Journalist Jon Mooallem has watched his little daughter’s world overflow with animals—butterfly pajamas, appliquéd owls—while the actual world she’s inheriting slides into a great storm of extinction. Half of all species could disappear by the end of the century, and scientists now concede that most of America’s endangered animals will survive only if conservationists keep rigging the world around them in their favor. So Mooallem ventures into the field, often taking his daughter with him, to move beyond childlike fascination and make those creatures feel more real. Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America ($27.95) is a tour through our environmental moment and the eccentric cultural history of people and wild animals in America that inflects it—from Thomas Jefferson’s celebrations of early abundance to the turn-of-the-last-century origins of the teddy bear to the whale-loving hippies of the 1970s.
Jon Mooallem has been a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine since 2006 and is a writer at large for Pop Up, the “live magazine” in San Francisco. He’s also contributed recently to the New Yorker, Harper’s, Wired, Radiolab, and This American Life. His magazine stories have twice been included in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and he’s been interviewed about his work on a wide range of radio and television shows, including Fresh Air and The Colbert Report.