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How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals

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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  229 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
National Book Award finalist Sy Montgomery reflects on the personalities and quirks of 13 animals--her friends--who have profoundly affected her in this stunning, poetic, and life-affirming memoir featuring illustrations by Rebecca Green.

Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and advent
...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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  • How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery
    How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals
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    Release date: Sep 25, 2018
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    Giveaway dates: Oct 12 - Oct 26, 2018

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    Community Reviews

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    Dorie  - Traveling Sister :)
    The cover of this book is what caught my eye, what a beautiful illustration. There are whimsical drawings throughout the book and a wonderful gallery of photographs of Ms. Montgomery with some of her animal friends at the end of the book.

    I won’t go through all of the animals that are mentioned in the book but my favorite was Christopher Hogwood the pig and his very large personality. Even when he had grown huge and powerful he was a gentle pig. Sy describes the two preteen neighbor girls giving
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    Enchantress  debbicat ☮~Traveling Sister
    5 BIG HAPPY stars! If you wanna know how to be good creature, you can learn this from animals, like Sy did with 13 written about here. Such a good book! I must buy a copy. I enjoyed hearing about all 13 of her animal loves. My favorites were the dogs, Christopher Hogwood, the good pig, Octavia the Octopus, and the Clarabelle, the tarantula. So much to learn here and enjoy. "Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalis ...more
    KC
    Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    This is a fascinating look at one woman's journey with the animals she's met and loved throughout her life. The illustrations are captivating. I can't believe I cried over an octopus!
    Candace
    Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    What a treat. Having only previously listened to a part of The Soul of an Octopus’ audio before my library loan expired, I knew what Montgomery was about: Animals. Unique experiences. Love.

    This book made especially for young readers is wonderful. It chronicles the animals that taught Montgomery throughout her interesting life. Although there are a few of man’s best friend (dogs) count also emus, a tarantula, a pig, an octopus, and a weasel among others. With life lessons, gorgeous illustrations
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    Sarah
    Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: 2018
    Author Sy Montgomery’s childhood Scottish Terrier taught her to be tough and independent. Twelve more animals she has shared her life with, including an octopus and a tarantula, have each taught her something about life and herself. Sy truly understands and appreciates animals. This illustrated memoir is so charming and reminded me that to slow down and give my own fur babies extra cuddles is good for the soul, theirs and mine.
    Cheryl
    Sep 17, 2018 marked it as x-new
    Squee!!
    Oh I do hope at least one of my libraries gets this promptly!
    Or maybe I'll have to buy it, though I really shouldn't.
    Maggie Holmes
    Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    I loved Soul of the Octopus and I was eager to read this book (thank you Edelweiss for the prepub copy.) I cried and laughed throughout; wanted to go on expeditions to see some of the animals; and marveled at Sy's wonderful supportive group of friends. As my cat meows constantly at me because I've shut him up in a room so he won't eat my muffin, I wonder if cats teach us to be a good creature. I'll have to pay more attention. This book -- like all good nonfiction -- makes you want to go learn mo ...more
    Sarah Shoo
    This book was provided by Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

    Sy Montgomery's ability to humanize animals is incredible. I was reluctant to go with her as she learned a lesson from a tarantula, as I'm terrified of spiders, but even I was charmed by Clarabelle.
    But it was her later chapters on loss and love that really affected me. Her words on love multiplying and staying with us were poetic.
    She was even able to make a tentacled octopus, sucking hickeys into her skin humorous and lovable.

    I
    ...more
    Pam Cipkowski
    Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
    This book will draw you in immediately with its beautiful jacket illustration and the expressively adorable illustrations inside. And despite the fact that at the start of the book, Sy Montgomery seemed like she would be in a privileged friend circle with Anne Lamott and Geneen Roth (and I do like Anne Lamott), this book did grow on me and I ended up liking it a lot. It’s more of a treasury of cute and lighthearted vignettes, rather than a heavy-hitting, heartrending memoir. Montgomery’s tales o ...more
    Margie
    Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    A sweet memoir of animals Sy Montgomery met or had in her life. A true animal lover she thinks nothing of getting close to large spiders, dogs, sea creatures, pigs, etc. Very enjoyable stories about thirteen animals.
    Dani
    Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: ampersand, arc, nonfiction
    So sweet and sincere! The author’s love of all creatures, big and small, emanates from the pages. The illustrations are super charming; they make even Clarabelle the tarantula look cute and cuddly, which is appropriate as the author finds nearly all creatures lovable!
    Debbi
    Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
    The author is charming and above all, this is a book about her love for animals. The book did not move me as I expected. I'm not sure if it was because the observations were too simplistic or because the theme was under-developed. Each chapter tells a story of the author's interaction with an animal, the chapters end with a lesson Montgomery learned through her connection. It's not really a memoir there is no deep or complicated self-reflection. The book is likeable but seems like it could have ...more
    Stephanie Gillman
    Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it
    Simple. But charming AF.
    Kirsty
    Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
    I really liked the concept of the book, and the illustrations were lovely, but I felt that the execution could have been better. The prose did very little to capture my attention.
    Jake
    Received and ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    Super sweet memoir about certain individual animals and the effect they've had on the author's life. Domestic, captive, and wild; everyday (dogs, pigs) and exotic (emu, tree kangaroos). If you're the kind of person who has had a special animal in your life, it's not a matter of if you should read this book but how much you'll cry reading it.
    Stephanie Sherie
    Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Delightful. Humans and animals interact because animals can teach us so much about life, struggle, and survival. I got this book on Audio and the narrators voice was so soothing and yes- just as delightful as the book itself. If you are used to reading books with complex characters etc. this book about a woman's interaction with the animals is a refreshing break from your traditional reading list.
    Sy is a woman that clearly loves ALL animals more than I have ever loved anything, ever. Viewing yo
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    Bobby
    Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
    How to Be a Good Creature calls itself "A Memoir in Thirteen Animals" and is fairly equally a memoir and about thirteen animals. It's the story of Sy Montgomery's life from her toddler years, told in the story of her childhood dog Molly, through the present. The author holds nothing back in terms of honesty about her love for these animals, the way they changed her perspective on these other animals that we share the planet with, and her own inability to deal with the loss of a couple of them wh ...more
    Emmy
    Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
    A sweet and tender memoir of a woman and the animals who touched her life. I have had Montgomery's book The Soul of an Octopus on my to-read list for a while now, so when the ARC of this title tumbled into my hands, I just had to read it!

    This book is super-engaging. From the start, you're completely drawn into the stories, and not only do we learn a lot about Montgomery's life, but we learn a lot about the wonderful animals who inspired her and helped her grow as a person.

    While a good chunk of t
    ...more
    Jolene Haack
    Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: 150-2018
    This book was recommended to me by world-famous reviewer, karen to satisfy the category "A Book About Nature" for 2018 read harder. I don't think she's even read it yet but had heard it was lovely.

    Spoilers. It is lovely.

    I went camping this weekend with my husband and best friends. I get anxious when I'm far from home. Well, I get anxious always. I worry I'll get sick. I worry I won't be able to sleep. I worry I'll have a panic attack in the woods. All of said worries just create the thing I'm wo
    ...more
    Katie
    Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: galleys
    Sy Montgomery's love of animals is emitted from every page of everything of hers I have read. She writes with wonder at all her encounters, which is the basis of this whole book. Beginning with her deep connection to her childhood dog, Molly, Sy discusses the animals that have impacted her life the most.
    I wanted to meet the 3 Emus about whom she developed a study, just so she could follow them around. I loved the moment she realized that Clarabelle the Tarantula is really just an animal like ev
    ...more
    Kimberlee
    Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it
    Shelves: adult-nonfiction
    I was provided a free, digital copy of this title by Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

    How to be a Good Creature is a memoir in which a woman tells how animals profoundly changed her life. The type of animal varies, but every story and background of each is heartwarming and you can really tell the author has a love for animals. I think this would have been a more enticing read for me had I known more about the author beforehand. As it was, I picked up this book because the cover is re
    ...more
    Gerri
    Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Anyone who has ever loved an animal will love this book. I related so much with the author, Sy Montgomery, in her love for and curiosity about the animals in her life - and not just the ones that she lived with, also the ones that she encountered in her years as an author, naturalist and adventurer. While she still can't convince me about the upside of spiders, I now have an even greater curiosity about many other creatures.

    Sy captures so well how animals have unique personalities and how each t
    ...more
    Joy
    Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: nonfiction
    Highly recommend this easy to read nonfiction book to anyone who has lived with animals in their home. Sy's experience writing science books and articles for both children and adults makes this a stronger book. She knows how to strip it down and make nonfiction accessible to all. Some of the chapters in this book are superb! I particularly loved reading about Molly, her beloved Scotty. This book has inspired me to read "The Good Good Pig". I look forward to learning more about this extraordinary ...more
    Tamara
    Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Sy Montgomery is my kind of creature. I credit her for my love of octopuses, Kakapos, and Temple Grandin. Basically, if Sy Montgomery writes about it, I’m going to fall in love. Probably not everyone who reads How to Be a Good Creature will have to set it down to sob. (If that’s you, don’t miss Gary Paulsen’s My Life in Dog Years or any of Jon Katz’s memoirs.)

    Sy Montgomery is doing important work. If through her eyes, through her words, enough of us can all fall head-over-heels for the good cre
    ...more
    Susan
    Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    A hardback with an invitingly illustrated colorful paper dust jacket and deckle-edged pages, its looks were what enticed me to pick up this book. I love a good memoir, and the description of this one made it seem likely to speak into my life as it is right now: mourning the loss of a child to suicide, figuring out what my purpose is now and how to be the mom my surviving child needs. “It ... explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love ...more
    Cherie
    Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Disclosure: Advanced Reader’s Copy received from EdelweissPlus in exchange for an honest review.

    "How to Be a Good Creature" is as much a memoir about the creatures that made the most significant impact in her life as it is about Sy Montgomery.

    Much of the book centers around the lives and deaths of Montgomery's pig, Chris, and her dog, Tess. However, you can really feel the connection she had with each creature she encounters as she describes their behaviors and eccentricities.

    A wonderful explo
    ...more
    Lexi Nylander
    Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: autos
    I deeply enjoyed this book. Parts of it were a little weird, but overall I enjoyed her writing endlessly and was so touched by how much she loved the animals that she met and interacted with as well as how much she learned from them.

    My favorite bits were the emus, the octopi, and her variety of dogs. I learned a lot of little facts about a variety of animals and "But this was an earthbound alien" made me laugh a lot. The bit about a lifetime dog hit me right where it hurts. Definitely would rec
    ...more
    Violeta
    Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
    I pre-ordered How to Be a Good Creature as soon as I heard about it; I love the idea of a memoir in animals.
    Though some of the biographical details (especially re: Montgomery’s childhood and relationship with her parents) were darker than I expected and bogged down some of the chapters, in other sections, Sy Montgomery’s writing feels wise and transcendent. My favorite chapters were those on Chris and Tess II, Octavia, and Thurber.
    Samantha Fraenkel
    Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: nyr, arc, animals, memoir
    This is a beautiful book! I loved the writing, full of emotional connections with different animals as well as really interesting facts about them (I never knew tarantulas were so fascinating!). The illustrations are lovely and playful and the overall theme of how our relationships with the animals we encounter in our lives can shape who we are as a person is a powerful one. Really enjoyable and highly recommended!

    ARC Provided by Raincoast Books
    CJ
    Montgomery's memoir honoring some of the creatures that have shaped her adventures and life, is truely beautiful. It is a heartwarming collection that will make you smile and laugh and cry. I've always found that the wee beasties whose lives become entwined in ours, haunt our memories just as much as humans. That's how we know they are special - they leave a mark.

    Recommended for animal lovers.

    Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC.
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    492 followers
    Part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson, as the Boston Globe describes her, Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who has traveled to some of the worlds most remote wildernesses for her work. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, been hunted by a tiger in India, swum with pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been undressed b ...more