By: Maxwell Gawlick
John Vaillant’s The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival is a visceral tale of man versus nature. It flips our human-focused perspective upside-down and puts us in the tiger’s domain. Vaillant incorporates fascinating historical details into his storytelling, the combination of which will pull you into this immersive, far away — but still very real — world as if you were there in the flesh.
The Tiger, published in 2010, follows a group of hunters tracking one of the world’s few remaining Amur tigers through a Russian forest after the tiger committed a series of brutal murders. The hunters quickly come to learn they are outmatched as they witness the tiger’s incredible feats of strength, agility, and most of all, intelligence. The novel leaves readers wondering if humans truly are the smartest and most powerful beings on this planet, and what place we have in damaging it.
Several pages into The Tiger and you’ll forget you’re reading a book; your feet will be cold and your stomach will growl as you trudge through deep, oppressive snow in search of what will surely be your end. You’ll be left with a feeling of awe and wonder, and you’ll come to think about it years later, with snippets of Russian folklore randomly escaping your lips. You’ll come away with newfound respect, knowledge, and love for nature, as well as a healthy dose of fear.
I’d recommend The Tiger to anyone, but especially to those who are either passionate about the environment or grew up in an urban area and haven’t had much experience with nature.