Skip to content

Reviews and Media

The Origin of Feces in Australia


 “I cannot think of a more necessary work of popular science since [Michael] Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and [Eric] Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation,”  wrote Michael Bourne of The Origin of Feces in THE MILLIONS, a US-based online magazine that covers books, art, and culture.  You can read the full review here:

“One of the top-ten “Must-Read Think Books for Spring 2013” –

“One of the top-ten Best Summer Reading 2013″ – Publishers Weekly

“One of five books no guy should be seen to be reading in public” – Huffington Post

“One of five nonfiction books you should read this summer  – Globe and Mail

Toronto Star gives more eco-scoop on misplaced poop

SEE also Toronto Star, March 17th: (Book) Arrivals: This week, four books relating to Charles Darwin and a fifth that, by virtue of its wonderful title and subject matter, fits in well with this grouping.  The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us About Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society, David Waltner-Toews Waltner-Toews is a Canadian veterinarian and epidemiologist and his most recent book is an unflinching foray into a largely ignored topic. It is at once witty and serious, replete with wondrous tidbits about excrement with which to enthrall your next dinner party.

The Washington Post

Waltner-Toews takes a humorous approach to the scatalogical subject as you can; one chapter is titled ‘The Other Dark Matter.’ But at the heart of the book is a rather weighty message: ‘Unless we change how we think about’ waste, he writes, ‘we are doomed to forever live in it.’” You can read the review online here: 

David Waltner-Toews’ book on the history, science and ecological potential of excrement seems destined for that loftiest of book genres: bathroom reading. (And with inquiries into “primordial ooze,” dung beetles and the rise of the flush toilet, we have to imagine the book will do wonders Ex-Lax could never hope to.) But within this seemingly cheeky volume, there are numerous compelling cultural and scientific insights, beginning with Waltner-Toews’ argument that we need to stop tiptoeing around the subject of poo: “What places sh*t among the wickedest of wicked problems is that, with all the ecological and public health impacts it carries, we don’t have a good, common language to talk about it.” Whether it’s a gag gift, a toilet-side alternative to Sudoku or just some light, easily digestible po(o)p-sci fare, “The Origin of Feces” is sure to be a fun and pungent read.”

THE CHICKENS FIGHT BACK: Pandemic Panics and Deadly Diseases that Jump from Animals to Humans (Greystone/D&M, 2007, ISBN 9781553652700)


2007 Finalist, Canadian Science Writers’ Association Book Award

“But whether the subject is sleeping sickness or Chagas disease or how televisions and air conditioning helped take the bite out of western equine encephalitis, Waltner-Toews makes truly entertaining reading.” — Globe and Mail

“Waltner-Toews tells these truly curious fables with a charming elegance and colourful precision that reminded me of the blessed clarity practised by Robert Desowitz, another great microbial story tracker. The Chickens Fight Back is exactly the kind of book medical and nursing students should be reading.” — Globe and Mail

“We need more like David Waltner-Toews: informed folks who not only care deeply about animals but can explain why humans have turned our dysfunctional yet collective fate into comedy or tragedy.” — Globe and Mail

“The latest book by Kitchener, Ontario, veterinarian and epidemiologist Dr. David Waltner-Toews, however, may just be a vaccination against fear and ignorance.” — Quill and Quire

“In plain (and occasionally saucy, funny, and contrarian) language, Waltner-Toews explains how humans throughout history have picked up diseases from animals ranging from fleas and ticks to cats, dogs, rats, pigs, mice, chickens, and cattle.” — Quill and Quire

“Though often funny and occasionally eccentric, Waltner-Toews is no armchair homilist. Sifting through dog poop in Kathmandu to discover the source of canine tapeworm has a way of humbling a person and opening one’s mind to the basic questions that fuel good science and help avoid bad public policy.” — Quill and Quire

“In the tradition of Silent Spring, the 1962 Rachel Carson book that acted as an environmental wake-up call, The Chickens Fight Back asks us to examine the societal set-up that makes these diseases possible, including such inequities as overcrowded cities, poverty, slums, and a lack of clean water. This book is a quiet little gem of understanding in a cacophony of panic and fear.” — Quill and Quire

FOOD, SEX AND SALMONELLA: Why our Food is Making Us Sick (Greystone, 2008, ISBN 9781553652717)

“The epidemiologist-veterinarian combines solid science and a light touch to describe the bacteria, viruses and parasites that have entered our food supply, and how new diseases and epidemics have emerged.” — Globe and Mail, April 26, 2008

“…fortunately, Waltner-Toews’s romp through the gastrointestinal tract is just that. There’s no hysteria or apocalyptic ranting — just straight storytelling laced with one-liners that will likely haunt readers. Improperly cooked hamburgers, he writes, “are really just cases of diarrhea and vomiting waiting for stomachs to happen”; “drinking bottled water every day is like using a toilet bowl brush to clean your teeth.” — Walrus MagazineMay 2008

FEAR OF LANDING (Poisoned Pen, USA, ISBN 9781590583494)

Listed by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 best books – and one of the top 9 mysteries – published in the US in 2007-2008

“Set in the repressive Indonesia of the early 1980s, Waltner-Toews’s compelling debut introduces an unlikely detective, Canadian veterinarian Abner Dueck. Dueck’s investigation of the suspicious contents of a dead cow’s stomach appears to result in the deaths of two friends and puts the vet in the uncomfortable position of trying to find out who killed them in a country where asking questions can lead to a quick burial. The list of possible suspects is endless, from whoever is poisoning cattle with strychnine to Dueck’s own colleagues, skillfully characterized during a tour de force of a party scene. Constrained by threats to his life, Dueck never gets easy answers as he becomes enmeshed in a complex web of alliances and murder theories provided by people with their own interests at heart. Readers will be surprised to find descriptions of animal autopsies as intriguing as political schemes in this powerful and highly original portrait of a particular time and place.” — Publisher’s Weekly, starred review 

“David Waltner-Toews is a genuine polymath. He’s a published poet, author of books on subjects as diverse as Mennonite history and exotic animal-to-human diseases. He’s a professor of population medicine at the University of Guelph, an epidemiologist, a founder of Veterinarians Without Borders and the Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health. In his free time, he’s written his first mystery novel, and it’s terrific.

Lots of specialists of one sort or another attempt crime novels, and usually they’re pretty awful. But Waltner-Toews does exactly the right thing. He sticks to what he knows, puts together a credible and intriguing plot, chooses an exotic setting and tells his story. The opening line – ‘There is something warm and comforting about doing an autopsy on a cow’ – is guaranteed to set the reader up for something just a little different. And that’s exactly what follows.” — Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail

ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN (Coteau Books, 2005, ISBN 9781550503128)

2005 Silver Medal winner, Fiction-Short stories ForeWord Magazine, 2006 Winner, Best Regional Fiction – Canada West, Independent Publisher Book Awards

“Mennolit Debut is Not Lite. It’s risky murdering a child in the first pages of a work of fiction. Make it too real, too distressing, and readers will want to escape; soft-pedal it, and sentiment debases the incalculable loss. In his debut story collection, poet and veterinarian David Waltner-Toews delicately treads a knife edge, leaving us shaken and primed for more.” —  Globe and MailJuly 16, 2005

“No Trite Endings in These Linked Stories. These mature gems are the creation of a mid-life writer who truly understands life exigencies. Let us hope that Waltner-Toews is busy at work on his next book.” —  Toronto Star, August 25, 2005

%d bloggers like this: