The animal behaviorist and autism advocate, whose new book is '' Visual Thinking '' hates graphic novels : ''It is too difficult for me to constantly switch back and forth between the pictures and the text bubbles.''

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

I loved ''Finding the Mother Tree,'' by Suzanne Simard. She was a keen observer who discovered that there are complex interactions between soil fungi and different species of trees.

Forests with a mixture of for trees and birches were more productive. Fungi in the soil helped protect  the trees from disease. This was contrary to most scientific theories and getting her research published was difficult.

Many scientists still believe that plant forest monoculture is best. Science will eventually prove that Simard was right.

Replanted forests should be diverse. A perfect visual graphic Simard could use in a lecture is the last scene from the movie '' Avatar. '' Life is interconnected.

.- In your memoir and again in your new book, you discuss ways that you are primarily a visual thinker. Is this reflected in the books you read? Are you drawn to graphic novels, say, or to books that rely on a lot of illustrations?

Actually, I hate graphic novels. It is too difficult for me to constantly switch back and forth between the pictures and the text bubbles. I like technical and scientific books with lots of illustrations.

When I read business books and scientific papers, I often look at the illustrations and graphics first. The next step is to read the text. When I am reading a novel or a memoir, I prefer to create my own pictures in my imagination. As I read text, my brain creates a movie.

.- You're well known as an animal behaviorist. What science and nature writers would you particularly recommend?

Observation is an important part of science because it is used to form hypotheses for controlled experiments. 

I used to fight with my Ph.D adviser, who told me that observation was not real science because there was no control group. When I started in animal behavior in the late '60s and '70s, B.F. Skinner's theory that all animal behavior was stimuli responses ruled supreme. I never believed this.

I was influenced by Jane Goodall's book ''In the Shadow of Man,'' and a paper by Keller Breland and Marian Breland titled ''The Misbehavior of Organisms.'' 

[ The title was similar to Skinner's book '' The Behavior of Organisms. '']

I also recommend reading Charles Darwin's ''The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals.'' Goodall, the Brelands and Darwin were all keen observers of animal behavior.

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

I was not able to read until I was age 8. Mother tutored me with phonics, and I quickly went from no reading to reading above my age level. My favorite books when I was in fourth grade were ''Black Beauty,'' ''The Wonderful Wizard of OZ'' and a children's book about famous inventors.

I really related to Black Beauty's pain when he was forced to pull a heavy carriage with his head held up by a bearing rein. The inventor book appealed to me because I loved to tinker with my kites to make them fly better.

.- What would you say is the best book that you've ever received as a present?

Betsy Lerner, my co-author for ''Visual Thinking,'' gave me a copy of ''An Immense World,'' by Ed Young. The design of an animal's sense organs determines how it perceives the environment, and Young immerses the reader into the realm of different sensory experiences that would be alien to us.

For example, whales use sound to communicate over miles of ocean and birds use magnetic fields to navigate. A dog lives in a smell-based world that humans have a difficult time comprehending.

When people walk their dogs, they often yank them away from the trees or bushes they are smelling.  People do not realize that  they are depriving their dog of a rich experience of myriad smells.

.- What genres do you especially enjoy reading and which of them do you avoid?

I avoid romance novels. The books I really enjoy are either about animals or science fiction. I Ioved ''Merle's Door,'' by Ted Kerasote. 

Many dogs today live really restricted lives and they have no normal dog social life. Another favorite is '' The Soul of the Octopus, '' by Sy Montgomery. It really made me think about consciousness.

When I received a review copy of '' A Dog's Purpose, '' by W. Bruce Cameron, I could not put it down. In the science fiction genre, I am a fan of Ray Bradbury and Issac Asimov.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!