Face to Face with Wolves: a Book Review

Face to Face With WolvesFace to Face With Wolves by Jim Brandenburg for National Geographic
My rating: 2 of 5 stars ★★

“Face to face with Wolves” is actually a booklet rather than a book (29 pages with very big type, big margins, plenty of space, photos and other visuals). It gives a good visual impression, and the photographs are amazing (What else can you expect from wildlife photographer Jim Brandenburg?)

It is also a warm and charming story about Brandeburg’s personal history with wolves.

The booklet’s weakness is the quality of its factual information – it seems sloppily researched. It is in several places factually inaccurate or misleading, and seems to build on Brandenburg’s personal gut feelings and interpretations based on old stereotypes, rather than up to date wolf science.

Ironically, one of the world’s most renowned wolf scientists – David Mech – was Brandenburg’s team mate while he lived with the Ellesmere island wolf pack. Mech subsequently wrote several books and other literature about his observations of the pack over 10 years, and his studies were been ground breaking in changing the understanding of wolves’ natural family structure. Mech has since denounced the traditional alpha beta omega jargon as mainly irrelevant/misleading when describing the dynamics of wolf packs (families) in the wild. Yet Brandenburg promotes precisely that jargon and its associated stereotypes in his book along with other outmoded misconceptions, despite this book being published in 2008 where plenty of modern wolf research was available.

In conclusion: while he photos are fantastic, the book fails at its purpose, which is, I suppose, to educate about wolves to those new to the world of wolves. The book’s “fact booklet” format combined with the poor quality of its facts is why I give the book a two star rating despite its great visual quality.

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