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Download Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process Audiobook, by Irene Pepperberg Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,772 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Irene Pepperberg Narrator: Julia Gibson Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2008 ISBN: 9780061769344
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On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were "You be good. I love you."

What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex's case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous—two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex's brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet, over the years, Alex proved many things. He could add. He could sound out words. He understood concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none. He was capable of thought and intention. Together, Alex and Irene uncovered a startling reality: We live in a world populated by thinking, conscious creatures.

The fame that resulted was extraordinary. Yet there was a side to their relationship that never made the papers. They were emotionally connected to one another. They shared a deep bond far beyond science. Alex missed Irene when she was away. He was jealous when she paid attention to other parrots, or even people. He liked to show her who was boss. He loved to dance. He sometimes became bored by the repetition of his tests, and played jokes on her. Sometimes they sniped at each other. Yet nearly every day, they each said, "I love you."

Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin—despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one univer­sity to another. The story of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and of an unforgettable human-animal bond.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Everybody who loves animals should read this book. Irene Pepperberg has done pioneering work on communication between people and animals. Alex has proved to the world that birds are much smarter than people think.”

    Temple Grandin, New York Times bestselling author of Animals in Translation

  • “To anyone who’s dreamed of talking with the animals, Dr. Doolittle style, Alex was a revelation…This ornery reviewer tried to resist Alex’s charms on principle. But his achievements got the better of me…Alex was a celebrity, and this book will surely please his legions of fans.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “[Pepperberg’s] book movingly combines the scientific detail of a researcher...with the affectionate understanding that children instinctively possess.”  

    New York Times

  • “Everyone loves a love story, especially if it involves an animal...Readers interested in how a scientist methodically goes about gathering data will find Alex & Me an intriguing look behind the scenes. But readers who are looking for a touching little love story get the better deal here. Even a cold-hearted birdbrain might find himself tearing up when the end finally comes.”

    USA Today

  • “A fascinating look at animal intelligence, Pepperberg’s tale is also a love story between beings who sometimes ‘squabble like an old married couple’ but whose bond broke only with Alex’s death at thirty-one in 2007. Irresistible.” 

    People

  • Alex & Me may bring you to tears...but it will also charm and amaze you.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • Alex & Me is a wonderful read about the close and enduring bonds that developed between a very bright bird and a very motivated researcher during a long-term collaboration...Irene Pepperberg humanizes science, and her dear friend Alex shows that being called a birdbrain is indeed a compliment of the highest order.”

    Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals, Animals Matter, and Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals

  • “This is a brave book...I was fascinated to read the anecdotes about the intellectual capacity of parents, but the best part of Alex & Me is the story of their friendship.”

    Mark Bittner, author of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

  • “A wonderful, touching love story that combines humor, history, intimacy, philosophy, and ground-breaking science; a thoroughly delightful read about the thirty-year relationship of Irene and Alex.”

    Joanna Burger, author of The Parrot Who Owns Me

  • “Sometimes a single individual changes the world, even if it is a parrot. Together with his tutor, Irene Pepperberg, Alex systematically destroyed the notion—the way he destroyed so many other things—that all birds can do is mimic human language. Alex clearly has a mind of his own, and a heart to match, as explained in this touching account of scientific perseverance and mutual attachment. Our notion of what a bird is has forever been changed.”

    Frans de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape

  • “This book...is a moving tribute that beautifully evokes the struggles, the initial triumphs, the setbacks, the unexpected and often stunning achievements during a groundbreaking scientific endeavor...Pepperberg deftly interweaves her own personal narrative—including her struggles to gain recognition for her research—with more intimate scenes of life with Alex than she was able to present in her earlier work, creating a story that scientists and laypeople can equally enjoy, if they can all keep from crying over Alex’s untimely death.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “In this highly readable, anecdotal book, Pepperberg describes the training techniques she and her assistants used with Alex, the breakthroughs he made, and his growing fame as word began to spread about the brainy parrot who could differentiate colors, count, and describe objects accurately and in human language.”

    Booklist

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of the Christopher Award

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin Baker | 2/20/2014

    " An interesting and sweet book. A good book for animal lovers. I had a copy... wish I would have kept it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jennifer | 2/16/2014

    " Marley and Me for the avian set. An intriguing linguistic and behavioral study, but the presentation is somewhat marred by the weakness and repetition of Pepperberg's writing. Which is not going to keep you from weeping like a little girl at Alex's inevitable, Newberry-Medal-winning style demise. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brian | 1/17/2014

    " A change from fiction... a feel good book about a bird. Makes me wonder about animal intelligence. It also made me want to bond to Alex, just from reading! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 1/15/2014

    " I knew someone who worked with Irene Pepperberg, and so it's possible that her judgment clouded my reading of this book. I'm glad that Irene Pepperberg has done the work that she's done, and it was interesting to read her story - but I felt like she wasn't really being *honest*. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chrissie | 1/14/2014

    " Very good book about the intelligence of animals, but I preferred Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien. Pepperberg is a true scientist. She is less inclined to loosen up and allow her emotions to take sway. And that is fine. To really convince the science world you have to do things that way, and look what she accomplished. Fabulous. Nevertheless, it was Alex's own unprompted speech which I found the most amazing, more so than the scientific experiments. I did not think the writing was as good either. I neither liked the first chapter nor the last, which gets very, very philosophical.I think my preference for O'Brien's book is based on the fact that I really didn't need convincing about the intelligence of animals other than humans. Also Pepperberg speaks a bit about her own youth, and I believe her character has been molded by the lack of emotion shown to her as a child. Gosh, another book that mentions the wonderful atmosphere at MIT lab. If I ever decided to go to school all over again - that is the place to go. If you can get in! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jill | 1/13/2014

    " Ah, this book was pretty bad, but that didn't stop me from crying almost every time I picked it up. I just can't get over the tragedy...the pain of losing someone who all at the same time is a great friend, a constant companion, and a professional life's work. I really don't know how she managed to get up and put her clothes on in the morning. Also learned some interesting things I did not know about how smart Alex really was. The phonemes totally got me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anne | 1/6/2014

    " Such a fascinating topic, but the way in which the author, a scientist, told the story was much less interesting. It was quite a contrast to Crashing Through, in which the writing style matched the character. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Miranda | 1/5/2014

    " While this book is about a bird, I was most fascinated by the journey Irene Pepperberg took with him. She constantly struggled to remain a "scientist" all the while realizing that there is something special, non-quantifiable about the relationship we have with our non-human animals. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda Murray | 1/2/2014

    " I read this book and cried quite deeply with the story of his death! I have followed Alex and Dr. Pepperberg for years so this was felt quite personally. I believe it is a science story guided by the mind, but touches your heart. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heather | 12/30/2013

    " Not a great work of authorship, but sweet and funny nonetheless. Recommended for animal lovers and animal ethics enthusiasts. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisa | 12/9/2013

    " I loved this book but had trouble reading the entire first chapter because my eyes kept tearing up! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pat | 12/3/2013

    " Grey parrots are really smart. She taught him to recognize colors, shapes and even some concepts. Alex had a unique personality. His sudden death was hard on everyone who knew him. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Teresa | 9/28/2013

    " I read this recently and I'm a scientist who likes animals. I think it is a stunning look at a brilliant scientist's struggles to accomplish her goals and pushing the frontiers of what her bird could do, and how the bird got along with the lab!! Very depressing beginning, however. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michelle | 1/31/2013

    " i totally cried when the parrot died. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marilyn Kirschner | 10/30/2011

    " I really liked this book, and it gave me some insight into my own parrot. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patty | 5/24/2011

    " a nice insight into the world as we know it (or don't) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cathy | 5/23/2011

    " The story of an amazing African grey parrot and the groundbreaking work done by Irene Pepperberg. Not only was Alex clever but he was also very charming. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan | 5/16/2011

    " This was a sweet book, although more of a breezy overview than an in-depth memoir. It gives insight on the author's scientific inspiration, career, and work with Alex and her other African Grey Parrots. Alex certainly learned to communicate some fascinating things. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sherry | 4/8/2011

    " this is a really quick read and enjoyable if you're an animal lover of any kind "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becky | 3/18/2011

    " Fun, but I could have done with a little more Alex and a little less "me". "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jan | 3/2/2011

    " Interesting story showing the capabilities of a parrot. A basic story written by a scientist - includes a little of her relatiosnhip with the parrot without a lot of scientific detail about the study. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nancy | 2/27/2011

    " I was warned with this one I would get bogged down in scientific detail. Despite that I found this was a bird with a mind of his own. Plus I mourned right along with Irene at his passing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Annie | 2/24/2011

    " Who knew African Greys were so intelligent? Learned a LOT! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sophia | 2/23/2011

    " A wonderful, quick read. Really captures the personality of Alex the parrot, and shows that birds can learn language. Clearly and simply written. I finished it in a day. "

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About the Author

Irene M. Pepperberg is an associate research professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and teaches animal cognition at Harvard University. She is head of the Alex Foundation and author of The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots.

About the Narrator

Julia Gibson received an MFA from New York University. She has appeared on Broadway and other major stages in New York, as well as regional theaters from Dallas to San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, and more. Gibson has played major roles in productions such as The Seagull, Angels in America, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her television and film credits include Michael Clayton, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Spin City, and One Life to Live.