Confession: I’m not good at choosing favorites. My favorite color changes depending on what we’re talking about. I could never pick just one favorite animal. Or a single favorite book. There are so many good books featuring animals, nature, and our relationship with both. So instead of choosing individual titles, here are a few nonfiction authors who should be on your *TBR list:
Sy Montgomery explores the uniqueness of animals from pigs to pink dolphins as a scientist and an animal lover, creating both a window into their lives and a mirror into our own. Her books include The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness and The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood.
“I never met a pig I didn’t like. All pigs are intelligent, emotional, and sensitive souls. They all love company. They all crave contact and comfort. Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never suspect from your relationship with a pork chop.”
― Sy Montgomery,
Jane Goodall changed the way the world views chimpanzees, conservation, and women in science, and her work continues to inspire animal lovers around the world. Her books include Reason for Hope and In the Shadow of Man.
“In what terms should we think of these beings, nonhuman yet possessing so very many human-like characteristics? How should we treat them? Surely we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans; and as we recognize human rights, so too should we recognize the rights of the great apes? Yes.”
― Jane Goodall
Marc Bekoff is an animal advocate and researcher of animal behavior, cognitive ethology, and compassionate conservation who writes about human-animal interactions and animal protection. His books include The Emotional Lives of Animals and Canine Confidential.
“Lacking a shared language, emotions are perhaps our most effective means of cross-species communication. We can share our emotions, we can understand the language of feelings, and that’s why we form deep and enduring social bonds with many other beings. Emotions are the glue that binds.”
― Marc Bekoff,
Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason reveals the emotional lives of animals and how that influences our relationship with them and their right to live free of exploitation and suffering. His books include When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love.
“Perhaps one central reason for loving dogs is that they take us away from this obsession with ourselves. When our thoughts start to go in circles, and we seem unable to break away, wondering what horrible event the future holds for us, the dog opens a window into the delight of the moment.”
― Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson,
Ken Foster is a dog rescuer and pit bull advocate whose writing captures the heart of our relationship with dogs, especially those who are mistreated and misunderstood. His books include The Dogs Who Found Me and City of Dogs.
“When you let animals into your life, even as a foster parent, you are making a promise that you will take
care of them for as long as it takes, until they find a home of their own. When they finally do leave, there’s a part of them that stays with you and a part of you with them.”
― Ken Foster,
Carl Safina is a conservationist who weaves observation and compassion to explore our relationship with the natural world and the other animals who we share it with. His books include Eye of the Albatross and Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.
“Whenever we take the focus off ourselves and move it outward, we benefit. Life’s most fortunate ironies are that what’s best for the long run is best now, and selflessness serves our interests far better than selfishness. The wider our circle of considerations, the more stable we make the world—and the better the prospects for human experience and for all we might wish.”
― Carl Safina,
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas‘s observations and insights connect us to the hidden world of the animals around us. Her books include such classics as The Hidden Life of Dogs and The Tribe of Tiger.
“I saw that animals were important. I saw that plants were even more important. I was also to learn that compared to many of the other species, we weren’t important at all except for the damage we do. We do not rule the natural world, despite our conspicuous position in it. On the contrary, it is our lifeline, and we do well to try to understand its rules.”
― Elizabeth Marshall Thomas,
*TBR = To Be Read. For some of us, it’s a towering pile that grows faster than we will ever actually be able to read in this lifetime. But there’s no shame in supporting good books and knowing that they’re there for you to read when you need them.
Who are your favorite nonfiction animal and nature authors? Let me know @sfeldstein.
For more book recommendations and resources, check out THE ANIMAL LOVER’S GUIDE TO CHANGING THE WORLD.