Vanessa Woods biography

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Vanessa Woods
Photo: Gretchen Mathison

Vanessa Woods

Vanessa Woods Biography

Vanessa Woods is a research assistant, journalist, and author of children's books.

She is the author of the New York Times Bestseller The Genius of Dogs (2013), and Bonobo Handshake (2010), which won the Thomas Lowell Award for non fiction. In 2007, her children's book, It's True: Space Turns you into Spaghetti, won the Acclaimed Book award from the Royal Society. In 2005, Vanessa won the Australasian Science award for journalism.

Her other titles include Headstarts: 100 tips for raising clever, confident, creative kids (2011), It's Every Monkey for Themselves (2007), It's True: pirates ate rats (2007), and It's True: there are bugs in your bed (2004).

A member of the Hominoid Psychology Research Group, she works with Duke University as well as Lola Ya Bonobo in Congo. She is also a feature writer for the Discovery Channel, and her writing has appeared in publications such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa. She is the co-founder of www.dognition.com, a website that involves the community in citizen science by evaluating and comparing the cognition of dogs.

Vanessa Woods's website

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Interview

Vanessa Woods discusses her first book, Bonobo Handshake, and her experiences in the Congo with the extraordinary bonobo apes with whom we share 98.7% of our DNA.

Even before you met Brian, you rescued chimps in Uganda and chased monkeys in Costa Rica. What is it that draws you to working with primates?
They remind me so much of humans. I know I'm not supposed to anthropomorphize, but especially with chimps and bonobos, they share 98.7% of our DNA, a lot of them is human. I feel like I can understand them, in ways I couldn't understand a bug or a sea sponge.

Currently, bonobos only live in Congo. Did they once occupy a broader habitat? If so, does their peaceful nature undermine their ability to survive amongst more ferocious species?
The Congo Basin, where bonobos live, was once larger, and when it shrank, bonobo range shrunk also. But bonobos aren't threatened by other species, because they don't share their habitat with chimpanzees or gorillas. I can't imagine an encounter between chimps and bonobos would work out well for bonobos, so that's lucky, and because they don't have gorillas, a lot of the food they depend on, an herbaceous root, is theirs alone.



You argue inconclusively with Brian about whether humans can learn "to be one people" (p. 156). How can the knowledge that all bonobos innately trust one another help to improve our own sense of trust?
When it comes to cooperation...

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Books by this Author

Books by Vanessa Woods at BookBrowse
Bonobo Handshake jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Vanessa Woods but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Anna Badkhen

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    Anna Badkhen has spent much of her life in the Global South. Her immersive investigations of the world's iniquities have yielded six books of nonfiction, most recently The World Is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Bonobo Handshake

    Try:
    Fisherman's Blues
    by Anna Badkhen

  • Tim Butcher

    Tim Butcher

    Tim Butcher is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author. His first book, Blood River, was short listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize.

    With a background as a journalist, mainly for the Daily Telegraph, Tim is also... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Bonobo Handshake

    Try:
    Blood River
    by Tim Butcher

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