The Nature of Fear: Survival Lessons from the Wild

nature of fear

Daniel T Blumstein
Harvard University Press, £20.95

Ethologist Daniel T Blumstein’s new title, with its cover featuring a menacing cobra, is enticing. However, the old adage says never judge a book by its cover, and in this case the content falls just flat of the book’s full potential.

It starts by recounting the author’s experience of being attacked by three men while on his bicycle in Kenya, using this to transition into his main theme of comparing animal and human fear. Indeed, the book is chock full of interesting insights and anecdotes – some based on his pet Crow! (the name includes an exclamation mark).

He also touches on a very topical type of fear in 2020: “Nervous police with big guns is a toxic cocktail.” However, the actual purpose of the book is not clear – that is to say, what else does Blumstein want to say except that humans and animals act the same in the face of fear?

He attempts to bring everything together neatly and conclusively in the chapter ‘Our Inner Marmot’, but it seems a little superficial and too little too late – the reader is only given the thesis of this book after 11 chapters. There are enough interesting anecdotes for someone with a passing interest to flip through, but the meat and bones are probably best left to ethologists only.

Judith Massia