The primatologist and author of ''The Book of Hope'' is a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien : ''Two little hobbits, Frodo and the faithful Sam, faced the might of Mordor and the Dark Lord alone - and won!''

.- What books are on your night stand?

''The Perfect Gentleman : A Muslim boy Meets the West,'' to remind me to reread. It is brilliant and I know the author, Imran Ahmad. And ''Cult : Following my Escape and Return to the Children of God,'' by Baxy Cameron.

I skimmed it and it is an extraordinary and chillingly true autobiography. Don't know how long they'll sit there, though - no time to read them.

By the end of a day of Zooms and Skypes and emails my eyes are too tired to read, so I turn to audio books. I need something soothing to stop the racing thoughts about all I haven't managed to accomplish that day and all I have to do the next. Like an Agatha Christie.

The reader matters - I love Hugh Fraser's voice. Another audiobook : ''Beautiful Ruins,'' by Jess Walter. His mastery of the different voices of his characters is quite extraordinary.

.- What's the last great book you read?

Tolkien's ''The Lord of the Rings '' - the author has created another world that becomes totally real even as the story grips you. Moreover, the book is like an allegory of the challenges we face in today's dark times.

We need to grow the Fellowship of the Ring to fight the evil forces of autocratic regimes, the swing to the far right, the disrespect of nature that has led to climate change, extinction of species and the pandemic; industrial agriculture including the horrendous factory farms - the list is endless.

And the book gives hope : Two little hobbits, Fredo and the faithful Sam, faced the might of Mordor and the Dark Lord alone - and won! And then how the gift from Galadriel to Sam enabled him to restore the degraded land.

.- Was reading a big part of your life during the decades that you lived among wild chimpanzees? What books, or what kinds of books, did you read in that period?

I read no books, as I was utterly focused on first finding, then observing the chimpanzees, and in the evening transcribing my field notes. Every day up in the mountains at dawn, back at dusk.

.- Are there researchers or popular science writers that you especially admire? What science and nature writers would you recommend for a general audience?

I admire Rachel Carson, who wrote ''Silent Spring,'' and Steven Drucker, who spent 11 years researching the dangers of genetically modified food to write ''Altered Genes, Twisted Truth.''

For a general audience I would also recommend David Quammen his latest was ''Spillover,'' about the origin zoonotic diseases; Peter Wholleben, who wrote ''The Hidden Life of Trees''; and Meg Lowman, who wrote '' The Arbornaut.'' Craig Foster and Ross Frylinck describe a magic world in ''Underwater Wild.''

.- Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

The amazing people and projects around the world that show the resilience of nature, the indomitable human spirit, the power of informed young people, the amazing innovation of scientists fighting climate change [e,.g., solar, wind, tidal power; improving battery storage for electric cars]

Alternative methods of farming that are bringing life to the soil contaminated by the toxic chemical pesticides and herbicides that are relied on by ''conventional'' - industrial- farming; alternatives to using animals for medical and pharmaceutical research, and so on].

.- What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

There was no TV when I was a child. I learned from books - and nature. I read every book about animals I could find. Doctor Dolittle and Tarzan led me to dream about living with animals in Africa.

And I spent hours and hours learning from a wonderful ''grown-up'' book, recently published : ''The Miracle of Life, ''which took one through evolution, the different animal species from primates to insects to plants, human anatomy and the history of medicine.

I collected poetry books - I especially loved the Romantic poetry of Keats, Shelley, etc.'' and then the war poets like Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen.

I loved some of Shakespeare's plays. ''Uncle Tom's Cabin,'' by Harriet Beecher Stowe, made a huge impression on me, so that I am passionate about racial discrimination and work to address it, even in a small way, by bringing young people together from different cultures in JGI's Roots & Shoots environmental and humanitarian program for young people.

.- You're organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Shakespeare, Tolkien, Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte. Or, oh - I want Keats, Byron, Rachel Carson, Dickens, Darwin - and, oh - I want Churchill and, and - my dinner party will need a banqueting hall to fit them all in!


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