We recently asked subscribers to the BuzzFeed Books newsletter to tell us about a book all animal lovers should read. Whether you like cats, dogs, ducks, YA, nonfiction, or anything else, we’ve got the perfect book for you.
1. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of the rare books about animals that does not come across as twee or written for little children (which is an art form in its own right). It’s about the life of a man and his dog, narrated from the dog’s point of view. Enzo, named for the F-1 racer, is the kind of dog that we all imagine that we own: wise, mordant, genuine, loving, kind, comical. Enzo makes a gentle critic of our foibles, and as we fall in love with the narrator’s voice, we get back in touch with the gentler sides of ourselves.
(Also recommended by Andrea O., Katie S., Darin W., and Teri.)
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Orwell’s twisted, political farmyard fable remains riveting and relevant 70 after its first publication. I stayed up ‘til one in the morning finishing this one.
(Also recommended by Nathalia F. and Shaindel T.)
3. Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
Fast-paced nonfiction sounds like an oxymoron, but Seabiscuit is *it* — a literal dark horse story of one of the unlikeliest sports heroes in American history. I’m probably the last person you’d expect to take interest in horse racing, but Hillenbrand had me hooked. She brings a unique period of history to life and makes you really understand Seabiscuit and his sport from an insider’s perspective.
4. Watership Down by Richard Adams
Taking advice from his prescient brother Fiver, Hazel leads a group of rabbits on an adventure to find a new home. Along the way they make friends and enemies, and manage to get themselves into (and out of) some pretty sticky situations. These aren’t your typical meek and skittish rabbits, and the novel forces you to consider some pretty weighty themes: what is the true cost of safety, and how do our human actions actually effect the complex ecosystems around us?
(Also recommended by Emily H., Angie W., and Kristin Love.)
5. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
I just reread Winn-Dixie for the first time with my son after teaching it in the classroom almost fifteen years ago and fell in love with the story all over again. It’s a timeless coming-of-age tale with something for everyone — a cast of quirky characters, a young girl trying to understand her broken family, and a big, goofy dog to help bring everyone together. If you’re looking for a heartwarming read, this is it.
6. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Any self-respecting animal lover has to have read Black Beauty. It was one of — if not the — first book written directly from an animal’s point of view. It is by turns heart-wrenching and cheerful, and shows that animals, just like people, deserve to be happy and to be loved.
(Also recommended by Eman F. and Diana G.)
7. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Oh my god, H Is for Hawk left me *wrecked*. In the wake of her father’s sudden death, Macdonald, an experienced falconer, set out to train one of her sport’s most vicious predators. Her relationship with the bird develops so extraordinarily, and her account of grief and growth is so unflinching and rich — this book is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered.
8. The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony
What’s it like to live among and learn to communicate with a herd of wild elephants? Lawrence Anthony has done it and lived to tell the tale. His memoir draws together incredible stories and the lessons he learned from these majestic beasts. I was so moved by his recollections and insights, and have a new respect for animal conservation work being done around the globe.
9. A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam
A Beautiful Truth is a beautiful trip. The juxtaposition of perspectives — alternating between a Vermont family that adopts a chimp as their surrogate son, and a group of chimps housed in a Florida research institute — completely blew me away. And then when those worlds collide, you’re just left reeling. I really just can’t express how deeply this book moved me.
10. Marley and Me by John Grogan
I finished this book on a long redeye flight in high school. Everyone else around me was fitfully sleeping and I was crying my eyes out over Marley the badly behaved, lovable lab. I felt like I went on a journey with this family and Marley, and haven’t forgotten it since.
This is journalist John Grogan’s autobiographical account of the 13 years he and his family spent with their yellow Labrador Retriever, Marley. It is a journey filled with excitement, joy, and sadness, which I guarantee will blow your mind. Treasure the moment with it and, afterward, you’ll find life is just so much more beautiful and meaningful.
11. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
When his neighbor’s dog is mysteriously murdered, 15-year-old Christopher sets out to find the culprit. Granted, he’s better at interacting with animals and numbers than he is with people, but that makes this quirky record of his investigation all the more intriguing. Such an astute and inspiring read!
(Also recommended by Maryam S.)
12. A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
A Dog’s Purpose and its sequel, A Dog’s Journey, are in my head and heart forever! They follow the soul of a dog through several reincarnations as it lives with different people in a wide variety of circumstances. Told from the dog’s point of view, these books are both heartbreaking and triumphant. They made me smile, cry, and hug my dog.
(Also recommended by Bonnie B., Elizabeth V., Tanya C., Haleigh W., and Alex Mahrenholz.)
13. Where We Belong by Catherine Ryan Hyde
I absolutely adore this book. It’s about a single mom and her two daughters, the younger of which has a severe autism-like disorder which makes it difficult for them to maintain a home due to her incessant shrieking. The little girl develops a deep and unexplainable connection to the neighbor’s dog and the dog becomes the only thing that can quiet her and keep her calm. The story really shows how powerful and inexplicable the relationships between people and animals can be.
14. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This book has animals in it, but it’s about so much more. As Pi struggles to survive on a lifeboat alone with a tiger in the middle of the ocean, the mysteries of the human condition and spirituality swirl through the pages — all until the startling conclusion where Martel artfully turns your whole world upside down.
15. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
“Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion … she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.”
This is definitely worth the read. Mostly about how similar — and at the same time different — men and animals are, and of the mutual love they can share.
16. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
I really enjoyed James Herriot’s books. He pulls back the curtain on the life and day-to-day dramas of a practicing vet with loving and hilarious insight — a worthwhile read for sure.
17. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass brings a whole new meaning to ‘spirit animals’ — in this universe, your soul exists outside your body as a dæmon, or the animal manifestation of your unique personality. They can be anything from a moth to a bird to a donkey, and accompany their humans everywhere. When our protagonist Lyra discovers that someone is engineering a violent operation to separate humans from their dæmons, she sets out to stop it. Her quest leads her across the land, introducing her to gypsies, witches, mythic polar bear kings and more. This is by far my favorite fantasy series of all time, and stretches the possibilities of human–animal friendships in fascinating ways.
—Rylan C., Las Vegas, NV
18. Dewey the Library Cat: A True Story by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter
The best book I’ve read about animals is sure to be Dewey by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter. The book is about a cat who is abandoned and found by a librarian. The cat becomes an icon in the library but develops a unusual and bad habit. I think the book really connects with you as an animal lover as you can really experience Dewey’s emotional growth very young age to death.
19. Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin with Catherine Johnson
Temple Grandin makes some fascinating connections between the worlds of autism and animals. This is a very interesting read, with lots of amazing stories and anecdotes. It’s the one book I’ve been telling people to read for the last ten years.
20. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
So…time to be controversial…but I highly recommend Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you love animals, you owe it to them to read this book and find out what eating them means not only to the animal (death, obvs), but also to society and to the world. It may help you to make better choices about which animals you do eat — or you may stop eating them entirely. You might also read it and then find yourself going door to door with a backpack of copies of the book, asking, “Have you read the good word?”
21. One Good Dog by Susan Wilson
I read more than 300 books a year (I’m a book reviewer) and One Good Dog is one of my all-time favorites EVER. It’s the story of a man who has everything and loses it, a dog who has nothing and loses it, and how they come together. Bring tissues — that’s all I’m gonna say…
—Terri Schlichenmeyer, LaCrosse, WI
(Also recommended by Kallista S.)
22. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
I first read this as a child but, even now, it never fails to make me laugh and cry. From Billy’s inspirational quest to get his two hunting dogs, to the unbreakable bond they share, to the heart-breaking tragedy they endure, to the remarkable ending…I can’t wait to introduce my daughter to this awe-inspiring book.
(Also recommended by Ashley Boren, Bevin Golich, Susana F., and Krista W.)
23. Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies
Fire Bringer does for deer what Watership Down did for rabbits — except with a lot more action and excitement. Born an outcast, Rannoch comes to learn that he holds the key to vanquishing a ruthless tyrant and uniting two warring herds. His resulting adventure takes you deep into the fascinating history, politics, and drama of this all-animal world. I honestly don’t know why I picked this up, seeing as I don’t normally read fantasy, but Fire Bringer had me hooked from the very first page.
24. The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
Paul Iverson, an accomplished linguist, one day comes home to find out his wife is dead. He spends the remainder of the novel trying to teach his dog Lorelei to speak. (Lorelei was the only witness to his wife’s death.) Meanwhile, Paul continues to learn more about his wife’s last day and recollect events through their life that led up to it. This book was incredibly moving. You laugh, cry, cringe and are struck on every page by how much Paul loved his wife, and loves his dog. The ending is one of the most profound conclusions I’ve ever read!
25. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog
“Hal Herzog, a maverick scientist and leader in the field of anthrozoology, offers a controversial, thought-provoking, and unprecedented exploration of the psychology behind the inconsistent and often paradoxical ways we think, feel, and behave towards animals.”
Such an insightful read! This really got in my head as to the actual reasons we approach different animals so very differently. Fascinating nonfiction.
(Also recommended by Natalie L.)
26. Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper
When Gwen Cooper adopted a blind kitten, she couldn’t have anticipated all the roles he would fill — as a friend, child, life-saver, and an inspiration to all he meets. He also, somehow, is a fly catcher, leaping six feet in the air to snag the pesky bugs. That just blew my mind. But Cooper and Homer’s love for each other is so evident on the page — this book may very well make you a cat person.
—André de Bree, Boskoop, The Netherlands
(Also recommended by Julie R.)
27. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
When his family moves to the Greek isle of Corfu, young Gerald sets off to explore the land with his faithful dog. Throughout the book he collects a wonderful variety of pets with very distinct personalities — who come to take over the family home. It is wildly funny and very sweet at the same time, and will keep a grin on your face from start to finish!
(Also recommended by Radhika D.)
28. Watchers by Dean Koontz
Einstein is one of two genetically modified animals in Watchers. His counterpart is a monster, roaming free and wreaking havoc wherever he goes. When Einstein stumbles upon Travis, a man he found in the woods, it’s up to him to protect this human. Part romance, part suspense and mystery, and part a tale of the tenderness of animals, Watchers is a fantastic book that will delight animal lovers and suspense lovers alike.
29. Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn
I am hooked on the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn, starting with Dog On It. Bernie is a private investigator and Chet, the narrator, is his dog. They are so funny together; Chet is adorable; and the books are exciting and entertaining from start to finish.
30. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
An extraordinarily brilliant and witty story about Mr. Fox and his family who try to survive starvation against three wicked yet foolish farmers. Mr. Fox’s ideas will twist and enthrall you on how he outwits these farmers and how he protects his family from starving.
31. Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel by Virginia Morell
This is by far my favorite book about animals. Morell explores animal minds through the stories and findings of the field’s top scientists. This book made me think, laugh, and cry. It reassured my love for animals as emotional and intellectual creatures, and led me to love them even more.
32. Redwall by Brian Jacques
Redwall is EVERYTHING. Eulaliaaaaaa!!! Seriously, this series was like Harry Potter before Harry Potter even existed — crazy legends, wild adventures, massive battles, ghosts, a big ol’ forest, some magic, other stuff, etc. Except all the characters are these charming little talking mice and squirrels and badgers. This universe is so lush and richly imagined — I can’t wait to share it with my kids some day.
33. The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery
Ms. Montgomery had enough animals in the house but was moved to take in the runt-of-all-runts — Christopher Hogwood. This book recounts the life of Christopher and how he not only affected the lives of his owners but the lives of his neighbors and an entire town. He was a sweet, smart, and stubborn pig and I loved how everyone who met him seemed to so unabashedly accept and appreciate him. The last time that I cried or laughed so hard was when reading David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day. I highly recommend this one.
34. Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure by David Rosenfelt
The story of how writer David Rosenfelt and his wife became rescue parents to multiple dogs, and moved them in RVs from California to their new home in Maine. Funny and moving!
35. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Never imagined I would enjoy a book written from a dog’s perspective, but London showed me how awesome it could be. The journey the dog lives through in this book is one of hardship and trouble, but London knows how to describe the nature of the dog in such a beautiful realistic and natural way, you feel like you are on the snowy flats in Alaska side by side with the dog pulling the sledge. London also has an impeccable style in describing the harsh natural world. No one else can describe the sensation of an entirely frozen world and what snow does to a landscape. You immediately understand and hear the call of the wild. It is by far a real classic and should be read by all!
—Elske Krikhaar, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
36. The Dog Who Loved Too Much: Tales, Treatments and the Psychology of Dogs by Nicholas Dodman
This is truly an eye-opener. Dr. Dodman is a veterinarian who treats animal behavioral problems as psychological problems. Focusing on dogs, this book tackles the myriad problems dog owners face regarding dogs with severe separation anxiety, phobias, dominance aggression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and so on. This book changed how I looked at my pets and made me realize how much like us animals really are.
37. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
If Moby-Dick doesn’t make the animal lovers’ roundup, I’m gonna be pissed — it’s about a giant albino sperm whale, people! Also, there’s a character named Queequeg. And it’s a literary masterpiece and just an epic adventure. LONG LIVE M-D.
38. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
After her husband is in a terrible accident that leaves him institutionalized and living in the perpetual present, Abigail must find a way to live her life in a new way. With the love and friendship of her three dogs, she find meaning in the aftermath of her husbands accident. This book is narrated beautifully, containing within it sentences that are both poetic and applicable to so many facing various hardships in life, much like the one I suffered after my grandparents passed away. Abigail’s dogs, her companions, lovingly see her through tough times and become the most beloved characters in this memoir.
39. Unsaid by Neil Abramson
“As a veterinarian, Helena had mercifully escorted thousands of animals to the other side. Now, having died herself, she finds that it is not so easy to move on…”
This book really stuck with me. It’s so unique and well-written.
40. Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte
How did Bob Tarte’s home become the dumping ground for animals that people didn’t know what to do with? This is his hilarious account of learning to live with and survive among an outrageous menagerie of animals.
41. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Edgar is born mute, speaks only in sign, and is closer to the pack of dogs he’s raised than he is to many people. When tragedy strikes his family, Edgar panics and flees home, turning his world upside down. What follows is a heartbreaking story of survival. You just have to read it. (And now I just wish my dogs were half as smart as Edgar’s.)
(Also recommended by Laura R.)
42. A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen
A stray cat helps a struggling street musician turn his life around — what’s not to love? A perfect story of perseverance that I can’t stop telling people about. Please read!
43. Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien
“On Valentine’s Day 1985, biologist Stacey O’Brien adopted Wesley, a baby barn owl with an injured wing who could not have survived in the wild. Over the next 19 years, O’Brien studied Wesley’s strange habits with both a tender heart and a scientist’s eye — and provided a mice-only diet that required her to buy the rodents in bulk (28,000 over the owl’s lifetime).”
This book is heartfelt proof of how much we can — and need — to learn from the animals with whom we share this earth.
44. Guardians of Ga’hoole by Kathryn Lasky
Little owlet Soren is kidnapped from his family and taken to a mysterious academy for orphaned owls, St. Aggie’s. He soon learns that the school is up to seriously shady shenanigans — including “moon blinking,” brainwashing, and murder. As he gets closer to figuring it all out, he sets off a chain of events that plunge him even further into chaos — and enough edge-of-your-seat action to keep you hooked through the entire series. What’s not to love about that? Bonus: You learn a ton of really interesting stuff about owls along the way.
45. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Get off your butt and read Jonathan Livingston Seagull already, OK? Jonathan may be just a single gull, but his journey to think and fly differently than the rest has a lot to teach us about the power of ambition and thought itself. This is one of the easiest, fastest books I’ve found to lift my spirits — at just over 100 pages, what have you got to lose?
46. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Old Yeller is the quintessential “boy-meets-dog” story. It’s also just cover-to-cover pure Americana — like, late-1800s Texas hill country childhood adventures…What more could you ask for in a heartwarming YA animal read?
47. The Fur Person by May Sarton
Sarton so perfectly captures the inner life of a cat — The Fur Person is all sorts of clever and cute. A must-read for anyone really trying to understand — and laugh along with — their feline friends.
48. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I don’t really have to say anything about this one, do I? Mysteriously-literate spider saves life of adorable pig. Everything is beautiful. This should be, like, required childhood reading for everyone.
49. Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
Can a house cat become a warrior among the feral gangs that roam the forest? Young Rusty is about to find out. This series is a must-read, and might just convert a dog lover to a dog — and cat — lover
50. Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland
I thought my cat’s obsession with my dog was adorable and weird, but this book takes the whole interspecies friendship thing to a whole other level. From a leopard and calf duo, to the lioness that befriended an antelope, Holland tells the remarkable stories behind 47 truly unexpected animal friendships. Now, whenever I need a little heartwarming pick-me-up, I just flip to one of the stories in this book. :)
51. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Many people might not think of this as an “animal lovers’” book, but dinosaurs are animals, after all! While people may think that seeing the movies is enough, the book answers many questions the movies bring up but never solve, making it a thoroughly satisfying read.
Some entries have been edited for clarity and length.