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Publisher's Summary

Weaving decades of field observations with exciting new discoveries about the brain, Carl Safina's landmark book offers an intimate view of animal behavior to challenge the fixed boundary between humans and nonhuman animals. In Beyond Words listeners travel to Amboseli National Park in the threatened landscape of Kenya and witness struggling elephant families work out how to survive poaching and drought, then to Yellowstone National Park to observe wolves sort out the aftermath of one pack's personal tragedy and finally plunge into the astonishingly peaceful society of killer whales living in the crystalline waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Beyond Words brings forth powerful and illuminating insight into the unique personalities of animals through extraordinary stories of animal joy, grief, jealousy, anger, and love. The similarity between human and nonhuman consciousness, self-awareness, and empathy calls us to reevaluate how we interact with animals. Wise, passionate, and eye opening at every turn, Beyond Words is ultimately a graceful examination of humanity's place in the world.

©2015 Carl Safina (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This book breathes love of and respect for animals and is rich with observations and extraordinary travel experiences." (Frans de Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Sharon
  • GLEN ELLEN, CA, United States
  • 11-12-15

Great book by a scientist with a heart

I loved this book. The narration could definitely be better, but I will forgive Carl Safina for this, as the content of this book is so good. It's taken forever, but science is finally catching up with what many of us have known all along - that animals have feelings, have family bonds, have their own language, etc. In many ways they are superior to us.
It was fascinating to read about the elephants, wolves, whales, and the terrible things that humans have done to them. There are many species on the planet. Humans are just one, but we sure are making life difficult for so many of the others.
This book is difficult to read in places, heartbreaking in others, but, for the most part, it is so interesting to get an in depth look at these particular species. Also, we need to know the bad things that are happening to them, so we can do something about it.
I highly recommend this book.

23 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Absolutely mind bending!

If you could sum up Beyond Words in three words, what would they be?

Mind expanding- indisputable!

All things are connected by a common ancestry. Humans are not the pinnacle of creation but one among many creatures who encompass the whole of evolution. We are all the same and humans are not the best among us.

What did you like best about this story?

The extent of society among our non-human neighbors is what I liked best. And the fact that we can interact with them if we do so on their terms and not on our terms.

What does Carl Safina bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I enjoyed Carl's sense of earnest and the decades of observation he brings to the subject.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Man vs. Nature: Community or Competition?

Any additional comments?

This book opens up the sense that we are all one. There seems to be an entire reality- older than our own, that is grossly misunderstood. To what end I wonder...

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good overview of the topic.

Very little new here for those who have followed the subject. As poorly as humans have behaved towards elephants, wolves and whales, too much of the book is taken up with this which is not really the advertised theme.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Shaky start, but worth a little patience

I was expecting this book to be a collection of inspirational and thought-provoking stories about the emotional lives of animals, and it is all that and more. However, especially in the early part of the book, there is also a lot of dispassionate scientific discussion about humans' inability to objectively quantify animal emotions, and the dangers of misinterpreting observational findings. I felt the book got bogged down in a long cold clinical discussion that would be more interesting to other researchers, but thankfully the rest of the book made up for it.

My only other objection is that, at times, the author's overly poetic descriptions of his own observations distracted and detracted from my enjoyment of his book. For example:

"We watch as time autographs this scene, folds it, and tucks it into my mind"

And:

"Into focus in my telescope now come several rouge faced wolves yanking mightily at the newly exposed ribcage of a freshly erstwhile elk"

This is strictly a matter of personal preference, I realize, but I felt that a more natural conversational tone would have helped the narration flow more smoothly.

Fortunately, the depth and scope of the book's subject matter outshines these minor flaws. The author makes insightful observations on the hypocrisy of human judgments refuting the possibility of animal thought and emotion. He illustrates how the death of a single animal can have devastating effects on its family members for years or even generations to come. He provides compelling evidence for the existence of unique languages and cultures within family groups of intelligent creatures. He also paints a clear picture of the destructive effects exerted by humans, both intentional and accidental.

Overall, I found this book very moving and well worth my time. Like the author, I am touched and honored to share this earth with such magnificent and unique intelligent creatures. I'm also ashamed to be a member of the race that is slowly ensuring their extinction

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Best nonfiction on audible !

This book was informative, moving, horrifying, and totally enjoyable. The narration was great and the subject matter was way more interesting than I thought it would be. I highly recommend it.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A truly beautiful must-read book

This book is quite informative, well written and enthusiastically read. The author really helped me understand how much I've not understood about humanity through a better understanding of other species. This is a must read book for everyone. But for me it is a call to do some serious soul searching as to what my action item is based on what i've learned. I promise I will do something.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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I learned a ton! great insights!

really enjoyed it! liked the bigger questions that were brought to my mind upon completion!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Could not finish.

Listening to the narrator during the sample did not prepare me for how much I displeased his voice.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good story

I like the story but I felt he could have told the story in half the amount of pages.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Required reading

This book and others, such as Blackfish, should be required reading for all children as I fear it's too late for our "government " to change. Hope is the only way to proceed and our children are our only hope.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Eve
  • 09-29-15

interesting, informative and entertaining

Not always a fan of authors narrating their own books, but this one worked well and was read with the right amount of passion and involvement.

Most of the facts and stories were not news to me because of my interest in the subject, but many people will be blown away by some of the content. A must read for humanity I would say.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bruce
  • 12-12-17

Fascinating, powerful, heartbreaking and hopeful

I'd arrived here via Humankind by Timothy Morton (Verso 2017). I'd hoped to have my residual prejudices about the limitations of the personhood of other-than-human animals challenged. My expectations were surpassed. Satisfyingly and engagingly read by the author and written from a passionate point of view, the book is rich with astonishing insight into the lives of specific elephants, wolves, dogs, orcas and other creatures. Sometimes difficult to listen to in the parts concerning the idiocy and brutality of humans, this book communicates the wonder of many different encounters with our fellow earthlings and makes a compelling case for compassion in our relations with them - and each other.

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  • Piotr
  • 07-22-17

Outstanding!

This book is not an easy and relaxing read/listen. But no book that that is profound can ever be.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-18-17

Engrossing. Thought provoking. Amazing!

This book is by far the best I've had on Audible! I didn't really know what to expect when I bought it, but it turned out to be everything I was looking for and more. Hard to sum up in a short paragraph- I would recommend to just give it a listen and see for yourself

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  • Ms
  • 03-20-16

Communication without words

Fabulous. Thoughtfully challenges the way humans respond to and communicate with other sentient beings. recommended

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ben Fletcher
  • 12-17-15

Beautiful, informative and inspiring

Where does Beyond Words rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is the best audiobook I have had the pleasure of listening to.

What did you like best about this story?

It is incredibly informative. In every minute I was learning something new and exciting. I was genuinely moved by Carl's stories and experiences, and truly inspired.

What about Carl Safina’s performance did you like?

Carl's performance is superb. He speaks in a soft yet passionate tone, drawing in the listener throughout.

Any additional comments?

Everyone should read/listen to this book.

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  • Kerry Freeman
  • 09-19-17

The one true predator.

The narration is good. I found the stories too heartbreaking to finish listening. Good luck.