Calling All (Nonfiction) Animal Experts!

I’m one of those animal lovers who is more of the “lover” part than the “animal” part. You know, the one who gushes about how much she loves horses and then refuses to feed one when her dad takes her to a farm; the one who stares at her friend’s cat awkwardly but is secretly imploding at how OMG CUTE AND FLUFFY he is; the one who hoards the Air Bud movies but wants to run away when a real dog prances her way.

Yup, I’m an animal lover. (And no one can tell me otherwise!) I’ve been reading animal fiction since forever ago, but animal nonfiction books are a new and exciting find for me. I actually got interested in animal nonfiction back in college when I attended a talk by primatologist Frans de Waal to get some extra credit for a psychology class. (I highly recommend watching his TED talk about morality in animals – it’s so funny and heart-warming!) Then I added one of his books, The Age of Empathy, to my to-read list… and I still haven’t read it yet, oops. But de Waal’s talk really sparked my interest in books about animal psychology and the role animals play in the lives of humans. I’ve started my collection with the following books (with links to Goodreads):


  1. Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan. I understand that this is like THE animal book of animal books since it got made into a movie and everything. I thought the movie version was hilarious, but haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet.
  2. The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts. (My review) I love horses, and this book lived up to my expectations!
  3. Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves by Laurel Braitman. This looks incredibly interesting – animal psychology is a field that’s been growing steadily over the last few years, so I’m looking forward to reading about these “human” emotions in animals.
  4. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron. I judged this book by its cover and picked it up immediately. Look at that kitty! 🐱
  5. Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. HORSE BOOK, enough said!

I know this is only a very small piece of the pie though, so I want to ask all the (nonfiction) animal experts out there…

What are your favorite nonfiction books about animals?


15 thoughts on “Calling All (Nonfiction) Animal Experts!

  1. My old book club read Marley and Me. I was skeptical, but did end up enjoying it a lot. Especially the line “Man’s best friend? Damn right he was.” 🙂

    • Haha, Marley and Me sounds like a book that will make me laugh. 😀 I just finished a Cesar Millan book that talked about how to prevent your pet from becoming the next Marley, and it’ll be interesting to go into Marley and Me knowing why Marley turned out to be the way he is.

  2. Well, of course, these are rather obvious, but my favorites are the All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot.

  3. I’m an animal lover too and loved Marley and Seabiscuit. The other books sound awesome. I haven’t read it yet, but there’s a book called Lucky Dog: How Being a Veterinarian Saved My Life by Sarah Boston that I really want to read.

  4. I read The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness by Mark Rowlands. Interesting account of a man and his relationship with his pet wolf.

  5. Yes to SemiColon up there – I can’t remember if I mentioned them in our book email but – James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great & Small” is a MUST READ EVERYONE MUST READ at every level! Wonderful, thoughtful, delightful, insightful, and any other ful you can think of!

    For old school, I always loved Albert Payson Terhune’s collie books when I was growing up. His most famous, and a good place to start, is “Lad: A Dog.” Terhune writes in a different era, and a lot of the prejudices and thought-processes of the 1920s come through, but I really loved these books and still return to them from time to time. Many of his books are purely fiction, but others, like “Lad,” are collections of short stories based on his own dogs. Terhune is incredibly passionate about collies and their high intelligence, so expect some bias, and also expect to want a fluffy collie puppy of your own by the time you’re done reading!

    • YES, when Sherry mentioned that, I definitely remembered that you recommended it in our book e-mails! Glad it’s so full of good “ful’s”, haha 😛 adding Lad to my to-read list. I’m more of a labrador/golden retriever fan, but I’m ready to extend my love to collies!

  6. Great subject choice! I loved Dewey, although it also made me weepy. I would recommend All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. It was also sweet and had a small town vibe that reminded me of Dewey.

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