The Lady and the Panda

The first live giant panda seen in the West wasn't bagged by a strapping, mustachioed Great White Hunter, but by a New York socialite named Ruth Harkness. In 1936 Harkness traveled to the remote Chinese mountains on a daring expedition whose success earned her a celebrity to rival Lindbergh's—one made all the more remarkable by the fact that she was both an amateur and a woman. Croke, who writes the “Animal Beat” column for the Globe, spins an engaging yarn about her intrepid hero, and does so with verve and empathy, as well as a good amount of panda particulars.