The best animal adventure books for young adults and animal lovers to experience the wild side

Who am I?

My journey to wildlife storytelling had a very unusual beginning, I started out as a wildlife photographer with an intense curiosity for bears and other North American wildlife. I would pursue these animals wherever it took me and ended up with a large photographic portfolio of these majestic creatures. This quest resulted in remarkable, interesting, and sometimes dangerous wildlife encounters, which I shared in my book, Wild Among Us. My combination of images and storytelling has been a complete immersive experience and has made me appreciate the varied and specific behaviors each animal possesses. These unique adaptive animal behaviors when presented with an interesting adventure story always has interested and captivated me.


I wrote...

Wild Among Us: True adventures of a female wildlife photographer who stalks bears, wolves, mountain lions, wild horses and other elusive wildlife

By Pat Toth-Smith,

Book cover of Wild Among Us: True adventures of a female wildlife photographer who stalks bears, wolves, mountain lions, wild horses and other elusive wildlife

What is my book about?

Wild Among Us is a true adventure story about the sometimes-hazardous encounters Pat Toth-Smith, a female photographer, has undergone while pursuing her career. Experiences of being cornered by bull moose, growled at by a grizzly mom protecting her cub, and multiple other wildlife encounters highlight the dangers and excitement of her work. Her adventures not only include the perils associated with stalking wildlife but also the sometimes-precarious situations she must navigate as she travels the highways alone, with the potential human predators. The results of her labors are the colorful observations of wildlife behavior, impressive wildlife photos, and her hard-earned survival skills. *Winner of USA Best Book, E-LIT Bronze Medal & Living Now Gold Medal Awards.

The books I picked & why

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The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

By Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence,

Book cover of The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

Why this book?

The Elephant Whisperer is a fast-paced, easy-to-read story about one man’s desire to create a safe and comfortable place in Africa for threatened wildlife species. The author’s quest is turned upside down when he acquires an aggressive, traumatized, and unmanageable elephant herd. He is forced to use his intuition to form a bond with the herd’s matriarch, to stop them from breaking out of enclosures and causing major damage to neighboring communities. It was a book I couldn’t put down; I highly recommend this book packed with information about the majestic, wild, African, elephant. As his plans frequently unravel the main character is forever changing strategy. The threat of poachers within his own guard, acquisitions of new unruly wildlife, and changing internal conditions, challenge him in non-conventional ways which he manages bravely and creatively. 

The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

By Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Elephant Whisperer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony 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.…


Shadow Horse

By Alison Hart,

Book cover of Shadow Horse

Why this book?

Shadow Horse, part of the Shadow Horse series starts immediately with action and tragedy, a young female teen is arrested for the assault of her grandfather’s employer. This in part seems to be in retaliation for the strange and mysterious death of her beloved horse, Whirlwind. Her life spirals downward with her grandfather’s sudden stroke and her court-ordered sentence of house arrest. She is relocated to a foster family on an animal and horse rescue farm for supervision. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it not only explores the extraordinarily complex relationships with horses and owners, but the problems involved with trusting again after a traumatic betrayal. And, if that was not enough, the writer intertwines all the above with a complicated who done it mystery involving horses which slowly puts the protagonist in dangerous, uncomfortable situations requiring her to find her inner strength and new allies.

Shadow Horse

By Alison Hart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shadow Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thirteen-year-old foster kid Jasmine Schuler is immediately drawn to the scrawny, broken-looking brown gelding huddled in the corner of an auction house stall. Feeling a kinship with the lonely animal, Jas convinces her new foster mom, who rescues and rehabilitates abused horses on her Virginia farm, to buy him. Slowly, the horse Jas names Shadow begins to blossom and even to thrive. But when Jas uncovers a startling clue to Shadow's true identity, she becomes entangled in a mystery which could have serious consequences for the two of them.  Both the heartwarming story of a young girl's love for her…


The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears

By Nick Jans,

Book cover of The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears

Why this book?

This book depicts the death of Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard in 2003 by an Alaskan brown bear at Katmai National Park.  The reader is provided a wealth of information but must decide for themselves what really happened. As a past bear observer at Katmai National Park, I camped near brown bears twice, but in the parks designated electrified, fenced-in camping area, which was starkly different from Treadwells’ campsite within the grizzly maze. For twelve years prior, he continued his risky behavior and was unmolested by these very tolerant bears, but his luck ran out and the terrible attack occurred in 2003. This book provides a much more balanced portrayal of the bears than the 2005 movie Grizzly Man. The unique quality of Katmai National Park is the bears have become accustomed to people being there and an uneasy truce exists if you follow the bear guidelines and behave a certain way. This book gives a much clearer understanding of how the National Park Service has for decades tried to maintain the complex relationship between bears and people.

The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears

By Nick Jans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Grizzly Maze as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a new introduction on Werner Herzog's film entitled The Grizzly Man

Timothy Treadwell, self-styled "bear whisperer" dared to live among the grizzlies, seeking to overturn the perception of them as dangerously aggressive animals. When he and his girlfriend were mauled, it created a media sensation.

In The Grizzly Maze, Nick Jans, a seasoned outdoor writer with a quarter century of experience writing about Alaska and bears, traces Treadwell's rise from unknown waiter in California to celebrity, providing a moving portrait of the man whose controversial ideas and behavior earned him the scorn of hunters, the adoration of animal lovers…


The Winter Horses

By Philip Kerr,

Book cover of The Winter Horses

Why this book?

The central theme of The Winter Horses involves an almost extinct horse breed (Przewalski) with ties to prehistoric cave horses located in the middle of one of the worst wars in our human history, World War Two. As starvation and Nazi occupation reduce the humanity within, heroes surface to protect not only the horses but the desperate survivors who have adapted to living on the fringe. The book has much to recommend besides the local saviors, a young female Jewish teen surfaces who is on the run and befriends the horses. She along with the past horse caretaker precariously exist within the occupation, until she is forced to lead the horses away from death, through a snowy and treacherous terrain all while being pursued. This book explores the importance of protecting our fragile almost extinct animals, counterbalanced with highlighting the horses’ strong adaptive abilities that allowed them to survive so long. This is especially true when the horses become a protector of the teen, saving her from a treacherous wildlife attack. The book is remarkable because of its ambiguity, in some cases, there is no clear black and white and an occasional enemy will surface to do the right thing, and gives some hope to the beleaguered survivors.  

The Winter Horses

By Philip Kerr,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Winter Horses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Philip Kerr, the New York Times bestselling author of the Bernie Gunther novels, comes a breathtaking journey of survival in the dark days of WWII in Ukraine, a country that remains tumultuous today. This inspiring tale captures the power of the human spirit and is perfect for fans of The Book Thief, Milkweed, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

It will soon be another cold winter in the Ukraine.  But it's 1941, and things are different this year.  Max, the devoted caretaker of an animal preserve, must learn to live with the Nazis who have overtaken this precious…


The Call of the Wild

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Call of the Wild

Why this book?

The Call of the Wild is Jack London’s best-known book and considered a classic for a good reason. Buck a domestic pet with wolf heritage, is kidnapped and sold into the dog trade to pull sleds in the Klondike. It is the beginning of his severe trauma and mistreatment. A distinguishing and popular aspect of the story is the narrative is from the dog’s perspective and his response to his handlers. He ends up with an unlikely rescuer who restores the bond between pet and owner, but his innate instincts lead him to want to run with the pack. The story changed me when I read it years ago and contributed to my fascination with wild animals. I frequently marvel at the similarities of domestic pet behavior to that of wild animals especially involving dogs and wolves. 

The Call of the Wild

By Jack London,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Call of the Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics bring together the best-loved stories to a new generation.

In The Call of the Wild life is good for Buck in Santa Clara Valley, where he spends his days eating and sleeping in the golden sunshine. But one day a treacherous act of betrayal leads to his kidnap, and he is forced into a life of toil and danger. Dragged away to be a sledge dog in the harsh and freezing cold Yukon, Buck must fight for his survivial. Can he rise above his enemies and become the master of his realm once again?

Jack London (1876-1916) was…


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