tidbits, amusing stories, colorful characters, etc., but they tend to drag on. If you're looking for a treatise on humanity's relationship with its potential predator A fairly well-written book that's heavy on anecdote and sadly light on analysis or novel commentary. Quammen spends a long, long time talking about his model organisms (Asiatic lions in India, saltwater crocs in Australia, brown bears in Romania, and Amur tigers in the Russian Far East). These passages contain plenty of interesting tidbits, amusing stories, colorful characters, etc., but they tend to drag on. If you're looking for a treatise on humanity's relationship with its potential predators, this might not be the book for you. Here are some of Quammen's notable observations: * poor people tend to get eaten by animals more often than members of other classes * "the extermination of alpha predators is fundamental to the colonial enterprise" (p. 253 of the hard cover ed.) What better way to dominate an entire landscape (not just its people) than by destroying the most obviously powerful animal around? This also points toward the complex relationship between native peoples and their "resident monsters." Quammen makes clear that most people have a diverse array of opinions regarding their local man-eaters, but are they all equally defeated when these animals are destroyed by an invading power? Is it simply a show of strength, or is it really as symbolic as Quammen implies? * Being eaten and being killed are wholly different human experiences than being killed for food. The thought of falling off a cliff and subsequently being eaten by vultures is very different from the thought of being hunted and eaten by a cougar. Overall, this one's a skimmer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Maitrey

    This was the first book I read by David Quammen, an author I've come to respect for all the outdoorsy articles he's written. This book has nothing to do with monsters or God, the title looks like a ham-handed job by the publishers. It is something of an anthropological take on societies living in close proximity with large predators. Along the way, it also deals with a little science and ecology of these large predators. Quammen tours quite a bit of the world, spending time in India with lions, cr This was the first book I read by David Quammen, an author I've come to respect for all the outdoorsy articles he's written. This book has nothing to do with monsters or God, the title looks like a ham-handed job by the publishers. It is something of an anthropological take on societies living in close proximity with large predators. Along the way, it also deals with a little science and ecology of these large predators. Quammen tours quite a bit of the world, spending time in India with lions, crocs in Australia, brown bears in Romania, and ending the trip with Russian Amur tigers. But through out the book, more than the animals themselves, we have Quammen's interactions with indigenous peoples who've spent centuries with these predators, such as the Maldhari tribesmen: buffalo herdsmen who co-exist with lions in Gir National Park in western India. The sections on Romania and the Russian far-east also deal with quite a bit of recent history of these troubled regions. Quammen does a nice job weaving history, mythology and ecology with a good dose of healthy speculation that makes a gripping read. Throughout the book, Quammen makes a case for conservation of these species, marshalling evidence from ecological principles to plain sense-o-wunda. I was hooked from page one, although I might be biased since this book covered areas that I especially love reading about. Recommended but with caveats.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Another excellent work by nature writer David Quammen (Song of the Dodo, Flight of the Iguana, etc.), Monster of God examines the role that man-eating animals play in human culture and society. Quammen provides several chapter-length essays on a variety of beasts, accused or proved of feasting on humans: Indian lions, Siberian tigers, Romanian brown bears, Nile crocodiles and others. Through this episodic approach, Quammen examines folklore, myth and religious depictions of these creatures, how Another excellent work by nature writer David Quammen (Song of the Dodo, Flight of the Iguana, etc.), Monster of God examines the role that man-eating animals play in human culture and society. Quammen provides several chapter-length essays on a variety of beasts, accused or proved of feasting on humans: Indian lions, Siberian tigers, Romanian brown bears, Nile crocodiles and others. Through this episodic approach, Quammen examines folklore, myth and religious depictions of these creatures, how it spurred human development and mythology, and the treatment accorded to them across time. Often, they were hunted nearly to extinction; sometimes they were preserved, occasionally by those who previously hunted them. They became a fearsome obstacle to progress, an otherworldly menace or karmic justice passing judgment on humanity; conquering them became a sign of masculinity virility or cultural progress. In all cultures, these animals are accorded a strange mixture of reverence and terror, fear and respect: attention must be paid to any animal strong enough to topple Mankind from the top of the food chain. As Quammen shows, the awe they inspire hasn’t really changed over time: at the end of the day, however, they are merely animals living their lives, oblivious to (but impacted by) human myth-making.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Griggette

    Wildlife/natural history journalism at its best. Quammen examines several carniverous "monsters" that are facing extinction in their last remaining habitat--the Asian lion in India, the saltwater crocodile in India and Australia, the brown bear in Romania, and the Amura (aka Siberian) tiger in Russia--and their controversial relationship to humans throughout history. How do indigenous cultures vs. colonial cultures interact with indigenous flora and fauna? How can governments and local communiti Wildlife/natural history journalism at its best. Quammen examines several carniverous "monsters" that are facing extinction in their last remaining habitat--the Asian lion in India, the saltwater crocodile in India and Australia, the brown bear in Romania, and the Amura (aka Siberian) tiger in Russia--and their controversial relationship to humans throughout history. How do indigenous cultures vs. colonial cultures interact with indigenous flora and fauna? How can governments and local communities best live with these "threatening" creatures from economic, cultural, and biological standpoints? Quammen asks tough questions and dives in neck deep in his attempt to answer them, and ultimately asks--will there be top, keystone predators in the landscape 100 years from now? And why should we care if there are or aren't? Quammen keeps it professional and highly scientific/factual the entire time, which few wildlife writers manage to do...no PETA outbursts, or on the flip side, no crazed curses against carnivores. He interviews the people--hunters, trappers, farmers/herders, and wildlife biologists--who best know these creatures and presents a holistic view of wildlife.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    I enjoyed Quammen's Spillover more than this book, but that's not to say this wasn't an interesting read too. In a similar way to Spillover, Quammen takes the reader on a tour of the world. He doesn't just report on predators from afar, but goes to get close up and personal with them, and with the people who've really spent time in their environment. It's still a little difficult to believe he could understand these animals or even that way of life with such short exposures, but he did his resea I enjoyed Quammen's Spillover more than this book, but that's not to say this wasn't an interesting read too. In a similar way to Spillover, Quammen takes the reader on a tour of the world. He doesn't just report on predators from afar, but goes to get close up and personal with them, and with the people who've really spent time in their environment. It's still a little difficult to believe he could understand these animals or even that way of life with such short exposures, but he did his research and spoke to the people who did know, which puts him ahead of people who theorise from afar. What I liked particularly about this one was that he pulled in threads of literature, history, sociology... all kinds of ways of understanding the complex impact alpha predators have on us, and the impact we have on them. It's obviously very human-centric still: all of these alpha predators have been impacted by human encroachment on their territory. I don't know if there's any alpha predator in the world not feeling human pressures, but the relationship seemed particularly close/fraught here, with the animals Quammen picked. It's a bit of a dense read, but still interesting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    Clearly a good writer. Clearly a "science and nature writer". I was more fascinated, however, with what would possess a person to write about this subject matter than I was with anything written. I can see how this would appeal to those who love to read about the most minute details of predators, civilizations, the dichotomy between man and nature. But, for Me, I think I would have preferred seeing this in the form of a science and nature documentary -- Richard Attenborough's narration lending t Clearly a good writer. Clearly a "science and nature writer". I was more fascinated, however, with what would possess a person to write about this subject matter than I was with anything written. I can see how this would appeal to those who love to read about the most minute details of predators, civilizations, the dichotomy between man and nature. But, for Me, I think I would have preferred seeing this in the form of a science and nature documentary -- Richard Attenborough's narration lending to the tension and excitement. As it was, I found it a bit of a slog and struggled to sustain enough interest to get through it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie McGarrah

    I am not an ardent fan of natural history books, or any scientific scholarly works really. But when its done right I'm captivated. Monster of God is a beautifully conceived and written book dedicated to the creatures on this earth who have permanently etched themselves into human kinds psyche. The author traces the relationships between lions, crocodiles and other creatures who remind us that we're "just meat" to man's mythological worlds, while also detailing the history and real world implicat I am not an ardent fan of natural history books, or any scientific scholarly works really. But when its done right I'm captivated. Monster of God is a beautifully conceived and written book dedicated to the creatures on this earth who have permanently etched themselves into human kinds psyche. The author traces the relationships between lions, crocodiles and other creatures who remind us that we're "just meat" to man's mythological worlds, while also detailing the history and real world implications for beasts forced to eek out a hard existence in their shrinking worlds. Despite their reputations, in terms of brutality Man is still the most fearsome animal in my estimation.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    Quammen finds a maximal balance of focus and depth, raising universal questions through an examination of four animals in four environments. In each case, he reveals a whole world of history, myth, struggle, and balance between local people and wild animals. It's a clear-eyed look at the dangers and necessities of coexistence in an ever-more human-filled landscape. I was struck by the sheer courage of Indian villagers, Aboriginal Australian communities, Siberian forest workers, or Romanian pasto Quammen finds a maximal balance of focus and depth, raising universal questions through an examination of four animals in four environments. In each case, he reveals a whole world of history, myth, struggle, and balance between local people and wild animals. It's a clear-eyed look at the dangers and necessities of coexistence in an ever-more human-filled landscape. I was struck by the sheer courage of Indian villagers, Aboriginal Australian communities, Siberian forest workers, or Romanian pastoralists, as they try to balance saving deadly animals with protecting their own people. Quammen shows this challenge at close to it's most extreme, but the issues and insights he raises apply to every site of interaction between humans and their non-human neighbors. It's a book about the tough, practical, mentally challenging task of finding mutual accommodation with animals.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Collins

    Quammen's exploration of predators and our relation to them is a study in history, observation, nature writing, travel, and conservation. His discussions move effortlessly between our contemporary relationships with predators and their habitats on to history, biology, ecology, and even sociology. With an eye toward bringing these creatures as well as their habitats to life for readers, he blends his understanding of science with a flare for travel writing, and the effect is a brilliant discussio Quammen's exploration of predators and our relation to them is a study in history, observation, nature writing, travel, and conservation. His discussions move effortlessly between our contemporary relationships with predators and their habitats on to history, biology, ecology, and even sociology. With an eye toward bringing these creatures as well as their habitats to life for readers, he blends his understanding of science with a flare for travel writing, and the effect is a brilliant discussion of predators. From the back cover: "As he journeys into their habitats and confronts them where they live, Quammen reflects on the enduring significance of these predators to us and imagines a future without them." It seems clear, though, that a future without them is one of the things this book is desperately fighting against. Whether discussing bears, lions, tigers, or crocodiles, the work here is impressive. It is not an easy read, certainly--there's research packed into every page, and many of the subjects are serious (potentially nightmare-inducing for animal lovers, too, in some cases), but this is a worthwhile and beautifully written book that honors some of Earth's greatest creatures in a way that deserves notice. Absolutely recommended.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael VanZandt

    This book suffered from my own high expectations and misconceptions. Quammen provides a broad scope for his work. His work focuses on four very interesting locales -- Gir forest of India, a Udege reservation in eastern Russia, northern Australia and Romania. The book is a synthesis of biology, environmental studies, political science. It is an enjoyable but it's potential is limited by Quammen's desire to make a book for the mainstream public. The promise of the book is short-circuited and does This book suffered from my own high expectations and misconceptions. Quammen provides a broad scope for his work. His work focuses on four very interesting locales -- Gir forest of India, a Udege reservation in eastern Russia, northern Australia and Romania. The book is a synthesis of biology, environmental studies, political science. It is an enjoyable but it's potential is limited by Quammen's desire to make a book for the mainstream public. The promise of the book is short-circuited and does not delve into the role of the alpha-predator in the human psyche throughout the evolution of homo sapiens. The book's high mark comes when Quammen discusses the influence of the predator in legends such as Gilgamesh, Beowulf, et al. For the most part, it reads like a elegy of the "man-eating" predators, offering little optimism or solutions. A decent read. I recommend it, but nothing extraordinary.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

    "Great and terrible flesh-eating beasts have always shared landscape with humans." From the first sentence, David Quammen begins weaving a tale of interdependency, fear, adoration and conflict between Homo sapiens and apex predators throughout human history. As he travels from around the world meeting village elders, conservationists, hunters and laymen, Quammen addresses the convoluted factors that have previously, and continue, to plague our existence alongside the top predators in the world - "Great and terrible flesh-eating beasts have always shared landscape with humans." From the first sentence, David Quammen begins weaving a tale of interdependency, fear, adoration and conflict between Homo sapiens and apex predators throughout human history. As he travels from around the world meeting village elders, conservationists, hunters and laymen, Quammen addresses the convoluted factors that have previously, and continue, to plague our existence alongside the top predators in the world - predators that occasionally see us as simply another delicacy on the menu. Masterfully walking a thin, delicate line, he delivers first-hand accounts, mythological excerpts and academic research in an engaging, comedic voice while allowing readers to develop their own conclusions concerning conservation efforts and the future of his featured species: Asiatic lions, crocodiles, brown bears, and tigers.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A charming, meditative book that ambles through reporting on how modern societies live near alpha predators with wanderings through philosophical, historical, and sociological musings. I normally prefer my non-fiction focused and clear, setting up a hypothesis or story and, straightforward, setting about proving it with rigor and education. Quammen works differently, taking the reader on the journey with him, asking questions he's not sure the answer to, leading you through the twisting paths of A charming, meditative book that ambles through reporting on how modern societies live near alpha predators with wanderings through philosophical, historical, and sociological musings. I normally prefer my non-fiction focused and clear, setting up a hypothesis or story and, straightforward, setting about proving it with rigor and education. Quammen works differently, taking the reader on the journey with him, asking questions he's not sure the answer to, leading you through the twisting paths of the scenic route. You're left with a sense of wonder, a sense of the marvel and hugeness of nature, and with a beautiful discourse that fosters a sense of discovery. It creates a solid foundation that you feel could run off in so many directions, and leaves you with a strong sense of appreciation of people, animals, and exploration.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jim Johanson

    Wow, this book is DENSE. The sheer volume of information is staggering, so much that I found myself skipping ahead at parts, reading the end of the book, and then making my way through chapters backwards. David Quammen is nothing if not thorough, and this book covers a lot of interdisciplinary ground. Much more of the book than I expected is devoted to the specifics of various conservation efforts and geographical history, and this became a bit daunting at times when I found myself wanting to ge Wow, this book is DENSE. The sheer volume of information is staggering, so much that I found myself skipping ahead at parts, reading the end of the book, and then making my way through chapters backwards. David Quammen is nothing if not thorough, and this book covers a lot of interdisciplinary ground. Much more of the book than I expected is devoted to the specifics of various conservation efforts and geographical history, and this became a bit daunting at times when I found myself wanting to get to the *meat* of it all, but I chalk this up to personal taste. The parts that I found less interesting might be the most interesting parts to other readers. Still a fascinating book and I'll be picking up another one of Quammen's soon.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This wide-ranging, thought provoking book takes the reader all over the world to examine predators who, usually when provoked, prey on humans: crocodiles, lions and tigers in India, tigers in Siberia, to name a few. There's also a discussion about animals and religion, over population by people, and science fiction. it's well researched and exhaustive. My only criticism is that it has too much information--this book could have been divided in two or three. However, the infordmation was most inte This wide-ranging, thought provoking book takes the reader all over the world to examine predators who, usually when provoked, prey on humans: crocodiles, lions and tigers in India, tigers in Siberia, to name a few. There's also a discussion about animals and religion, over population by people, and science fiction. it's well researched and exhaustive. My only criticism is that it has too much information--this book could have been divided in two or three. However, the infordmation was most interesting and well worth my time. I read this mainly on a treadmill, and I bet it took me three months.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emi Bevacqua

    This writer and book were so highly recommended, I'm embarrassed to admit to not liking either. Nothing really appealed to me, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for the vicious and holy subject matter, but I absolutely struggled to get through all these so impossibly far too many many many many many many many words. This writer and book were so highly recommended, I'm embarrassed to admit to not liking either. Nothing really appealed to me, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for the vicious and holy subject matter, but I absolutely struggled to get through all these so impossibly far too many many many many many many many words.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I like this book but I'm giving it up for now - too much other stuff to read. I like this book but I'm giving it up for now - too much other stuff to read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Giuliana Ferrari

    "Killing monsters, on one pretext or another, is something that has always allowed heroes to seem heroic". With this opening, Quammen goes from his usual tirade of witty observations of wildlife and goes to ancient literature, from Gilgamesh's epopy and Beowulf's english classic, to discuss the fascination and importance of what he calls 'alpha-predators' - the big cats, the crocs, the bears - in human history and mind. I don't agree with the name (I think alpha-predators is rather daunty and obs "Killing monsters, on one pretext or another, is something that has always allowed heroes to seem heroic". With this opening, Quammen goes from his usual tirade of witty observations of wildlife and goes to ancient literature, from Gilgamesh's epopy and Beowulf's english classic, to discuss the fascination and importance of what he calls 'alpha-predators' - the big cats, the crocs, the bears - in human history and mind. I don't agree with the name (I think alpha-predators is rather daunty and obsolete), but I can't seem to find anything wrong with his book apart from the ocasional wtf comment on a specific subject or some really vague hints on casual sexism - which, I know, problematic, but the book was written in 2003 and Quammen can't be an all perfect writer in every sense. He was also truly, radically against Communism, as his passages on Romanian's bear and Russia's tigers show. Quammen travels the whole world, from the warms of India and Australia to the chilly freezing winds of Far East Russia, to find those big, majestic, imponent animals that govern many aspects of our fears and nightmares. Sometimes they are depicted godly and almost surreal, and sometimes as they are: animals. Not morally conductive, not guarded by a set of human rules; just simple animals governmed by ecology. As an all-time favorite science communication writer, Quammen could have not let me down, but I might have to put this one right beside my first favourite one, "The Song of the Dodo". It is truly a masterpiece. From discourses on human political motivations to gloomy observations on nature's demise and incredible twists on Ridley Scott's 'Alien', Quammen is a must to anyone. And his message was never so important.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have said before that I aspire to be David Quammen when I grow up. Despite the fact that Monster of God was not my favorite Quammen book, I still feel that way. As ever, Quammen combines world travels, science, and an unabashed loved for the English language . His language is rich - ovoid, sessile, extirpated, such terms pepper his chapters and enrich his readers. So, too, does his ability to mine centuries of thought and literature for relevant themes, incorporating Beowulf into a section on I have said before that I aspire to be David Quammen when I grow up. Despite the fact that Monster of God was not my favorite Quammen book, I still feel that way. As ever, Quammen combines world travels, science, and an unabashed loved for the English language . His language is rich - ovoid, sessile, extirpated, such terms pepper his chapters and enrich his readers. So, too, does his ability to mine centuries of thought and literature for relevant themes, incorporating Beowulf into a section on Romanian bears and passages from the Bible as he discourses on the lions. Monster of God sees Quammen travel the globe looking for human-nature interactions between homo sapiens and the largest remaining top-of-the-food-chain predators on earth. Those range from the salt water crocodiles of northern Australia to the lions of India and the Amur tigers of the Russian far east. In each stop, Quammen takes the time to understand the history, the biology, the cultural imperatives, and the end game. Here's a hint, the end game doesn't look good, certainly not for these Alpha animals, and not particularly for the homo sapiens, either. His approach is thoughtful and thorough, and he leaves his readers with more questions than answers, always a hallmark of good writing, IMO. (In this sense I was reminded of the eminently fascinating, but equally depressing Chesapeake Requiem.) At times, Monster of God hues wordy. I didn't go back and check the number of pages compared to other works (Song of the Dodo, Spillover, Boilerplate Rhino), but it felt longer to me. That said, anyone who appreciates really good writing should appreciate this work -- all the more so if travel or science feature among the reader's passions.

  30. 4 out of 5

    ClareT

    This book wasn't as I expected. I was expecting to enjoy reading about lions - but the chapters about the lions were more about the local people and the politics of conservation and less than I expected about the lions. The chapters about crocodiles were better, more crocs and the struggles faced by the locals. Still, I was finding it difficult to continue - and I usually love David Quammen's writing. However, I was saved by the bears, Amur tigers and Grendel. These chapters seemed more interestin This book wasn't as I expected. I was expecting to enjoy reading about lions - but the chapters about the lions were more about the local people and the politics of conservation and less than I expected about the lions. The chapters about crocodiles were better, more crocs and the struggles faced by the locals. Still, I was finding it difficult to continue - and I usually love David Quammen's writing. However, I was saved by the bears, Amur tigers and Grendel. These chapters seemed more interesting - maybe it is because the history of the Romanian dictator Caecescu was something I remembered although I had no idea he hunted bears. The dip into mythology with Beowulf and Grendel was incredibly interesting (but I have a soft spot for myths and legends) and as for the tigers... This is a long book, perhaps harder to read because I found it difficult to remember some of the place names in India and Australia which meant I had to keep referring back to the map. But, it was worth sticking with for the second half. This is a book that is part nature and part an examination of our relationship with carnivores / man-eaters and our own mortality.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.