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Extended Audio Sample Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story about Looking at People Looking at Animals in America, by Jon Mooallem Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jon Mooallem Narrator: Fred Sander Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Journalist Jon Mooallem has watched his little daughter’s world overflow with animals, butterfly pajamas, appliquéd owls, while the actual world she’s inheriting slides into a great storm of extinction. Half of all species could disappear by the end of the century, and scientists now concede that most of America’s endangered animals will survive only if conservationists keep rigging the world around them in their favor. So Mooallem ventures into the field, often taking his daughter with him, to move beyond childlike fascination and make those creatures feel more real. 

Wild Ones is a tour through our environmental moment and the eccentric cultural history of people and wild animals in America that inflects it, from Thomas Jefferson’s celebrations of early abundance to the turn-of-the-last-century origins of the teddy bear to the whale-loving hippies of the 1970s. The author says that, in America, wildlife has always inhabited the terrain of our imagination as much as the actual land.

The journey is framed by the stories of three modern-day endangered species: the polar bear, victimized by climate change and ogled by tourists outside a remote, northern town; the little-known Lange’s metalmark butterfly, foundering on a shred of industrialized land near San Francisco; and the whooping crane as it’s led on a months-long migration by costumed men in ultralight airplanes. The wilderness Wild Ones navigates is a scrappy, disorderly place where amateur conservationists do grueling, sometimes preposterous looking work; where a marketer maneuvers to control the polar bear’s image; and Martha Stewart turns up to film those beasts for her show on the Hallmark Channel. Our most comforting ideas about nature unravel. In their place, Mooallem forges a new and affirming vision of the human animal and the wild ones as kindred creatures on an imperfect planet.

With propulsive curiosity and searing wit and without the easy moralizing and nature worship of environmental journalism’s older guard, Wild Ones merges reportage, science, and history into a humane and endearing meditation on what it means to live in, and bring a life into, a broken world.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[An] ambitious and fascinating first book…[Mooallem] seamlessly blends reportage from the front lines of wildlife conservation with a lively cultural history of animals in America, telling stories of people past and present whose concern for animals makes them act in ways that are sometimes unexpected, sometimes heroic, and occasionally absurd.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Intelligent and highly nuanced…This book may bring tears to your eyes. If so, they will be drawn out by the tragedy of what we have done and the all too often pathetic efforts to turn back the clock. But read through the tears, and you will find yourself more informed, more prepared to make a difference. Mooallem has done those of us who care deeply about nature and wildlife a favor, leaving us justifiably off balance but putting us in a better position to move beyond hubris to pragmatic solutions.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “A thoughtful parable of Americans’ complicated relations with conservationists and the wildlife they protect.”

    New Yorker

  • Wild Ones heightens one’s awareness of the precipitous position of so many of our animal species, but it’s also filled with curiosity and hope. The men and women that Mooallem tails are dreamers, but you wind up rooting for them to keep on dreaming.”


  • “There is, in short, ridiculously lots to love about Jon Mooallem’s Wild Ones—starting with its thoughtful and troubling observation that our increasingly extravagant effort at species conservation is a corollary to, as much as a solution for, our habit of rendering wild animals extinct.”

    New York magazine

  • “A clear-eyed look at our coy relationship with endangered animals.”


  • “Mooallem argues conservation is and always has been about fulfilling people’s need for nostalgic wildness, however contrived and fictitious it may be. Every generation strives to return the Earth to some idealized former state. Although his journey is sobering, Mooallem’s conclusion is upbeat: Even small conservation victories matter.”


  • “An engaging nature-environment book that goes beyond simpleminded sloganeering.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “It is impossible to express, within the tiny game-park confines of a back cover, how amazing I find this book. I love it line by perfect, carefully crafted line, and I love it for the freshness and intelligent humanity of its ideas. As literary nonfiction, as essay, as reportage, Wild Ones is, to my mind, about as good as writing gets.”

    Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Gulp

  • One of the New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for 2013
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2013 in Nonfiction
  • An NPR Best Book of 2013
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