I just wanted to give my little plug, for whatever it's worth, to a recently published book co-written by one Catherine Johnson. She's a woman of many accomplishments, as the linked biographical entry makes clear, but readers of Roger L. Simon's blog throughout this Summer and Fall may remember her best as an especially erudite and insightful commenter there.
Catherine has recently had a book published which she co-wrote with Temple Grandin, herself an amazing woman. Grandin, who was profiled for The New Yorker by Oliver Sacks, is autistic, has earned a PhD from the University of Illinois, and is the co-author of two previous books. She, like all autistic people, has an obsessive, detail-oriented personality. Her obsession is with animals, particularly cows, and she has parlayed her love of them into a lucrative career designing humane slaughter equipment. (As the book apparently makes clear, this is not as contradictory as it might sound.) She also thinks that the inner workings of the mind of someone with autism offer a lot of insight into a subject about which we still know very little: the way animals themselves think. (A notion not as insulting to those with autism as it might sound.)
Here is the very positive review of Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior from the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Disappointingly it doesn't say much about Catherine, though I'm sure the book bears the distinctive stamp of her idiosyncratic, original writing and thinking. There is one line in the review which references her: "Written with Catherine Johnson, who may have provided its colloquial, informal tone . . ." What the hell is that supposed to mean? I mean, honestly, I still don't get it. Is it a back-handed compliment? An open criticism? Praise? Whatever. Anyway, I'm sure it's going to be good. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard a lot about the ideas from Catherine on-line and it sounds fascinating.
I just got the book our Catherine wrote with Temple Grandin, Animals in Translation, and let me just say that it is brilliant, funny and highly original. Being about how animals think, perceive, and behave, the book is "sort of" in my field of expertise (my particular animal is H. sapiens), but I haven't learned nearly as much from any specialized tome I've read in the last ten years, nor have I had anywhere near the fun reading those books that I am having with Catherine's.