I Adore Books


Anne Dagg

My academic parents both wrote books, there were books everywhere in our house, so it was only natural for them to read books to their four children as we were growing up; I believe that books are an essential part of every household. I loved being read to, but I also loved learning to read.

voice of the coyote.pngI remember my mother congratulating me when I read my first book on my own, The Wizard of Oz. For Christmas each year, my father always bought books for each of his children. I badly wanted a book about giraffe, but because there wasn`t one, I read about other animals instead. I still have The Voice of the Coyote by Frank Dobie which my father gave me the Christmas before he died.

I read many books during my primary school days, at first about animals such as Ringtail the Raccoon. When I had to give a talk, I made it about an animal, usually about my favourite one, the giraffe. By my late teens I was working part time in the nearest public library and reading literary classics, scores of them, usually by Russian and British authors – Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters. When I was 23 years old and hoping to go to Africa to study giraffe, I read Inside Africa by John Gunther who mentioned that one could climb Mount Kilimanjaro for $50. I decided I must do that. While struggling up this mountain in 1957 I read Crime and Punishment each evening to try to forget my fatigue and the penetrating cold before turning off my flashlight.

Crime and PunishmentWhen I was about 30, I stopped reading fiction entirely. Why read about something that never happened when there are so many interesting things going on all the time in the real world? I continued to read so many books that I finally decided to make out an official card for each, to ensure I didn`t read the same book twice. I still have these cards, including some back-dated for Bambi and the other animal books that I had read so long ago. I continue to keep this list up to date. It now includes the names of thousands of books in two shoe boxes, with the month I read on each and often a short assessment of what it was about and how I liked it. When I began to write books myself, on such things as giraffe, camels, animal behaviour, sexism and human evolution, again I made out cards for each of the books I investigated, but in a separate file system for each book to use when making out the reference list and index.

I continue to read books of non-fiction – about animals, Canada, foreign countries in Africa, China, North Korea, autobiographies, biographies. My card file grows longer every year. But the most exciting book of all was one that arrived by mail in 2016. A man in South Korea had liked my book on the social behaviour of older animals so well that he had translated it into Korean, to be read by his fellow citizens! I can’t read the book, needless to say, but it makes me feel wonderful that it exists!

Smitten by Giraffe

Anne Innis Dagg is a Canadian zoologist, biologist, feminist, and author of numerous books. She has been referred to as “the Jane Goodall of giraffes” and has made a “significant contribution to giraffes worldwide in an unprecedented way.”She is senior academic advisor in the Independent Studies Program at the University of Waterloo and author of Smitten by Giraffe, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press (2016)