Alex & Me

Narrated by: Julia Gibson
Length: 5 hrs and 39 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (341 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age 31. 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 30 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 30-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and of an unforgettable human-animal bond.

©2008 Irene M. Pepperberg (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

What a Bird!

I'm a bird lover and I am constantly amazed by what birds are capable of doing. I think I went into the book knowing quite a bit about the story up front. I watched the TV programs about Alex, saw a variety of Utube videos and had read several articles about this subject. So maybe that's why the book felt a bit repetitive. When I finished listening I had the feeling that I wanted to know more about Alex the bird and the other birds the author had worked with. The story was amazing--but in some ways incomplete. All in all, concerns aside, a fascinating book for bird lovers.

29 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great science story but not a great book

Okay, Alex and Dr. Pepperberg are a story that everyone should know. With creative, intuitively-devised methodology, Irene was able to shatter ideas of animal intelligence. Alex's accomplishments are the kind of jaw-dropping items you'll find yourself sharing with friends and family. I have the highest respect for their work and wish they were even more widely known than they are.

The thing is, you could learn just about as much watching some YouTube videos and listening to some interviews with Dr. Pepperberg (FreshAir has a great one). The book is padded with a lot of biographical information that I just didn't find that compelling and the real insights could be related in one hour rather than nearly six. The reading was adequate but the writing is just not that compelling and there's not enough science here to keep my interest.

7 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Pepperperg's memoir

A little bit self repeating story. I expected more about the actual studies. Anyway, nice to learn something new about the pioneer of animal cognition research.

5 people found this helpful

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The Cognitive Studies Of A Remarkable Bird

Don't expect warm and mushy from "Alex & Me" as Pepperberg goes to great lengths to state that she made it her duty to keep distance from Alex. There are relatively few precious scenes about their relationship; most the book is the chronicling of the many studies which prove that gray parrots, Alex in particular, are sentient beings with an astounding ability to learn and relate/commune with another species, our own.
There is indeed, however, a good deal of genuine caring, of true respect between the two and it is clear that there was a strong bond between them. Pepperberg would go as far as bringing Alex to her home during down time, that is until he spotted two predatory owls outside the window. Despite Irene closing the curtains, Alex could not be comforted, proving that, despite the prevailing scientific thought at the time, even though he couldn't see them anymore, to him the owls still existed.
It's a fascinating book, pretty funny at times, and ultimately heartbreaking at the end. The studies may still go on, but with this book, at least the memory of Alex goes on too.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Bird Lovers Unite!

This is a wonderful book about the African Gray that could do more than we every imagined. It is also the first person story about the researcher who owned the Gray and difficulties (politically and otherwise) of sustaining research in this needy area of study. The book is read very well, the audio is wonderful, and the story is entertaining as well as informative. If you don't have any interest in animal or ornithological cognition, listen to this book anyway for the story line. You will come away amazed at life around us and the creatures that enhabit our world. I am now convinced that those who believe there is a God have no more problems than those who believe there is none. This Gray has shown us more than we are ready to accept - even still.

4 people found this helpful

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Perfection In Storytelling

A magnificent memoir detailing the trials and triumphs of studying a parrot's intelligence, written by a most likable and capable woman. Superb!

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All hail Alex and Irene

This is indeed a wonderful telling of an astounding relationship between homosapiens and another species. It lays bare the connectedness of the world we inhabit and does so with heart and inspiration. Read it and widen you horizons.

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LOVE THIS BOOK!

Irene Pepperberg should get some elite prize for exploring the dimensions of animal brains! Who EVER would have believed that a little bird brain could be so smart....extraordinary story!

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Moving and inspiring

Alex and Me is a moving and inspiring read right off the bat. It brings to light how the anthropocentric idea of sentience being uniquely human really hindered the scientific community, creating a barrier to the world of animal behaviour that Dr Pepperberg worked to smash, against all odds. Reading her accounts of denied grants and rejected papers really makes me feel frustrated on her behalf about how close-minded people are about the extent of non-human intelligence. It makes me wonder how many other potential scientific advancements are currently being hindered by our human superiority complex.

Even though I already knew about Alex's untimely death, I still welled with anxiety at the part where I knew it was coming. His loss was a devestating blow to animal intelligence research, but his life was an unparalleled contribution.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Mistreat of other intelligent animal for self gain

Couldn't finish listening to her take credit at the cost of another intelligent animal's early demise, by her doing.
Disgusting! She demonstrated how not to treat a parrot and that using this ignorance to encourage others to do the same as someone who abvious thinks she knows better so listen to her, get a and parrot use it for personnal gain...then she so sad that the bird way to early, say she does now why it died when she made very how improperly she took care of her. There are better ways of fully learning their intelligents then getting them to speak english and judge all the intelligence by that...
pepperidge is just an attention seeker because, she has unresolved emotional issues and misinform the public how to treat a noble animal, that she is not!
Truly discusting!