“No one who loves elephants or how humans interact with wildlife should pass up Jacob Shell’s remarkable book.” —Dan Flores, author of Coyote America
Giants of the Monsoon Forest journeys deep into the mountainous rainforests of Burma and India to explore the world of teak logging elephants and their intriguing alliance with humans. Jacob Shell’s narrative vividly depicts elephants’ extraordinary intelligence, and the complicated bond with individual human riders, a partnership that can last for decades. Giants of the Monsoon Forest reveals an unexpected relationship between evolution in the natural world and political struggles in the human one, while considering how Asia’s secret forest culture might offer a way to help protect the fragile spaces both elephants and humans need to survive.
About the Author
Jacob Shell is a professor of geography and urban studies at Temple University. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A beautifully written travelogue. — Nikil Saval - New Yorker
The awe in which we hold elephants is amply fed by the stories and history in this fascinating book. — Frans de Waal, author of Mama’s Last Hug
Shell’s research is extensive and meticulous. — Barbara J. King - NPR
The greatest strength… is its author’s clear-eyed pragmatism. Mr. Shell respects elephants without sentimentalizing them. — Tunku Varadarajan - Wall Street Journal
Human relations with animals have so often been brutally exploitative and cruel. At last, Giants of the Monsoon Forest describes a relationship with a fellow creature that—in Burma, at least—is more collegial rather than murderous or exploitative.
— Yi-Fu Tuan, University of Wisconsin, author of Space and Place and Dominance & Affection: The Making of Pets
An urgent, impassioned, and important reminder that relations between humans and nonhumans need not and must not be as disastrously dislocated as they usually are; that human dignity is increased if we recognize the dignity of our nonhuman cousins, and dangerously diminished if we do not. — Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast
Thought-provoking.… Examining everything from the muscular miracle of the beast’s proboscis to the species’ wartime work, Shell also charts the threats facing Asian elephants, and the dearth of local voices in relevant policymaking. — Nature
A deep dive into the surprisingly complex relationship between [elephants and humans].… Illuminating. — Rachel Love Nuwer - Undark
Shell’s narrative is skilled at sketching the sociological, geographic, and ethical complexities of human-elephant relationships. — Jessica Bell Rizzolo - Science
Among the most enjoyable parts of the book are the stories of individual elephants, some of whom provided distinguished service to humans.… Highly readable. — Rachel Dwyer - Times Literary Supplement