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

Who am I?

I’m a sociologist and professor. I’ve written several books about human and animal intersections. From bees to horseshoe crabs to spider goats, I’ve channeled my childhood fascination with animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates, into research projects. Over the past two decades, I use qualitative research methods that put me in direct contact with multiple different species, gently handling the animals as a way to get to know them and understand them. I’m particularly interested in how humans make animals meaningful as companions, research subjects, raw materials, and living factories. I believe we must move past our own speciesism, or our biases that reify human superiority, to fully embrace living in a multispecies world. 

I wrote...

Our Transgenic Future: Animals, Genetic Modification, and the Will to Change Nature

By Lisa Jean Moore,

Book cover of Our Transgenic Future: Animals, Genetic Modification, and the Will to Change Nature

What is my book about?

The process of manipulating the genetic material of one animal to include the DNA of another creates a new transgenic organism. Several animals, notably goats, mice, sheep, and cattle are genetically modified. In Our Transgenic Future, I consider what such scientific advances portend. I center the story on goats that have been engineered by the US military and civilian scientists using the DNA of spiders and I interweave my own story of using assisted reproductive technologies to have children. Our Transgenic Future focuses on how these goats came into existence and the researchers who maintain them. I also explore larger science of transgenics and synthetics. 

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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 did I love 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. 

By Perumal Murugan, N Kalyan Raman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A farmer in India is watching the sun set over his village one quiet evening when a mysterious stranger, a giant man who seems more than human, appears on the horizon. He offers the farmer a black goat kid who is the runt of the litter, surely too frail to survive. The farmer and his wife take care of the young she-goat, whom they name Poonachi, and soon the little goat is bounding with joy and growing at a rate they think miraculous.

But Poonachi's life is not destined to be a rural idyll: dangers lurk around every corner, and…

Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas

By Elizabeth Shreeve, Frann Preston-Gannon (illustrator),

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

Why did I love 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.

By Elizabeth Shreeve, Frann Preston-Gannon (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Out of the Blue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Graceful, succinct prose and engaging illustrations trace the evolution of life on Earth out of the blue and back again.

Clear and inviting nonfiction prose, vetted by scientists—together with lively illustrations and a time line—narrate how life on Earth emerged “out of the blue.” It began in the vast, empty sea when Earth was young. Single-celled microbes too small to see held the promise of all life-forms to come. Those microbes survived billions of years in restless seas until they began to change, to convert sunlight into energy, to produce oxygen until one day—Gulp!—one cell swallowed another, and the race…

Book cover of Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation

Why did I love 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. 

By Sunaura Taylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A beautifully written, deeply provocative inquiry into the intersection of animal and disability liberation and the debut of an important new social critic

How much of what we understand of ourselves as "human" depends on our physical and mental abilities how we move (or cannot move) in and interact with the world? And how much of our definition of "human" depends on its difference from "animal"?

Drawing on her own experiences as a disabled person, a disability activist, and an animal advocate, author Sunaura Taylor persuades us to think deeply, and sometimes uncomfortably, about what divides the human from the…

The Friend

By Sigrid Nunez,

Book cover of The Friend

Why did I love 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.

By Sigrid Nunez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog.


'A true delight: I genuinely fear I won't read a better novel this year' FINANCIAL TIMES

'Loved this. A funny, moving examination of love, grief, and the uniqueness of dogs' GRAHAM NORTON


When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has…

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

Why did I love 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.   

By Alex Blanchette,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the 1990s a small midwestern American town approved the construction of a massive pork complex, where almost 7 million hogs are birthed, raised, and killed every year. In Porkopolis Alex Blanchette explores how this rural community has been reorganized around the life and death cycles of corporate pigs. Drawing on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork, Blanchette immerses readers into the workplaces that underlie modern meat, from slaughterhouses and corporate offices to artificial insemination barns and bone-rendering facilities. He outlines the deep human-hog relationships and intimacies that emerge through intensified industrialization, showing how even the most mundane human action,…

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