Interested in discovering more about wildlife through engaging stories about wild animals?
I read at least one wildlife book a month. It’s my genre of choice as I naturally gravitate towards books on animals. Perhaps not all that surprising given that I have a Primatology degree and volunteer with primates.
Check out my top recommendations for wildlife books that I’ve enjoyed reading. I hope that you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.
Synopsis: For eons, female members of the Porcupine caribou herd have made the 2,800-mile journey from their winter feeding grounds to their summer calving grounds. They once roamed borderless wilderness; now they trek from Canada, where they’re protected, to the United States, where they are not.
What’s more, beneath the calving grounds lay vast reserves of oil. Determined to convey both the enormity of the Caribous’ migration and the delicacy of their habitat,
Karsten Heuer and his wife spent their honeymoon following the herd. For five months, they traveled an uncharted course on foot over mountains, through snow, and across frozen rivers, with only three semi-scheduled food drops for support.
As with the caribou, Heuer and his wife faced dwindling fat reserves and stalking by ravenous grizzlies and wolves just awakened from hibernation. Both a rousing adventure story and a sober ecological meditation, Being Caribou vividly conveys this magnificent animal’s world.
WHY I ENJOYED READING ABOUT BEING CARIBOU:
Caribou don’t have the wow factor that some animals like pandas have. They don’t draw you in as some wildlife species do. Before reading this book I had a mild interest in them at most.
After reading it, I found caribou and Karsten’s journey to be fascinating! I had no idea just how sensitive they were. I also recommend the Being Caribou DVD. I think it’s even better than the book.
After reading this book, not only will you never think of caribou the same again, you might actually think of them.
Synopsis: World-renowned primatologist, conservationist, and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall’s account of her life among the wild chimpanzees of Gombe is one of the most enthralling stories of animal behaviour ever written.
Her adventure began when the famous anthropologist Dr Louis Leakey suggested that a long-term study of chimpanzees in the wild might shed light on the behaviour of our closest living relatives. Accompanied by only her mother and her African assistants, she set up camp in the remote Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanzania.
For months the project seemed hopeless; out in the forest from dawn until dark, she had but fleeting glimpses of frightened animals.
But gradually she won their trust and was able to record previously unknown behaviour, such as the use—and even the making— of tools, until then believed to be an exclusive skill of man.
As she came to know the chimps as individuals, she began to understand their complicated social hierarchy and observed many extraordinary behaviours, which have forever changed our understanding of the profound connection between humans and chimpanzees.
WHY I LOVED READING IN THE SHADOW OF MAN:
If I could only choose one role model, it would be Dr Jane Goodall. Goodall and her books were what led me to pursue a Primatology degree, work in environmental education at the Calgary Zoo and volunteer with primates. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing her speak twice, and soon for the third time.
Through sharing her experiences with the chimps, you’ll love how connected you feel to each of the chimps. Some of them you will love. Others you will loathe.
This book, above any other I’ve read, really dives into the distinct personality that each animal has. It also makes you realize just how similar we are. I also highly recommend reading Next of Kin, or any of Goodall’s books.
Synopsis: For animal lovers, nature enthusiasts, and the vast readership for gripping true-life stories, this African saga is a must-read adventure.
It chronicles the unique Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, where Marieta van der Merwe and her family, former wealthy cattle farmers, have sold land to buy and care for embattled wildlife.
We meet Sam, the “AIDS” lion infected by mistake at a vet clinic. Boerjke, a baboon with epilepsy and Down syndrome. Savanna, the one-eyed lioness. And Marieta van der Merwe herself, the inspiring proprietor of Harnas who shares her home with needy wild animals.
Survivor of an early life fraught with personal tragedy in the African Bush, she now devotes herself as care-giver and ambassador for wildlife and wildland.
Told with insight, humour, and thrilling immediacy by author and Harnas volunteer Barbara Bennett, this story will captivate readers of all ages.
WHY I LOVED READING SOUL OF A LION:
If I could only read five wildlife books for the rest of my life, this would be one of them. The stories of love and connection are incredibly impactful.
One story between a baboon and a goat will have you in heartfelt tears. You’ll find yourself saying awww and wow, multiple times throughout this book. It’s incredibly impactful for understanding the power of love, and it’s ability to cross-species.
Synopsis: Lawrence Anthony devoted his life to animal conservation, protecting the world’s endangered species. Then he was asked to accept a herd of “rogue” wild elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand. His common sense told him to refuse, but he was the herd’s last chance of survival: they would be killed if he wouldn’t take them.
In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in. In the years that followed, he became a part of their family. And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realize that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and freedom.
The Elephant Whisperer is a heartwarming, exciting, funny, and sometimes sad memoir of Anthony’s experiences with these huge yet sympathetic creatures.
Set against the background of life on an African game reserve, with unforgettable characters and exotic wildlife, Anthony’s unrelenting efforts at animal protection and his remarkable connection with nature will inspire animal lovers and adventurous souls everywhere.
WHY I LOVED READING THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER:
First of all, I commend Lawrence for taking a herd of elephants that would have been sentenced to death. That in itself is inspiring, but what I loved, even more, was seeing how Lawerence described a herd written off as nothing but trouble, not only transform but flourish when given a chance.
Synopsis: Everyone warned Kobie Krüger that being the wife of a game warden at a remote ranger station in South Africa’s largest national park would be an arduous move.
The heat was unbearable, malaria would be a constant danger, her husband would have to be away for long stretches, there were no schools or nearby doctors for their three daughters, and of course, the area teemed with wild animals.
Yet for Kobie and her family, the seventeen years at South Africa’s Kruger National Park were the most magical of their lives.
Now, in The Wilderness Family, Kobie recounts the enchanting adventures and extraordinary encounters they experienced in this vast reserve where wildlife has right of way.
WHY I ENJOYED READING THE WILDERNESS FAMILY
I’ve read this book at least 5 times and keep coming back to it. How would you deal with a resident cobra at your doorstep? Or being isolated for months at a time? Keeping your family safe from floods?
Kobie brings Africa to life in a way that few of us will ever know with her brilliant storytelling. I’ve made all my book clubs over the years read this book and even people who aren’t really into wildlife, have really enjoyed it.
Synopsis: One of the most important books ever written about our connection to the natural world, GORILLAS IN THE MIST is the riveting account of Dian Fossey’s thirteen years in a remote African rain forest with the greatest of the great apes.
Fossey’s extraordinary efforts to ensure the future of the rain forest and its remaining mountain gorillas are captured in her own words and in candid photographs of this fascinating endangered species.
WHY I LOVED READING GORILLAS IN THE MIST
If I were to sum up this book in one word, it would be Digit, the silverback gorilla who Fossey became close to and who died a tragic and unnecessary death.
You can see glimpses of Fossey’s erratic behaviour. (There were rumours that she was schizophrenia.)
But more importantly a look into the lives of these gentle giants. Seeing gorillas in Rwanda was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
Synopsis: For filmmaker Rob Stewart, exploring sharks began as an underwater adventure. What it turned into was a beautiful and dangerous life journey into the balance of life on earth.
Driven by passion fed from a lifelong fascination with sharks, Stewart debunks historical stereotypes and media depictions of sharks as bloodthirsty, man-eating monsters, and reveals the reality of sharks as pillars in the evolution of the seas.
WHY I LOVED THE SHARKWATER PHOTO BOOK
I first saw the Sharkwater film and then bought this beautiful coffee table picture book to remind me of the beauty of sharks. It was this movie and book that inspired me to try shark diving for myself.
It’s incredibly impactful and debunks the myth of sharks as the man-eating machines that they’ve been depicted as in JAWS and in the media. Sharks are in jeopardy of being driven to extinction because of the cruel practice of shark finning.
I’m convinced that shark tourism can be part of the conservation solution which shows that sharks are worth more alive than dead.
Synopsis: Hordes of bloodthirsty wolves are slaughtering the arctic caribou, and the government’s Wildlife Service assigns naturalist Farley Mowat to investigate. Mowat is dropped alone onto the frozen tundra, where he begins his mission to live among the howling wolf packs and study their ways.
Contact with his quarry comes quickly, and Mowat discovers not a den of marauding killers but a courageous family of skilful providers and devoted protectors of their young.
As Mowat comes closer to the wolf world, he comes to fear with them the onslaught of bounty hunters and government exterminators out to erase the noble wolf community from the Arctic.
Never Cry Wolf is one of the brilliant narratives on the myth and magic of wild wolves and man’s true place among the creatures of nature.
WHY I LOVED NEVER CRY WOLF
This was the very first wildlife book I ever read, which I read when I was 14. Years later, it’s one of the most memorable books, especially one scene with a mouse.
That’s saying a lot given how much I read. It’s also one of the most impactful for changing our perceptions about wolves.
After reading this, it’s hard to justify the senseless culling of wolves that take place throughout North America. Pacific Wild shares how you can help save wolves and stop the wolf hunt.
Synopsis: A hilarious, highly original collection of essays based on the Botswana truism: “only food runs!” With a new introduction and new material from the author
In the tradition of Bill Bryson, a new writer brings us the lively adventures and biting wit of an African safari guide. Peter Allison gives us the guide’s view of living in the bush, confronting the world’s fiercest terrain of wild animals and, most challenging of all, managing herds of gaping tourists.
Passionate for the animals of the Kalahari, Allison works as a top safari guide in the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta. As he serves the whims of his wealthy clients, he often has to stop the impulse to run as far away from them as he can, as these tourists are sometimes more dangerous than a pride of lions.
WHY I ENJOYED READING WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T RUN
This book has laugh-out-loud moments that will leave you wondering whether we’re really the smartest creatures on the planet. I recommend this entertaining wildlife read before going on safari.
Synopsis: Outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East a man-eating tiger is on the prowl. The tiger isn’t just killing people, it’s murdering them, almost as if it has a vendetta. A team of trackers is dispatched to hunt down the tiger before it strikes again. They know the creature is cunning, injured, and starving, making it even more dangerous. As John Vaillant re-creates these extraordinary events, he gives us an unforgettable and masterful work of narrative nonfiction that combines a riveting portrait of a stark and mysterious region of the world and its people, with the natural history of nature’s most deadly predator.
WHY I ENJOYED READING THE TIGER: A TRUE STORY OF VENGEANCE & SURVIVAL
This book gives a chilling insight into life in the wilderness of Siberia. I found it easy to forget that this was a non-fiction book as Vaillant is an excellent story-teller. You will find yourself loving and hating the men that hunt the tiger as well as the man-eating tiger that hunts them.
Synopsis: The story follows two young Americans, Mark and Delia Owens who carrying little more than a change of clothes and a pair of binoculars, caught a plane to Africa, bought a thirdhand Land Rover, and drove deep into the Kalahari Desert. There they lived for seven years, in an unexplored area with no roads, no people, and no source of water for thousands of square miles. In this vast wilderness, the Owenses began their zoology research, working alongside animals that had never before been exposed to humans. Cry of the Kalahari is the story of the Owenses’s life with lions, brown hyenas, jackals, giraffes, and the many other creatures they came to know. It is also a gripping account of how they survived the dangers of living in one of the last and largest pristine areas on Earth.
WHY I ENJOYED READING CRY OF THE KALAHARI
I enjoyed reading about Mark & Delia’s adventure. As a wildlife lover myself, the book gave me an inside look into what really roughing it in the wild really means. Their courage and survival skills are awe-inspiring and their experiences really take the concept of adventure travel to new heights.
Synopsis: With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female named for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly renowned naturalist Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world. But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park’s stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley. These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multigenerational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the ongoing cultural clash in the West—between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country’s most iconic landscapes.
WHY I ENJOYED READING AMERICAN WOLF
I enjoyed America Wolf. The book acquaints the reader with the beauty of the Yellowstone wolf and it traces the history of this elusive animal and the challenges it faces. This book will have you wanting to look for wolves in the wild, which is not an easy thing to do considering how small their populations are.
Synopsis: In Steve & Me, Terri recounts the unforgettable adventures they shared — wrangling venomous snakes, saving deadly crocodiles from poachers, swimming among humpback whales. A uniquely gifted naturalist, Steve was first and foremost a wildlife warrior dedicated to rescuing endangered animals — especially his beloved crocs — and educating everyone he could reach about the importance of conservation. In the hit TV shows that continue to be broadcast worldwide, Steve’s enthusiasm lives on, bringing little-known and often-feared species to light as he reveals and revels in the wonders of our planet. With grace, wit, and candor, Terri Irwin portrays her husband as he really was — a devoted family man, a fervently dedicated environmentalist, a modest bloke who spoke to millions on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves. Steve & Me is a nonstop adventure, a real-life love story, and a fitting tribute to a man adored by all those whose lives he touched, written by the woman who knew and loved him best of all.
WHY I ENJOYED READING STEVE & ME
Technically this is not a book about wildlife but rather one about the most notorious wildlife conservationists in the world. The book is written by Steve Irwin’s wife who recounts the story of their meeting and their lives together and looks at the amazing things that both of them have done to preserve wildlife in Australia and other places in the world.
Synopsis: The first person to successfully raise newborn elephants, Dame Daphne Sheldrick has saved countless African animals from certain death. In this indelible and deeply heartfelt memoir, Daphne tells of her remarkable career as a conservationist and introduces us to a whole host of orphans―including Bushy, a liquid-eyed antelope, and the majestic elephant Eleanor. Yet she also shares the incredible human story of her relationship with David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo National Park warden whose death inspired the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the orphans’ nursery, where Daphne works to this day. From her tireless campaign to preserve Kenya’s wildlife to the astonishing creatures she befriended along the way, Love, Life, and Elephants is alive with compassion and humor, providing rare insight into the life of one of the world’s most fascinating women.
WHY I ENJOYED READING LOVE, LIFE & ELEPHANTS
Love, Life, and Elephants is an inspiring story of a woman who achieved what was thought to be impossible. The book looks at Dame Daphne’s life in Africa, from her families’ move to Kenya and the gift of land they received, finding true love and passion and starting her own Nature Reserve to protect the animals she spent her life protecting. The story is wonderful and awakens the adventurer in you.
Synopsis: When Lawrence Anthony, author of The Elephant Whisperer, cared for not only elephants but other types of wildlife, including rhinos, on his nature reserve. So when he learned that there were only a handful of northern white rhinos left in the wild, living in an area of the Congo controlled by the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, he was determined to save them from extinction. If the world lost this subspecies of rhinoceros, it would be the largest land mammal since the woolly mammoth to go extinct, a tragedy for those who care about the world’s endangered species. What followed was an extraordinary adventure, as Anthony headed into the jungle to ask the rebels to help protect the rhino. Sometimes funny, sometimes moving, and always exciting, The Last Rhinos tells the story of his fight to save these remarkable creatures.
WHY I ENJOYED READING THE LAST RHINOS
The book is not only about rhinos but also the way that politics and wars can affect animals. It is full of adventure and takes a look at a different way humans impact nature, rhinos, and other wildlife.
Synopsis In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls, and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food. Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.
WHY I ENJOYED READING THE SOUL OF AN OCTOPUS
The book gives you exactly what the title promises, a look into the soul of an octopus. Sy Montgomery opens your eyes and mind to the wonderful intelligence of the octopus and the connections they are able to make with humans.
Synopsis: In 2005 Vanessa Woods accepted a marriage proposal from a man she barely knew and agreed to join him on a research trip to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Settling in at a bonobo sanctuary in Congo’s capital, Vanessa and her fiancé entered the world of a rare ape with whom we share 98.7 percent of our DNA and who live in a peaceful society in which females are in charge, war is nonexistent, and sex is as common and friendly as a handshake. A fascinating memoir of hope and adventure, Bonobo Handshake traces Vanessa’s self-discovery as she finds herself falling deeply in love with her husband, the apes, and her new surroundings in this true story of revelation and transformation in a fragile corner of Africa.
WHY I ENJOYED READING BONOBO HANDSHAKE
The book will make even the hardest cynic a lover of primates. It is a wonderful account of the lives of Congo’s Bonobos and the volatile history of the region. Vanessa Woods holds your attention with her facts and her slapstick wit.
Synopsis: The Animal Dialogues tells of Craig Childs’ own chilling experiences among the grizzlies of the Arctic, sharks off the coast of British Columbia and in the turquoise waters of Central America, jaguars in the bush of northern Mexico, mountain lions, elk, Bighorn Sheep, and others. More than chilling, however, these stories are lyrical, enchanting, and reach beyond what one commonly assumes an “animal story” is or should be. THE ANIMAL DIALOGUES is a book about another world that exists alongside our own, an entire realm of languages and interactions that humans rarely get the chance to witness.
WHY I ENJOYED READING ANIMAL DIALOGUES
Craig Childs is a gifted writer who takes you on an adventurous journey. His view of some of the most dangerous predators in the world is fascinating and the communication he describes will have you wanting more.
THE TRUTH ABOUT ANIMALS, STONED SLOTHS, LOVELORN HIPPOS, AND OTHER TALES FROM THE WILD SIDE OF WILDLIFE
Synopsis: Mary Roach meets Bill Bryson in this uproarious tour of the basest instincts and biggest mysteries of the animal world.
Whether we’re seeing a viral video of romping baby pandas or a picture of penguins “holding hands,” it’s hard for us to think of animals as anything but playful paragons of innocence and virtue. So you’ve probably never considered if moose get drunk, penguins cheat on their mates, or worker ants lay about. They do–and that’s just for starters. In The Truth About Animals, Lucy Cooke embarks on a global adventure to meet everyone. From a Colombian hippo castrator to a Chinese panda porn peddler, all to lay bare the secret–and often hilarious-habits of the animal kingdom. Charming and at times downright weird, this modern bestiary is perfect for anyone who has ever suspected that virtue might be unnatural.
WHY I ENJOYED THE TRUTH ABOUT ANIMALS
This book is lighter than most wildlife books and sheds light on some of the lesser-known facts about animals. Lucy Cook makes learning new things about wildlife hilarious without taking away from factual information. It’s a quirky book and a great conversation starter.
How to Read Wildlife Books
I read most books on my Kindle Fire HD, which I can’t recommend enough. It’s lightweight and always in my purse. It’s also ideal when traveling since it can hold multiple books at once.
I also find it extremely convenient when traveling with company and they wants to go to bed, while I want to read. I can read with my Kindle Fire’s backlight, while he sleeps undisturbed.
I’d love to hear your wildlife book recommendations. Let me know in the comments below.
Note: This post contains affiliate links in which I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend books that I’ve enjoyed and think you will too.