I am nominating Next of Kin, by Roger Fouts. Reading this book affected me greatly. There are four quotes from the following reviews, that I think will peak the interest of booktalk members.
1. "What Fouts has learned from chimpanzees is that Descartes was wrong."
2. "You cannot read this book and stay neutral."
3. "Next of Kin is more than a book about the theory and practice of science."
4. "A voyage of scientific discovery and interspecies communication, this is a stirring tale of friendship, courage, and compassion that will change forever the way we view our biological--and spritual--next of kin."
For three decades, primatologist Roger Fouts has been involved in language studies of the chimpanzee, the animal most closely related to human beings. Among his subjects was the renowned Washoe, who was "endowed with a powerful need to learn and communicate," and who developed an extraordinary vocabulary in American sign language. Another chimpanzee, Fouts writes, "never made a grammatical error," which turned a whole school of linguistic theory upside down. While reporting these successes, Fouts also notes that chimpanzees are regularly abused in laboratory settings and that in the wild their number has fallen from 5,000,000 to fewer than 175,000 in the last century.
For 30 years Roger Fouts has pioneered communication with chimpanzees through sign language--beginning with a mischievous baby chimp named Washoe. This remarkable book describes Fout's odyssey from novice researcher to celebrity scientist to impassioned crusader for the rights of animals. Living and conversing with these sensitive creatures has given him a profound appreciation of what they can teach us about ourselves. It has also made Fouts an outspoken opponent of biomedical experimentation on chimpanzees. A voyage of scientific discovery and interspecies communication, this is a stirring tale of friendship, courage, and compassion that will change forever the way we view our biological--and spritual--next of kin.
Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Richard Wrangham
... Next of Kin is more than a book about the theory and practice of science. It's a love story.... Scientists aren't supposed to have their objectivity ruined by emotional involvement. But Next of Kin shows that the ape experiments that fail are those that forbid human sympathy for their subjects. For Fouts, chimpanzee and human minds are fundamentally alike, so it makes sense to care deeply about one's chimpanzee subjects. What Fouts has learned from chimpanzees is that Descartes was wrong. Other animals do have minds. The reason chimpanzees are should be greater. That argument isn't new, but in Next of Kin, it is based on an unparalleled depth of understanding and on a uniquely personal involvement in the battles over congressional legislation and laboratory management. You cannot read this book and stay neutral.