One of our recommended books for 2020 is Mama's Last Hug by Frans de Waal

MAMA’S LAST HUG

Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves


Primatologist Frans de Waal explores the fascinating world of animal and human emotions.

Frans de Waal has spent four decades at the forefront of animal research. Following up on the best-selling Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, which investigated animal intelligence, Mama’s Last Hug delivers a fascinating exploration of the rich emotional lives of animals.

Mama’s Last Hug begins with the death of Mama, a chimpanzee matriarch who formed a deep bond with biologist Jan van Hooff. When Mama was dying, van Hooff took the unusual step of visiting her in her night cage for a last hug.

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Primatologist Frans de Waal explores the fascinating world of animal and human emotions.

Frans de Waal has spent four decades at the forefront of animal research. Following up on the best-selling Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, which investigated animal intelligence, Mama’s Last Hug delivers a fascinating exploration of the rich emotional lives of animals.

Mama’s Last Hug begins with the death of Mama, a chimpanzee matriarch who formed a deep bond with biologist Jan van Hooff. When Mama was dying, van Hooff took the unusual step of visiting her in her night cage for a last hug. Their goodbyes were filmed and went viral. Millions of people were deeply moved by the way Mama embraced the professor, welcoming him with a big smile while reassuring him by patting his neck, in a gesture often considered typically human but that is in fact common to all primates. This story and others like it form the core of de Waal’s argument, showing that humans are not the only species with the capacity for love, hate, fear, shame, guilt, joy, disgust, and empathy.

De Waal discusses facial expressions, the emotions behind human politics, the illusion of free will, animal sentience, and, of course, Mama’s life and death. The message is one of continuity between us and other species, such as the radical proposal that emotions are like organs: we don’t have a single organ that other animals don’t have, and the same is true for our emotions. Mama’s Last Hug opens our hearts and minds to the many ways in which humans and other animals are connected, transforming how we view the living world around us.

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  • W. W. Norton
  • Paperback
  • March 2020
  • 352 Pages
  • 9780393357837

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$16.95

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About Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal is the author of Mama's Last Hug, credit Catherine Marin

Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Praise

“I doubt that I’ve ever read a book as good as Mama’s Last Hug, because it presents in irrefutable scientific detail the very important fact that animals do have these emotions as well as the other mental features we once attributed only to people. Not only is the book exceedingly important, it’s also fun to read, a real page-turner. I can’t say enough good things about it except it’s utterly splendid.” – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

“Frans de Waal is one of the most influential primatologists to ever walk the earth, changing the way we think of human nature by exploring its continuity with other species. He does this again in the wonderful Mama’s Last Hug, an examination of the continuum between emotion in humans and other animals. This subject is rife with groundless speculation, ideology, and badly misplaced folk intuition, and de Waal ably navigates it with deep insight, showing the ways in which our emotional lives are shared with other primates. This is an important book, wise and accessible.” Robert Sapolsky, author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

“De Waal’s eye-opening observations argue for better treatment and greater appreciation of animals, even as he ensures that you’ll never look at them—or yourself—the same way again.” – People

“De Waal is a skilled storyteller, and his love for animals always shines through…[He] turns his years of research into a delightful and illuminating read for nonscientists, a book that will surely make readers want to grab someone’s arm and exclaim, ‘Listen to this!'” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Before I realized Frans de Waal’s connection to Mama’s actual last hug, I sent the online video link to a large group of scientists saying, ‘I believe it is possible to view this interaction and be changed forever.’ Likewise, I believe that anyone reading this book will be changed forever. De Waal has spent so many decades watching intently and thinking deeply that he sees a planet that is deeper and more beautiful than almost anyone realizes. In these pages, you can acquire and share his beautiful, shockingly insightful view of life on Earth.”
– Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

“In Mama’s Last Hug, Frans de Waal marshals his wealth of knowledge and experience, toggling expertly between rigorous science and captivating anecdote to explain animal behavior—humans included. While doing so, he rebukes the common conceit that we are necessarily better, or smarter, than our closest relatives.” – Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows

“Illuminating—and remarkably moving….De Waal’s masterful work of evolutionary psychology will leave both fellow academics and intellectually curious layreaders with much food for thought.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)