The best books about animals and humans who use and misuse them

Lisa Jean Moore Author Of Our Transgenic Future: Animals, Genetic Modification, and the Will to Change Nature
By Lisa Jean Moore

The Books I Picked & Why

The Story of a Goat

By Perumal Murugan, N Kalyan Raman

Book cover of The Story of a Goat

Why this book?

It seems we don’t have as many opportunities to read fables as we grow up and this is a loss. That is why The Story of a Goat is such a wonderful chance to remember the power of fables and allegories. This book taught me about our human capacities for cross-species compassion and love. The simple writing style and pacing of the story can sort of sneak up on you as you develop sincere feelings for the main character, a small black goat. Additionally, the back story of why Murugan wrote this particular book is fascinating and adds such depth to the reading experience. 


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Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas

By Elizabeth Shreeve, Frann Preston-Gannon

Book cover of Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas

Why this book?

As a mother to three, I have always struggled with explaining deep time to my children (and honestly even myself). This book uses gorgeously rendered illustrations and thoughtful prose to explain the complexities of evolution. This book deepened my understanding of horseshoe crabs, one of my favorite animals. It is a book I will return to over and over again – if I can steal it away from my youngest.


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Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation

By Sunaura Taylor

Book cover of Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation

Why this book?

As an artist, disabled activist, and advocate with arthrogryposis, Sunaura Taylor has experienced firsthand our cultural and economic biases that surround the disability community. She explains how just as we have placed human animals into categories of being “fit” or “unfit,” “valuable” or “unworthy,” we have applied the same logic to nonhuman animals by objectifying them and trying to find endless reasons to explain why we are so different. In the book, Taylor introduces her service dog, Bailey and describes his aging where he becomes “inefficient” and “dependent” on Taylor due to his disability. 


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The Friend

By Sigrid Nunez

Book cover of The Friend

Why this book?

Gosh, this book truly took my breath away. The story centers on a Great Dane that is left with the main character and how she becomes his reluctant caretaker. Nunez’s writing about the dog resonates with my own experiences of caring for companion animals. There are also profound observations about loneliness, grief, longing, communication, and friendship. It also rings true to the way caring for dogs structures your everyday life from walking to feeding times.


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Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm

By Alex Blanchette

Book cover of Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm

Why this book?

Did you know a single pig can be made into one thousand different products? This ethnography explores the ways humans extract profit from hogs, and simultaneously it is a commentary on the effects of industrialization. I thought I knew the problems with factory farming, but clearly I had only a surface understanding. Plus, rather than just dismissing humans as driven by craven or evil intentions, Blanchette is able to express compassion for the humans who are caught up in these systems of animal exploitation.  I learned so much about thinking and writing about animals and humans from reading this book. A flawless ethnography.   


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