Book Review

The Lion in the Living Room (2016) Review


They’re everywhere we look. Roaming from back yards to back alleys, lush forests and jungles to sprawling urban jungles, living rooms, and the internet. Cats are abundant these days. Unfortunately, the big cat population is in rapid decline across the globe. The cats I write off are the smaller cousins to the larger lions and tigers. Yes, the house cat, though you can also find them outside on the prowl. I’m a cat person, so why not read a book about cats? A new one on the shelf at my local library is Abigail Tucker’s 2016 release. The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World held the promise of a history book. The promise held true, but not in the way I expected. It’s a New York Times bestseller, but I wouldn’t recommend the buy. I don’t even recommend giving it a read.

To begin with, on the very first page, is the infamous “f-bomb.” It’s in an unnamed quote without a reason for use. The quote adds nothing. Now, I don’t mind strong language. I’m not offended by it, and it doesn’t bother me at all. To some people, many people, the word is a HUGE deal. There it sits in black and white on the first page of a book about cats. Kids can read right? Kids like cats right? Why Tucker used it to begin with, and the editor and publisher allowed it to stay is a mystery. Through the first two chapters all I could think about is the reason for using one unneeded, useless word to drive away a sizeable portion of your audience.

Then there’s the actual writing. Tucker draws on her experience at newspapers and magazines and tries to use the style in a book. Everyone can’t be Hunter S. Thompson. It doesn’t work, and the writing comes across as dry and not the least bit entertaining. The Lion in the Living Room doesn’t read like a book, but a collection of random magazine articles. There’s information, but it’s hard to take in as the quotes and interview style bog down the pace and flow.

For a book about cats written by a professed cat person, The Lion in the Living Room doesn’t present cats in the best light. I’m not sure what Tucker’s goal was, but in these pages cats, and cat ownership get a negative presentation. There’s so much negativity, and not a lot, if anything positive about cats or cat ownership. I wasn’t looking for a “cats are the best thing ever” book, but an unbiased history of the cat-human relationship. That’s what the title led me to believe. Instead, I got a boring read with a very negative slant.

Don’t get drawn in by the title’s promise of an unbiased, historical account. Don’t get drawn in by the kitteny cuteness on the cover. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know I have a fondness for little gray cats. If you want to read a cat book fine, but if you want to read a good cat book The Lion in the Living Room isn’t one to read.

Copyright © Drew Martin 2017


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