Pros: Fascinating and hilarious factoids
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Ten Speed Press
I admit, I review a bit of everything when it comes to books: fiction, cookbooks, business, how-to… but I’ll probably never know what possessed one of my contacts at 10 Speed to send me Matt Pagett’s What Shat That? A Pocket Guide to Poop Identity. I pulled it out and my first thought, after “Gross!” was, “why on earth would I want to read that?” My second was, “wow, I never imagined I’d see the phrase ‘plankton turds’ in a press release.” And, okay, that last bit caught my curiosity. I opened up the book to take a look, and once I’d read a page I couldn’t put it down.
If you’ve ever wanted to be able to identify anything from a rabbit to a fox to a bear or a koala by its dung, well, this is the book for you. A two-page spread on each animal includes loving descriptions of each animal’s fecal habits, as well as photos or drawings of turds both large and small. The book is just small enough to fit into a large pocket or a small bag, making it easy to take along as subway reading (in case you relish those weird looks from strangers) or to help you identify those piles of crap you find while hiking.
The contents of black-bear dung has been known to include tin cans, pizza boxes, watches, motorbike chains, and hubcaps.
You’ll learn a huge amount about how various animals’ feces are used to enable scientists to better track and analyze their movements, habits, and health. The book includes a wide array of factoids regarding how dung is used: as fertilizer, tourist souvenirs, a water purifier(!), a necessary part of complex ecosystems, a source of food or shelter for some critters, and more.
The book has a humorous, irreverent tone, invoking every possible name for poo that you could possibly think of and then some.
Does a bear shit in the woods? Hikers certainly do if they catch sight of one unexpectedly.
I loved this book equally for its tone and for the fascinating bits of information scattered throughout—some hilarious, some poignant, some quite gross. You’ll learn how the CIA used tiger poop during the Vietnam War, why ants farm and protect aphids for their honeydew-dung, and how ancient civilizations used various types of scat in medicinal remedies. Not to mention the wealth of information scientists have gathered about animals thanks to their dung, either directly or indirectly.
Okay, so it’s a weird concept for a book and I never would have imagined picking it up and enjoying it, yet I did. I think this would make a great gag gift for an animal lover who enjoys the bizarre and loves collecting fascinating tidbits of lore and information.