Book review: Eager: The surprising secret life of beavers and why they matter — by Ben Goldfarb

As an environmental journalist covering wildlife management and conservation biology, Ben Goldfarb has written extensively about birds, bears, fish, and more for periodicals such as Mother Jones, Science and Orion, but it was beavers, of all critters, that inspired him to write a book. And what a book it is! While fantastically well researched, “Eager” rarely — if ever — gets bogged down by its own comprehensive heft. This is a function of Goldfarb’s genuine enthusiasm for his subject, his healthy appreciation for the humor inherent in smelly, buck-toothed rodents, and his entertaining way with words. “Eager” is, above all else, fun to read. The opportunity it presents to learn almost everything there is to know about these surprisingly bright, if maddening, rodents is almost secondary to the pleasure of consuming Goldfarb’s lively, storyteller’s prose. But learn you will — about the rich natural and cultural history of Castor canadensis. Goldfarb leaves no stone unturned in his investigation, visiting 12 US states and the UK to interview and “go into the field,” i.e., wade into the pond, with everyone from wildlife management biologists to civilian enthusiasts of various stripes, the whole range of “Beaver Believers.” The takeaway — that, contrary to popular opinion, beavers and humans can live harmoniously — is practically a foregone conclusion; it’s the getting there in Goldfarb’s company that makes it entirely worth your time.
— Reviewed by Becky Dayton of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury
7 narratives of the natural world
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees, by Thor Hansen
H Is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
American Wolff: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West, by Nate Blakeslee
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World, by Peter Wohlleben
Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, by Bernd Heinrich
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness, by Sy Montgomery
Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures, by Nick Pyenson

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