Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees” as Want to Read:
Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,850 ratings  ·  191 reviews
For 30 years Roger Fouts has pioneered communication with chimpanzees through sign language--beginning with a mischievous baby chimp named Washoe. This remarkable book describes Fout's odyssey from novice researcher to celebrity scientist to impassioned crusader for the rights of animals. Living and conversing with these sensitive creatures has given him a profound appreci ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1997)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Next of Kin, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Tessa I think we should treat apes better not just because they are similar to men, but because they are living creatures.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,850 ratings  ·  191 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees
Hannah Greendale
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Click here to watch a video featuring this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is probably my favorite non-fiction book. If you are wondering why I only gave it four stars: that is because some would say there is more truth in fiction. As a linguist, I loved reading the way the chimps learn language. Before the project fell apart, chimps were already teaching there young without any outside assistance. I wish that there project would not have fallen apart for two reasons - first, the language development in the animals as future generations learned sign language would ...more
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
When I was a little girl and signing as a means of communicating with chimps was covered in documentaries and in the pages of Life and Look and National Geographic as a sort of miracle, I thought that Jane Goodall and her colleagues lived unimaginably charmed lives.

At the start of this memoir, one has that same sense: what could be more magical and marvelous than learning how to communicate with animals? Fouts gives you a front and center peek into our closest animal cousins' perspectives and e
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, science
This is a powerful, life-changing book. It is a fluid mixture of entertaining narrative, heart-breaking details about the treatment of chimpanzees in laboratories, and engaging discourse about evolutionary theory, the development of language in chimps and humans, etc.

Through the entirety of the book & the microcosm of Washoe (the central chimp in the story) the message comes across that these animals are individuals, complete with personalities, moving emotions, and complex thoughts. They show a
Oct 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: animals, own_it, favorites
This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. At once, it is eye-opening, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. I cried and smiled and laughed and cried some more. You'll learn about everything from childhood autism, to the evolution of language, to the fight for the humane treatment of lab animals. This book is flawlessly constructed and flows effortlessly from start to finish, making it a book that I couldn't put down for two days straight. What started out an experiment to teach one chimp ...more
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book gets 5 stars because of all that it taught me about chimpanzees and scientific study. I never realized just how intelligent chimpanzees really are. I always thought that chimps using ASL were only using 1 or 2 word combinations, and only with nouns. It is amazing the complex sentences, thoughts, and emotions that these "animals" are sharing. I'll never look at a chimp the same again.

There is an ethical dilemma with using primates for scientific study, or for using any animals for that
C. Janelle
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy moly. This book is awesome.

I can't remember how we found this book. I think some website (maybe Goodreads) recommended it because my nine-year-old was reading every single thing Jane Goodall wrote. My daughter read it first, and then as she was getting ready to return it to the library said, "Mom, I really think you should read this book. It's really good."

Once I started the book, it didn't take me long to agree with her.

I was probably already primed to find this book amazing. Whenever I go
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animal-behavior
It was Washoe who taught me that "human" is only an adjective that describes "being", and that the essence of who I am is not my humanness but my beingness. There are human beings, chimpanzee beings, and cat beings.

How often do you read a book that changes your life? I will never be the same now that I have read this. At times charming, funny, eye-opening, and devastatingly heartbreaking, Roger Fouts describes his research on communicating with chimpanzees using sign language. Chimpanzees have
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Awe, humor, humility, and sadness are on display in the story of Washoe, the first signing chimpanzee. Fouts takes you into the world of Washoe and her family and traces his journey from a naïve young scientist who never thought about the ethics involved in the 1970s rush to raise baby chimps in human families, to a seasoned advocate for chimpanzees both in captivity and the wild.

Washoe herself is a delight. Imagine an especially clever kindergartener with the strength of multiple human beings
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TEN STARS! This is an amazing book, the engrossing story of primatologist Roger Fouts and the several chimps, including the famous Washoe, to whom he taught American Sign Language. I'm sure I'd have enjoyed reading it, but oh man, the audio is so, so good. Fouts narrates. As is often the case when a book is narrated by its author, it doesn't sound as though he's reading a book to you, but rather as though he's talking to you. Besides, there are sound effects. Fouts was a dedicated teacher and fr ...more
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I worked with these chimps one summer. They really are as amazing as the book portrays them.
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A completely amazing, emotional book. A must read for anyone interested in human and animal welfare. I haven't been so emotionally affected by a book since "the only kayak."

p. 88 "I often found myself in heated exchanges with Washoe that reminded me of my own childhood. For ex., in early 1969, I had the thankless job of keeping her in the garage on laundry day while Susan Nichols used the washer in the Gardner's home to clean Washoe's clothes. Before, whenever Washoe had seen us gathering up he
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was a heartwarming and heartbreaking story about people--not all of them human people. It tells the story of Roger, a chimpanzee language researcher, and his companion and colleague in his study, a chimpanzee named Washoe. Washoe is crossfostered with humans in her early life, where she learns to use American Sign Language. Along the way we meet other chimpanzees, each with their own personality and style. Sadly Roger helplessly watches many of them head into biomedical research labora ...more
Is the use of language unique to humankind? How and when did our hominid ancestors acquire language? Do chimpanzees - who are genetically closer to humans than they are to other apes - have language abilities? Is sign language useful where other communication channels fail, for example in children with autism? Next of Kin addresses these and other questions through the story of a young female chimpanzee who was taught American Sign Language in the 1960s. Roger Fouts was assigned to Project Washo ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, non-fiction
Wow. Probably not a good idea to listen to heart wrenching books on the way to work. Tried to control ugly crying. This was narrated by Mr. Fouts himself, a true hero in my opinion and a brave man. I have never doubted that animals, especially apes and chimps, are kinder than humans in many regards. This confirmed my belief of the magnitude that humans can engage in disgusting, inhumane behavior on innocent lives. And from "scientists." Criminal behavior. ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I encourage anyone from any walk of life to read Next of Kin. This memoir is a wonderful mixture of heartfelt stories and important science. It was exciting to receive the account straight from the man himself. This is a work of his own and naturally must bias, but I don't doubt the sincerity, compassion, and dedication that made this man's career extraordinary.
As agonizing as it has been for countless voiceless animals, I admit that I have never hid from the benefits reaped by scientific res
Hmmmm.....just some of the good things I can think of about this book:

1. I learned how close we are psychologically, emotionally, verbally, and mentally to chimps
2. I learned to view animals in a much more connected way. I mean that I feel closer to all animals.
3. I saw again how susceptible humans are to holocaust/slavery type thinking.
4. This booked messed with my head. I will never be the same. I will forever after think of chimps as thinking/feeling/talking hominids. And I will be more sensi
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Passionate and powerful, this account of a man's life and the chimpanzees who impacted and inspired him gave me a newfound appreciation and understanding of great apes.

I was encouraged to read the book by my Goodreads friend and colleague Liz, after I had told her of my fear of chimpanzees. I'm glad that I gave this book a shot.

While I'm still respectful (and yes, still slightly fearful) of chimpanzees, I have a better understanding of their depth, complexity, cognitive ability and prowess, an
Producervan in Cornville, AZ from New Orleans & L.A.
Next of Kin, My Conversations with Chimpanzees by Roger Fouts with Stephen Tukel Mills. Introduction by Jane Goodall. Published by Harper. Copyright 2003 (1997). Paperback. 420 pages.

A very enjoyable, thought-provoking read about communicating with our nearest genetic cousins, the chimps. This book will provide a bounty of laughs and tears while adeptly defogging what it is to be a lab animal, both then and today. These intelligent chimpanzees communicate with humans via learned sign language—an
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. To look into the eyes of a chimpanzee is to see ourselves looking back at us. The differences between our species and our culture are bridged as we recognize our shared similarities via culture, language, took making, and emotions. We are them. They are us. We must embrace our family ties to them and stop using them as research objects. They feel no less than we feel. They love, laugh, communicate, and think as we do. They truly are our "next of kin" and it's time we started tr ...more
Tasha Price
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
A great read. An emotional rollercoaster throughout - Roger Fouts had me feeling anger, despair, empathy and relief in the most passionate of ways. As a primatology student I found the whole book interesting and loved the chimpanzee characters and sign language studies but my favourite part was the last chapter - the way the author describes the history of anthropocentrism, starting with white male supremacy is very thought provoking and sums up the necessity for this book and others like it per ...more
Mar 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I was supposed to read this book for one of my honors comm classes...i never finished but promised myself i'd return to it later. It's great. It's basically this researcher's autobiography as it relates to his work with chimpanzees. It is VERY interesting. It's a bit sciencey at a few points, but you don't have to be a science major or interested in the sciences to enjoy it. The best parts are his anecdotes about life working with and learning from chimps. A joy to read. ...more
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!!
This book is amazing. If you have a heart, you will cry often. But if you know what I want to do with my life, you will understand exactly why after reading this book.
One of the chimps in the book, Booee, is a chimp that I took care of in California (which is why I read the book in the first place). And yes, he will do anything for a rasin!
Alison Estep
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fresh from visiting the Chimpanzee Language Institute (which I stumbled on) I felt compelled to read more about the chimps I had just met and -- yes -- signed to. I am a lazy non-fiction reader but this was an account that had me spell bound. It has deepened my understanding, made me laugh, and made me cry.
Diane Mchugh
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animal-books
Excellent!! Covers 25 years in the life of Washoe and her chimpanzee family. Exposes the horrors of biomedical research on chimps but also the heroics of the author and his supporters in devoting their lives and finances to provide these social animals with their rightful lives in captivity. I laughed, was astounded, and cried.
Benjamin Rogers
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever felt or suspected that people are just as animal as any other species? This book will solidify that opinion and change the way you view all living creatures. This is a story of compassion, love, family, pain, suffering, torment, injustice, prejudice, science, psychology, sociology, evolutionary theory. It discusses the stiff moral boundaries that science has implemented/utilized to enslave emotional self aware beings and neglect our moral duties. Through his perspective we can chan ...more
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
In 1971, former american president Richard Nixon introduced the National Cancer Act, declaring war on the disease. This led to the diversion of research grants from behavioral research labs like Roger Fout's to large biomedical conglomerates. These companies did their tests on apes, because they are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom -- our literal next of kin. Soon after, monkey populations from around the world plummeted to a fraction of their former sizes and will never recover (i.e. ...more
Amanda Hamrick
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had to read this book for a class I TA'ed. I was pretty ambivalent about reading it because I already knew a decent amount about Project Washoe and other ape language studies. The book turned out to be one of the best non-fiction science novels I've read yet. While I found the language parts interesting and the anecdotes endearing (I'm sure this would be even more the case for those not familiar with Washoe), it was the latter half of the book I found particularly great. And by great I mean he ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Truly excellent. A look at how far we’ve come in the care and understanding of captive chimpanzees but also an indictment of the current treatment of our nearest cousins. Surprisingly (ha), I have nothing to complain about with this book. Parts of it are upsetting and extremely sad, but it’s handled well and is education, not wallowing. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in human/non-human relations, wildlife protection, or in biomedical research. I listened to the audiobook read by t ...more
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, animals
This book is a beautiful mix of entertaining narrative about the different chimpanzees Dr. Fouts and his wife got to know, learn and work with, a sobering description of chimpanzee treatment and flat out torture in some biomed labs as well as an appeal to treat chimpanzees humanely while and after being held at a lab or not use them for research at all.
I'm certain that at any future trips to a zoo, I will never view gorillas, orangutans and especially chimpanzees, the same after reading this bo
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Gorillas in the Mist
  • Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe
  • Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
  • The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A True Story of Resilience and Recovery
  • The Year I Met You
  • My Notorious Life
  • End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals
  • Forged: Writing in the Name of God
  • Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don't Know About Them
  • Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
  • Our Town
  • The Summer Kitchen  (Blue Sky Hill #2)
  • The Queen's Fool / The Virgin's Lover
  • Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to My Life and Times
  • Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road
  • The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa
  • High Tide in Tucson
  • The River Why
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Roger S. Fouts is a retired American primate researcher. He was co-founder and co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) in Washington, and a professor of psychology at the Central Washington University. He is best known for his role in teaching Washoe the chimpanzee to communicate using a set of signs taken from American sign language.

Fouts is an animal rights advocat

Related Articles

You’d never know it from reading the books listed here, but good science writing is incredibly difficult to pull off. There is both an art...
109 likes · 8 comments